Sustainability

My favourite sustainable Canadian clothing brands

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This article from the Guardian discusses the potential impact of Generation Z (18-24) buying behaviour on fast fashion: If generation Z’s habits are adopted by the population as a whole there could be a shift to consumers with a “divided wardrobe” – featuring rented items and others bought from resale vendors – becoming the new normalThis emphasis on sustainability, non mass-produced goods and uniqueness mirrors the consumer values of the younger generation whose attitude towards fashion has been shaped by the “Blue Planet effect.”

The picture above is taken from an Australian article that suggests that the fast fashion industry accounts for 10 per cent of global pollution. Dr Kirsi Niinimäki, from Aalto University, has done a lot of research into the fashion industry; her latest publication, Sustainable Fashion In A Circular Economy, is on my reading list for this summer. The CBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, discusses that garment, apparel production, is one of the top five polluters globally…we are producing over 100 billion new garments from new fibres every single year, and the planet cannot sustain that. This page, from the Fashion Takes Action website, provides some sobering statistics about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, perhaps the most startling of which – because it is so personal – is that 37 kg of textile waste per person ends up in Canadian landfills each year.

I won’t spend too much time on the environmental impact of fast fashion, as this has been done far better by experts in the field. I want to focus instead on some sustainable Canadian clothing brands that provide some better options. This list is not exhaustive and reflects only the companies from which I have purchased. I don’t tend to wear casual clothes, so sustainable Canadian brands like Tentree are not included in this post.

The most important thing we can do to reduce textile waste, of course, is to simply stop buying so many clothes, and to keep what we have for longer periods. Fast fashion is often poorly made, so clothing doesn’t last as long, so buying better quality is always a good idea. Secondhand shopping is a good alternative, although I’ve noticed that people often tend to overbuy from thrift stores because the clothing is cheaper there, which will still result in a lot of textile waste. No solution is perfect, of course, but at least the companies below are doing what they can to produce clothing in more sustainable ways.

Lights of All: We are vegan, sustainable and ethical; we value all life on this planet and do whatever we can to honour those lives in the product we make. Everything is made in house using only the best materials for the environment, people and animals. The company is owned and run by one woman, Katia Hagen, who designs and makes all the clothing. Katia outlines the ecocentric philosophy of her company here.

Korinne Vader: Our goal is to only use natural fibres in production … Many of the suppliers that we work with are STANDARD 100. The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® is a worldwide consistent, independent testing & certification system that tests for harmful substances used during all stages of production (raw materials, intermediate, and end product). Korinne Vader creates unique handmade goods that reflect the beautiful imperfection of nature and humankind.

Encircled: Encircled’s name originated from the dream that fashion can benefit everyone – it can be stylish, sustainable and responsibly-made. It’s about feeling proud of the clothing. hanging in your closet, and investing in quality over quantity. The company’s code of ethics may be found here.

Frank And Oak: The devastating impact of climate change has made us conscious that we all have an active role to play in our collective future. Today, we are more than ever committed to fighting for our planet and will continue to set an example as best we can by offering better sustainable products. The company’s sustainable goals may be found here.

Kotn: By working directly with cotton farming families in Egypt, we want to rebuild the industry from the inside. We make our own fabrics from raw cotton bought direct from farmers at guaranteed prices. Like farm-to-table, but for your clothes. commitment to sustainability may be found here.

Hoi Bo: Hoi Bo was born from a desire to create a truly sustainable brand that would offer a unique balance of beauty, design, craft and functionality.

Sustainability

The carbon footprint of online shopping

Five paper shopping bags and a shopping cart on a laptop keyboar

Image source

I have been shopping online for several years. Online shopping suits my introverted nature, as it removes the need to talk to salespeople in stores. Online shopping also provides me with access to items I cannot find easily in local stores, particularly since sustainable and vegan products are sometimes more specialized and harder to obtain.

I have been increasingly concerned with the carbon footprint of online shopping. I was surprised to learn that online shopping can be less carbon intensive than shopping in a bricks and mortar store; the key is the type of shipping option. A graduate student at MIT conducted an environmental analysis of US online shopping and found that the carbon footprint of purchasing an item in a store is higher than buying the same thing online with regular shipping.

Customer transportation is the highest carbon footprint for in-store shopping, while packaging and delivery are higher factors for online shopping with regular delivery. In my case, since I use only public transportation, my in-store shopping carbon footprint would be smaller.

The key factor is the type of shipping involved. As people increasingly expect express delivery, especially if they have an Amazon Prime membership, as I do, the carbon footprint of online shopping increases noticeably and exceeds that of in-store shopping. A UPS study of Canadian online shopping behaviour found that 63% of shoppers expect orders placed before noon to be delivered that same day, while 61% of shoppers expect orders placed before 5:00 pm to be delivered the next day. Express shipping reduces a lot of the economies of scale of regular shipping, such as filling trucks to ensure maximum efficiencies, as is shown in the video below.

I am making a concerted effort to avoid online shopping whenever possible and to support local businesses. When online shopping is the only option, I choose regular delivery, usually by Canada Post, which is the most carbon friendly option. I also make a point of asking companies to avoid plastic in their packaging; most are happy to comply.

Sustainability

Letting go of balloons

At a recent convocation event, I entered a room that was filled with balloons in the university’s colours. My first reaction was “oh no, this is not good.” Of course, I felt like the grinch. I appreciate all the effort that went into decorating the room for this special event, but I can’t help feeling concerned when I see so many environmental hazards being used in this manner. It’s easy to get caught in the excitement of the moment, but we really do need to consider what happens to all those balloons once the event is over.

The environmental hazards of balloons have been well documented. Someone in the room told me that since the balloons would not be released, there isn’t that much of a problem. Certainly, the largest environmental impact of balloons is caused when they are released, but the balloons themselves are made of non-sustainable materials, which makes them an environmental hazard regardless of their methods of disposal. This article outlines nicely the environmental impacts of balloons:

  • Balloons travel over great distances:  Balloons have been found to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles.
  • Balloons are a danger to wildlife: Birds, marine life, and terrestrial animals often eat latex balloons that have fallen into their habitat. The latex blocks the digestive system-causing a slow agonizing death.
  • Ribbons and strings, including biodegradable cotton string, become entanglement hazards.
  • Wastage of helium: A finite resource
  • Degradable balloons are NOT the solution: Ordinary latex balloons will not start to degrade for about five months in the ocean, and shiny Mylar balloons last for years.

I’m sure a few eyes will roll when I do this, but I do plan to have a chat with the organizers of this event to see whether we could try to use more sustainable forms of decoration next year.

Sustainability

Trapping microfibres with the Cora Ball

I have been considering for quite a while how to deal with microfibre residue in my washing machine. Although most of the items that go into my washing machine consist of natural fibres, I do have some faux-fur throws that are made with synthetic materials. These throws are an essential component of keeping my furniture and bed clean, as my cats are allowed to sit wherever they like. The cats love the softness of the faux fur throws,  and in my household it’s all about spoiling the non-human animals.

I had considered purchasing the Guppyfriend washing bag, but was concerned that it would not hold large throws.  I have come across what seems to be a far more practical alternative: The Cora Ball. As you can see from the image, the Ball consists of a number of layers of plastic that trap mibrofibre particles during the wash; you simply toss the Ball in with your load of laundry. You clean it by pulling out the fuzz from between the layers. The product reviews have been promising; you do need to be careful of placing more delicate items with tassels, straps, and so forth, into a laundry bag so that they don’t tangle in the Ball. Since I do this anyway, I don’t anticipate any problems.  The Ball should capture human and cat hair as well, which is a nice bonus.

The Cora Ball is not available in any local stores, so I ordered it online from Canadian company Ahimsa  Eco Solutions. At $49.00 CAD, the Cora Ball is more expensive than the  Guppyfriend, but will likely last longer than the bag. I look forward to seeing the results.