Free For All Friday! Sustainable Edition!

October 10, 2014

So this Friday I am going to be discussing sustainable, eco friendly companies that are trying to do good things for the world. This is all we are discussing in my Contemporary Issues class lately and so I am full of opinions and ideas on how fashion can improve, but it won't change unless we the consumers change! So rather than go on and on about what I think is wrong, I am going to introduce you to some companies that are doing it right.  I am going to let you see for yourself how it is possible for fashion to be eco friendly.  The smallest changes make the biggest difference.  

1. Columbia Sportswear - Not only is this company chic and fashionable and provides great outerwear, they are doing so much to be eco friendly and to improve lives of their factory workers. They conduct regular audits on their factories and they strongly support the HERProject which provides their female workers with education about nutrition and well-being, health needs assessments, and connects to health services.  This has proven to increase employee production and less employee turnover.  They donate to environmental charities like Save the Seagrass and the Conservation Alliance.  They also started to employ a variety of green initiatives at their headquarters in Portland such as a solar electric system that reduces their carbon emissions by 80 tons per year.  Thats not even all that they are doing but it gives you a pretty good idea! 


2. Alternative Apparel - This was not a company that I had heard of until I began doing research for my Contemporary Issues class and it is not to be confused with American Apparel which is a whole other can of worms.  Alternative Apparel has policies against forced labor, child labor, abuse, insufficient wages and they make sure their factories are inspected frequently to make sure their dying process is toxin-free and that their wool is sourced from sustainable alpaca farms. How great is that?! Not only are they taking care of their employees they are making sure that their dying process and fabric are not damaging the environment and are animal friendly.  Their Alternative Earth line brings in 30% of their sales, this line is made from organic cotton, recycled materials, low-impact dyes, energy efficient facilities, and contains no heavy metals or toxic substances.  A portion of their sales benefits a variety of environmental organizations and charities.  The bonus is they aren't sacrificing style to be eco friendly and I think that is a common misconception with consumers. These clothes are just as fashionable as their non ecofriendly counterparts but you don't have to worry about the environmental impact! 


3. Patagonia - I am not a huge winter person but my sister is and she loves to ski and if I am to buy her anything to keep her warm out there in that windchill and snow it's going to be from these guys.  They are making such big steps in sustainable fabrics it's unbelievable.  To make sure that they are living up to their social responsibility standards they have a social responsibility team, the Fair Labor Association, and a third party auditor team regularly visit their factories to assure that their workers are receiving fair treatment.  They do not pay any of their workers under minimum wage and they don't hire anyone under the age of 15. Now the really good stuff, their textiles.  Patagonia asks to be audited so they can continue to improve their resource consumption, water use, and assure workers health and safety.  They use the Common Threads Initiative to make sure their clothes stay out of landfills, they co-founded the Conservation Alliance and Conservation Patagonia and they donate a huge amount of money to grassroots environmental groups each year.  They literally make fleece from recycled plastic bottles!! 


4. ChewyLou - This is not a high fashion brand but you can't argue the cause and if you're looking for a basic graphic tee this is the place to go! Don't be dissuaded by the website because it doesn't look very promising wait until you hear what they are doing.  Many of the yoga-themed shirts sold on ChewyLou are printed at Michael's Garden which is a vocational venter for adults with physical and mental disabilities, it helps special needs adults gain valuable skills via resume-writing, handcrafts and career planning. ChewyLou uses ACME Prints which is Arizona's greenest t-shirt printing company they use water-based inks and soy-based screen cleaners so toxic substances aren't escaping down the drain.  They also donate a large portion of profits to various charities like American Hear Association, Lupus Foundation of America, the Faces of Hope fund and many more. 


5.  Under Armour - I am a huge fan of Under Armour even before I knew what they were doing to be sustainable and eco friendly.  I believe that they make good quality clothing and while it is reflected in their prices I am very happy with my purchases from them and I think they back their quality.  They refuse to work with any manufacturers that engage in child labor, forced labor, discrimination or that have poor health and safety standards.  All of their Asian and Central American factory workers are guaranteed minimum wage and compensation for overtime along with a zero-tolerance code of conduct that prohibits any form of corruption.  Under Armour's UA Green clothing line is one of the most eco-friendly lines, two million plastic bottles are used to make their clothes, shoes, and hats every year!! They make donations to Big Belly, which is an organization that installs solar powered trash compactors all around Baltimore which is Under Armour's home town.  They have specific clothing lines that donate a portion of profits to specific causes.  For example, Power in Pink donates to several breast cancer organizations and their Freedom line donates to injured veterans.  They work with many other charities as well!


Now these are not the only fashion companies that are attempting to be more green and fair but these are some of the ones that stand out to me! They are mostly activewear companies and if you want to know more about them I got my information from (link takes you straight to the article).  I know that H&M launched two new sustainable lines in April of this year, using sustainable leather and silk, which is great! They are very proud of their lines and I hope they continue to become more sustainable materials. 


Consumers want cheap clothing and that is part of why the green movement isn't being seen in fashion very often.  We have to show companies that we are willing to pay a little extra if it means funding something that is good for the environment and people.  Our pocketbooks control the industry. 


Share with me your favorite fashion brands that are trying to do good in the world and be sustainable!! I would love to be exposed to more companies that are tackling the green movement head on! 




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