Sustainability Key Concepts

Sustainability Key Concepts

May 2022

Product Life Cycle

PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE

We use a rocket to illustrate a product’s life cycle. Launch represents a consumer-purchase. The time in flight, its trajectory, represents a garment in circulation, before it lands as waste, usually in a landfill.

GREENWASHING

Most fashion brands would like to give their customers the impression they are making a meaningful commitment to green initiatives. It's a marketing tactic intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.

DANGER

Greenwashing fuels an already misguided public perception that discarded clothing can be recycled or reintegrated into the environment, which encourages continued excessive consumption of fashion.

inventory

INVENTORY

The red block, or what we refer to as ‘inventory,’ represents all the processes involved in the development and manufacture of a product.

Surplus inventory arises when too many items are ordered or manufactured and do not sell as anticipated. Which would increase capital and carrying costs. One way to deplete surplus stock is to increase sales. To increase sales, typically, some form of discounting is used. Discounting though, has the effect of devaluing comparable products currently in circulation, making them less sought after. And items with less perceived value are the first to be disposed of. Since everything that is ever produced in the fashion industry will eventually end up as waste, surplus inventory and its follow-on discounting, act to accelerate the cycle.

Waste Recycling

WASTE

Fashion waste is represented by the grey block. In industrialized societies, waste is either incinerated or placed in sealed landfills. Toxic materials in the anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions of landfills, will still off-gas and not decompose possibly for hundreds of years. Even biodegradable materials as delicate as lettuce, have been found intact after a couple of decades under anaerobic conditions. Consequently, there is little chance fashion waste can be reintegrated with the biosphere.

RECYCLING

The biggest contributor to fashion waste is polyester which is found in more than 60% of the world’s retail clothing. If sustainability is a concern, this is a material to be avoided. Polyester’s relative low price has been a key purchase driver that has fueled the growth of fast fashion.

The reality is that less than 1% of any material used in clothing is recycled into new clothing. Not surprising since any fabric comprised of a ‘blend’ of materials is rendered unrecyclable. Most recycled polyester fibers are produced from bottle-grade, not fiber-grade, polyester. Once discarded, polyester waste is unbiodegradable and can remain either in landfill for hundreds of years, or as microfibers that make up an estimated 85 percent of human-made debris on shorelines around the world.

In the fashion industry, typically two thirds of all clothing made globally every year, end up in a landfill within 12 months. Recycled materials suffer the same fate as any other garment, albeit with an extra, typically short-lived hop (diagram).

Launch

LAUNCH

‘Launch’ represents a sale/customer purchase. Increasing sales means that an accompanying increase in production is necessary, which places a greater draw on resources as well as contributing more harm along the supply chain.

At point of purchase, consumers seek to maximize their value, and where fashion brands deliver value by way of discount. This happens to be the only point of intersection in which the selfish interests of both consumers and fashion brands are simultaneously satisfied.

trajectory

TRAJECTORY

After a purchase, we refer to the duration a garment remains in circulation before its disposal as its ‘trajectory.’ A garment’s trajectory is the single element solely at the discretion of the consumer. By extending a garment’s time in-use for just 9 months, consumers can reduce their environmental impact by a third or more.

For an item to remain in circulation though, there must be reason. The most obvious being its value. The longer an item retains its ‘perceived’ value, the longer it will likely continue to be used. And if that value is low to begin with at its purchase, as in the case of fast fashion, it is unlikely to remain in circulation for long.

Zero Accountability

ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY

Crucially, fashion brands are not held accountable for any of, exploitation of resources, unethical working conditions in their supply chain, high emissions, or solid waste production. Similarly, consumers are exempt from high consumption, and the amount of waste produced.

Facing no repercussion, both the fashion industry and its consumers are free to pursue their self-interests (mostly at point of launch), relying on others to contribute to the upkeep of a sustainable environment, in which they benefit.

case for synthetics

A CASE FOR SYNTHETICS

Active or outdoor lifestyle applications often require the use of synthetics, especially in temperature, weight-density and/or moisture critical applications. In those contexts, synthetics may be the only practical solution, a fact of life. The idea, however, of buying items of better quality that will retain their value, thus keeping them in circulation longer before disposal, still applies.

FAST FASHION

Fast fashion is the worst of evils, frequent launches and low trajectories, which are opposite the principles of environmental conservation. Fast fashion is a proxy for waste.

THIS IS WHAT WE ARE DOING AND WHAT WE ASK OF OUR CUSTOMERS TO HELP PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT

AGAINST ALL ODDS, CAN WE PRESERVE OUR ENVIRONMENT?

In our efforts to protect the environment, it’s hard to know what to do, when to do it, and whether it’s enough. It's understandable why some may question the motivation to engage in environmental preservation, particularly when the consequences of doing nothing seem negligible. Complicating matters, the fashion industry's foundation on perpetual growth often clashes with sustainability goals. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, we hope that as a community, we can rally around common sustainability objectives to help preserve our planet for future generations.

MINIMIZING ENVIRONMENTAL TOXICOLOGY

Much of the environmental costs in the fashion industry arise from activities that are locked-in at the raw materials, processing, transportation, production, and distribution stages, most of which are overseas and not transparent to fashion brands. Similarly, we have very little control over these factors. We will always do our best however, to source materials that are organic, and as a minimum, materials that are sustainable.

SLOWING THE CONVERSION TO WASTE

The goal is to extend a product’s lifespan in circulation. Typically, an item is retained only if it possesses a certain level of value, thereby postponing its disposal. Value though, is a subjective blend of both inherent and perceived elements. While our shirts are of the highest quality in construction and fabric, ensuring longevity, the reality is that even well-crafted garments may still get discarded. The true test of value is to survive Marie Kondo’s method of tidying, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy.” In our case, customers have the freedom to determine what holds significance by the memes and customization they select.

MAXIMIZING A PRODUCT’S TIME IN CIRCULATION BEFORE ITS DISPOSAL

Once we produce a garment, our goal is to maximize its time in circulation. Naturally, an item would only be kept if it contains a measure of worth, thus delaying its disposal. Value though, is a subjective combination of intrinsic and perceived elements. While our shirts are of the highest quality in construction and fabric, resulting in a durable product that will last a long life, a garment that is well-made doesn't mean it won't get tossed. The true test of value is to survive Marie Kondo’s method of tidying, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy.” In our case, our customers get to decide through the memes and customization we offer, what is meaningful.