Sustainability continues to be a hot-button topic in 2022. While it’s true that we all love this sweet blue and green planet we call home, not every business can put solar panels on their roof or encourage employees to use a bike to get to work. So, let’s talk about small, feasible changes that every businessperson can institute to make a difference.
Since our world is apparel, that’s where we will focus this conversation
Garments with staying power
We’ve all been culturally conditioned to think about staff apparel almost as a consumable. Use it a few times, it wears out, then throw it away. Not exactly earth friendly. Instead, try providing your teams with a higher-quality garment. It lasts longer, the employee feels great, and you’re paying less for apparel in the long run! Want to spend more time with a new hire before investing in better quality/higher-cost gear? Give them the lower-end shirt to start, then when anyone passes your probation period, celebrate with a “shirting” ceremony that includes a longer-term use garment.
You’ve likely been seeing a lot of labels and adverts lately touting the recycled content of name-brand gear. When bottles and other plastics are recycled and turned into fibers, it can help save energy and waste, but there can be a dark side. Some manufacturers, experiencing a shortage of used water bottles, are taking post-industrial plastics, and turning those into fabric. Basically, they are making water bottles to immediately melt them down to make fabric. Again, not a great story and one that hurts more than it helps. To make an impact on the environment, make sure your recycled materials are post-consumer. Yes, true recycled content does usually cost a bit more, but the pricing has come down substantially as the technology has proliferated. You don’t need to make every garment from recycled fibers to make an impact, either. Try choosing one piece as your starting place, like an apron or ball cap, and go from there.
In the past few years there has been an explosion in NextGen fabric innovation using plants – Modal, Viscose, Tencel and Lyocell are all plant-based fibers with properties that make them wicking, soft, strong and biodegradable. You will see more options with these fibers, either on their own or as blends with cotton. The advantages are affordability and softness. When investigating plant fibers for your needs, take them through their paces – wear, wash, dry, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Cotton, only better
Cotton is an old standby that has been given a number of modern upgrade options. It is the most wearer-friendly plant fiber, but the manufacturing can use a ton of water both for the processing of fibers and the color-dying. There are new generations of cotton under the banner of BCI, or Better Cotton Initiative, focusing on sustainability through training, compliance, and monitoring. It is a step in the right direction.
Design for the win
If you’ve ever visited Europe, you’ve certainly noticed that many buildings there have been around for a few hundred years. In addition to the materials, the designs have contributed to the longevity of the structures. Good design is always the foundation of sustainability. A better-designed garment will last longer, wear better, look good in the long run, and be the clothing of choice for today’s wearer. Keep it in the rotation if there are no holes, snags, or tears.
The bottom line is, that everyone deserves to feel great in the gear that they are required to wear to work. When it is prescribed apparel, make sure that the options provided are garments that will stand the test of time, and make a positive impact on the environment. You may even have a great shirt in your closet that has been there since college. What about it gives it staying power? Most likely it is the material and cut, the fit, and the finish. All classic elements give longevity in any application. And, when we don’t consume haphazardly, we give our planet a better chance to thrive in perpetuity. Cheers to Earth!