A New Textiles Economy – More important than ever. Written by Uzair Amir, Econic Apparel
What a difference a week makes. On March 13th, I was invited to be a panelist at the Schulich Futuristic Thinking conference organized by Net Impact. I was to share my perspective on the circular economy and how it is being implemented in the apparel industry. The conference was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but in hindsight I didn’t realize how profoundly our lives were about to change.
As Covid-19 spreads across the world, the global economy is grinding to a halt. This crisis will forever change the way we do business. Events like these can cause irreparable damage, but they also provide ample opportunities. This pandemic is forcing us to reconsider our ‘business as usual’ approach and is accelerating a paradigm shift that was desperately needed. I can’t help but feel that the conversations we were planning to have on that Friday afternoon at Schulich are more relevant now than ever before. To that end, I’d like to share my perspective on the circular economy and illustrate how innovators in my field are ushering in what is being called the ‘New Textiles Economy’.
The global apparel industry is worth $2.4 trillion dollars and employs over 300 million people across its value chain. The industry’s immense size leads to a considerable environmental footprint. The textile industry releases over 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year, an amount more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Over 87% of the material used for clothing production is either landfilled or incinerated, resulting in over $500 billion of value lost every year due to clothing underutilization and an absence of recycling. The take-make-dispose model in clothing is causing irreparable environmental damage and is unsustainable in the long-run.
A New Textiles Economy is being presented as a replacement for the current take-make-dispose system. It has four main ambitions that are consistent with the basic principles of the circular economy:
Since hardly any of the clothing produced today is fully biodegradable, the focus on value creation is through the technical cycles of upcycling and recycling. This helps improve textile utilization, but it doesn’t truly solve the end-of-use problem, as the garment after multiple cycles still ultimately ends up in a landfill. Cellulose-based fibres, such as cotton or hemp are naturally bio-degradable, but garments are rarely made entirely of these fibres. There are usually other materials used in the stitching, labels or buttons of a garment due to which it cannot be composted. This is one area where there is significant room for innovation and improvement. Companies like C & A, with its Cradle to Cradle t-shirts, is a leader in this space, producing eco-conscious garments which are compostable at their end-of-use. Another is Vollebak with its plant & algae t-shirts, made with pulped eucalyptus and dyed with an algae based pigment. These plant-based t-shirts are also compostable, and they claim to decompose within 12 weeks. The future of sustainable apparel will be one in which the garment’s end of life scenario is given as much importance as its production and use. Biodegradable fibres, compostable garments and the use of bio-plastics are all a step in that direction.
At a time when society is being shaken to its core, discussions about an upcycling program or a compostable t-shirt may seem callous and unimportant, but we can’t lose sight of the challenges we have been facing in our respective industries. This pandemic has given us all time to step back, reflect and look at the larger picture. It is allowing us to hit the reset button and truly focus on what matters. Conversations that had been taking place at the periphery are now front and center. Talk of a Universal Basic Income and a stronger social safety net, as well as addressing climate change while building a more robust local supply chain have all taken on added significance. The constant communication with clients, suppliers, and colleagues had us all on a treadmill where we were working ‘in’ the business but were not spending enough time working ‘on’ the business. This is our opportunity to change that – let’s make the most of it.
If you'd like to learn more about these textile programs for your business, please contact Kemp Edwards and let us work with you on a closed loop apparel program.
Starting the journey to a zero waste lifestyle can be daunting, but with a little planning and some basic ideas, you can save thousands of trash items from landfills, reduce your plastic exposure, improve your homes air quality and reduce your environmental exposure to toxins in the home.
Check out these tips to help you begin your journey to zero waste:
Do you have a collection of plastic bags and storage containers, straws, plastic utensils, napkins and paper towels? Use them up and over time replace these items by:
Start saving your glass food jars and buy in bulk
By saving and cleaning your glass pasta, jam and pickle jars and re-using them to store food, spices and grains you’re not only saving money on buying new storage containers, you’re saying no to plastic.
If your area does not have curb-side recycling you can create a system of your own to do so. With these tips you can make the task of recycling a bit easier
Reduce your food waste
Uneaten leftovers and spoiled produce gets thrown away every day. There are ways to reduce your food waste and save a lot of money in the process and with a little meal planning, you can do just that.
Try this to get started:
Buy/ sell second-hand or wear sustainable apparel
Being conscientious of how/ wear you purchase your apparel can reduce your clothing waste.
Creating your own non-toxic personal care products, or purchasing from a local artisan with re-fillable options is a great way to not only reduce your toxic load that conventional products have in their ingredients, but also reduces your packaging waste! The alternative to making your own, would be finding a local maker who has non-toxic personal care products but also offers refills using your own containers.
Here are some recipes for making your own basic self care products.
With these tips, you can slowly convert your buying habits to zero waste and save a lot of money along the way!
On December 10th the world celebrated Human Rights Day. It was on this day in 1948 that the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A worker’s right to receive a living wage for their labour is an integral part of that declaration, with Article 23 clearly stating:
“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity…”
Our commitment to these standards will determine what kind of world we leave for future generations. Nowhere is this commitment more important than in the global garment industry. With roughly 40 million people employed in this industry it has the potential to affect the most lives by adhering to better labour standards.
As it stands right now, poverty pay is one of the most pressing issues in the garment industry. Studies show that the sale of a $5.00 t-shirt in Canada results in only $0.12 making it to the worker who produced the garment. At under 3% of the product value it is one of the lowest proportions of compensation given to a worker for their labour.
The garment industry has been guilty of moving production from one developing country to another, following poverty to wherever labour costs are the lowest. I’ve personally witnessed this trend and the repercussions it has on the local industry. In the early 2000s my father ran an apparel sourcing office in Pakistan, working with American and European clients as they placed their garment orders in local factories. One by one the customers began moving production to China, Bangladesh and even Central America in search of cheaper labour and the Pakistani garment industry was left struggling- a blow from which it never truly recovered.
Poverty wage forces workers to work long hours to earn overtime or bonus pay. They cannot refuse unsafe working conditions as the lack of work often throws them into deeper poverty. Fast Fashion has exacerbated this problem. With an ever-increasing demand for more garments delivered in shorter timeframes, the pressures on garment workers is becoming untenable.
In these turbulent times, where social justice issues have taken on added importance, the garment industry is facing considerable consumer backlash. The ‘who made my clothes?’ campaign by Fashion Revolution is an example of a grassroots campaign that was organized to make big fashion brands accountable for their labour practices. The FairTrade network is another example of an organization working to alleviate worker suffering and forcing companies to adopt a greater degree of transparency in their supply chains. Although more active in helping farmers receive fair wages for cotton farming, the FairTrade network is also taking significant steps in addressing worker rights issues in garment production.
What can you as a consumer do to tackle this problem?
As another Human Rights Day passes by I’m reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela : “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life …”
Let us all contribute to this act of justice by ensuring that the people making our clothes are allowed a life of dignity rather than poverty.
From 12 to 12,000 pieces, Econic Apparel will provide you with the highest quality eco-friendly clothing options for your custom corporate apparel program. Our competitive prices and fast turn around times will impress you while our dedication to eco-conscious manufacturing will make you feel proud that you chose sustainable fashion for your custom apparel program.
At Econic Apparel, we define sustainability. We pride ourselves in using rigorously audited factories to ensure sustainable production methods and the ethical treatment of employees. The products we build are manufactured right here in Canada using raw materials, dyes and processes that are environmentally and socially conscious. With these qualities, your corporate apparel program will be a socially responsible program that will look good on you!
At Econic Apparel our team has over 20 years of experience in custom apparel creation from small apparel programs to global apparel programs. We will ensure your program is executed with the utmost care in responsible manufacturing, ethical employment and apparel finishing using the best techniques, high quality fabrics and with on time delivery.
Let’s work together to determine what works best for you and your corporate apparel program and we will recommend the best way for achieving your goals. Your brand carries your message, and we want it delivered right.
Make it Econic.
Since the recent Global Climate Action Strikes you may be feeling the doom and gloom of our climate statistics which may have also left you feeling like you can’t keep up with all that you want to do to make change both for yourself and the environment.
We put together some thoughtful and tangible ways to support climate action right now to alleviate the 'eco anxiety'.
1. Live within your values
Making small changes in your lifestyle to be in line with your “eco values” can help with your climate anxieties. Start by writing down those values and slowly incorporate them into your daily routine. For example; if you want to have a more sustainable kitchen, start by making a menu each week and only shopping for those items to complete your meals. Use vegetable scraps from the week to make veggie broth for soups and chilis. Eat dinner left overs for lunch the next day and port your meals to work in glass containers. Slowly switch over to reusable glass containers to freeze meals, broth, sauces, cooked veggies. Find a bulk store for spices and dry goods and take your own containers when you go.
These activities will make you feel better about your carbon footprint.
2. Take ownership of your homes energy consumption
Reducing your energy use at home helps you take direct ownership of your consumption and may take a load off your energy bills, carbon footprint and put some money back in your pocket!
Some ways to cut down on energy use are; reducing your shower time to 5 minutes, insulating your windows if they’re drafty, turn down your heat a couple of degrees, especially over night.
Find out from your local hydro company when the ‘on- peak rates’ and ‘off-peak rates’ and try and run your dishwasher and washer/dryer during the off peak times. Keep lights off during the day and unplug small appliances that aren't in use.
3. Find like-minded people
Find a community of like-minded individuals so that you can express and share your feelings of eco-overload. Perhaps sharing ideas can get some of them off your mind and give you a positive outlook on being with a community of people that are on the same page as you. Most likely, your ideas and opinions mirror theirs! Try an app called "meetup" and look at keywords like climate action group, green group, environment group.
4. Protect and nurture local green spaces
Get involved in community environment projects may help your mental health while also being good for the planet! Join a tree planting initiative or beach clean up. Know this; Green spaces absorb carbon dioxide, cool urban areas, reduce flood risk and provide valuable habitats for wildlife and spending time outside each day in nature is linked to better health and well-being! Read about it HERE.
5. Talk about the changes you make
Talk about the practical and positive changes you’ve made with others. This process gives us the sense of taking control back thus comforting your mind. You never know, talking about your plans to reduce your carbon footprint may inspire others to want to make changes right along with you!
6. Contribute to a cause that helps the planet!
Contributing to a cause that is near and dear to your heart will give you all the feels! At Econic Apparel, we support Land is Life, a Global Indigenous Rights Organization. Fires are ravaging the Amazon Rainforest, these fires were deliberately set and we want to help those directly affected. You can help by donating directly to Land is Life or by purchasing one of our eco tees with a graphic that shows pictures of the beautiful Amazon Rainforest.
$5 of every purchase goes directly to Land is Life.
Over time with these simple changes, you’re taking climate action and turning it in to every day life all while helping the planet!
For more information on changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint, check out one our favourite client websites, www.davidsuzuki.org
Have you thought about the sustainability of your corporate or small business outfitting program? Do you usually purchase “off the shelf” from a supplier? Maybe you forgot to purchase those shirts so you’re scrambling to find a quick fix so that you can check it off your list of event deliverables?
What if ECONIC could take the stress out of your corporate outfitting program? Let us help you take the tough decisions off your hands and provide you with a domestic, sustainable and ethical program. Your corporate outfitting program will be high quality, less toxic and support the Canadian economy!
When you decide to purchase your corporate apparel from ECONIC you’re getting so much more than your mainstream options. For example, we offer a holistic process to making sure that your outfitting program is a thoughtful one. We can also provide private labeling options to go with your branding and design services that will take the guesswork out of your design confusion.
At Econic apparel we offer in stock items but also we can work with you to create a complete custom design. Our apparel fabric options consist of certified organic cotton or 50% organic cotton mixed with 50% recycled polyester. Our 50/50 blend is created by combining the fabric created by 3 recycled plastic water bottles with our certified organic cotton fabric. Think about this, If you need 500 tee shirts for your outfitting program, than you’ve just diverted 1500 water bottles from our waterways and landfills! Is that a better story to tell than just slapping a logo on a $7.00 off the shelf tee shirt?
At Econic, we will help you make better choices for your corporate apparel story!
We are located in SE Ontario and Vancouver, BC. Give us a call or send our team an email!
Consumer-led commitment to purchasing Canadian Made product helps achieve a sustained economy and reduces environmental impact. Here's how you can get your hands on Canadian Made products and support the economy at the same time!
Sustainable apparel is a buzz phrase going around the fashion industry and a lot of brands are claiming that they're "sustainable" , but what does this mean exactly?
Sustainability is having a commitment to balancing the short and long-term supply and demand of resources by focusing on three pillars; economic, environmental, and social. In most cases 'sustainable' is thought to only mean being environmentally- conscious, but it's more than that, it's also economic sustainability and social responsibility.
The Common Objective group has shared 10 criteria for what qualifies as sustainable fashion, which address each of the three pillars of sustainability:
At Econic Apparel, we follow all of the rules of sustainability. We pride ourselves in using heavily audited factories for sustainability methods and the ethical treatment of employees. The products that we build at Econic Apparel are created right here in Canada using raw materials, dyes and processes that are not harmful to humans and the communities that surround them. That's our promise to you. #bravebrand #ECONIC
Why Organic Cotton is a Better Choice for your ECONIC Story.
At Econic Apparel, we only use GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton fibers in our manufacturing process of apparel.
Cotton is one of the most widely grown crops in the world, it can also be the most chemically sprayed crop. The chemicals used on conventionally grown cotton are the most aggravating to the people that tend to the them, the water and the soil itself as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency. The lack of regulation and deaths due to the use of these chemicals in developing countries are increasing every year.
Organic cotton and it’s growing methods have a low impact on the environment. Production processes are in place to replenish and maintain soil fertility and reduce the use of toxic pesticides and to build a strong biodiverse agriculture. Federal regulations also prohibit the use of GMO seeds for organic farming and you’ll be pleased to know that all cotton sold in Canada and the United States must meet strict federal regulations on how cotton is grown.
Econic apparel is unique in that we only manufacture our apparel using 100% certified organic cotton in the creation of our tee shirts, long sleeve tee shirts and blended fibre apparel options. For instance, you may want a softer look and feel for your tee shirt program so you could opt for our 50% pet recycled polyester combined with 50% organic cotton.
Whatever you chose, we can ensure you that you’re getting a top quality, made in Canada product. Our staff has a combined 70 years of experience in the apparel manufacturing industry. Our happy clients have worked with us on projects ranging from a 15 unit program to a large global event like the Olympics!
For Econic apparel ordering information, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you always dreamed of having a private label program for your apparel? Maybe you’re thinking It’d cost too much for your budget? At Econic apparel, we want you to be able to customize your apparel and we’re here to make that easy and cost effective for you!
What is “private label” anyway? Having a private label program for your apparel story is a creative way to add customization with your branding to your ECONIC garments.
Send us your logo and branding vision, or allow us to help you develop the mark you are looking for, and we’ll help you brand your private label program.
There are many ways to share your brand on your apparel. Here are a few ideas!
Let’s get creative! Sky’s the limit really. Do you have an idea? Share it with us and we’ll help you create your ECONIC apparel story that is one of a kind and unique to you.
Econic Apparel is 100% Made in Canada. From every detail, we are a domestically produced apparel company here to support your vision.
Let’s work together to determine what works best for you and your brand and recommend the best way for achieving this!