It is very difficult to say whether the most sustainable solution really exists for the apparel industry -- there is yet to be a fabric that is an obvious winner in virtually all environmental aspects. And, at the end of the day, personal preferences still play a dominant role in people’s purchasing decisions over sustainability. To quote Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, perfect sustainability is against the law of thermodynamics.
Understanding this matter of reality, we are driven less by the idea of creating a perfectly sustainable product, but more by the mission of overcoming the delta between the status quo and a better alternative with materials, practices and tools that are immediately available to us. With this philosophy, we are able to make clothing with significantly improved environmental performance that are still accessible to all.
1. Buying less, using more and buying pre-owned items are always encouraged over buying new items.
Why: Getting more uses out of what you already own, or opting for the pre-owned options delays the disposal of the items and conserves the energy and raw material inputs that would otherwise be consumed.
2. All clothing should be designed with its practicality, versatility and ability to last in mind.
Why: Since the production phase of clothing bears the highest environmental impact, the more wears people can get out of their clothing, the less environmental impact associated with production there is for each wear. Therefore, making clothing that are practical, easy-to-wear and long-lasting promises more environmental benefits over the long term.
3. Prioritize the use of natural and biodegradable fibers over synthetic and fossil-fuel based fibers.
Why: Despite having a smaller water footprint, synthetic fibers (e.g. polyester, nylon, acrylic etc.) require more energy and emit more CO2 during the manufacturing process than their natural counterparts (please refer to the study by Stockholm Environment Institute).
Besides, clothing made with synthetic fibers are not biodegradable and shed micro plastic fibers every wash. These plastic fibers are too tiny to be captured at water treatment facilities and are eventually released into waterways and oceans, impacting the health of our marine ecology. So far, there has yet to be an effective way to remediate the microfiber pollution in the natural environment.
4. Prioritize the use of natural and biodegradable fibers with smaller water and carbon footprints over conventional natural fibers that have a higher environmental impact; Embrace recycled content in clothing fabrics.
Why: Not all natural fibers are sustainably equal. For example, conventionally cultivated cotton has a huge water footprint and requires an astonishing amount of pesticide input. Whereas other natural fibers, including organic cotton, hemp and recycled fibers, fare much better environmentally and for the health of farmers growing them.
Introducing natural fibers with lower environmental impacts to the market helps to strengthen the market demand for better natural fiber alternatives, which in turn could incentivize the adoption of sustainable farming practices and the technology innovation in the textile space.
5. Prioritize packaging options that are recyclable or compostable and made with a high percentage of recycled content.
Why: Packaging waste, especially plastic, is a huge problem. At Orejas, we want to minimize our waste production as much as possible by choosing packaging materials that can be fed into the recycling or composting stream after use.
Additionally, we prefer packaging materials made with a high percentage of recycled content. Opting for recycled and recyclable materials strengthens the demand for more recycled materials and recycling facilities. In the market, this in turn encourages more technological innovation and investment in the sustainable packaging and recycling space.
6. Workers are paid living wages and work in humane working conditions.
Why: Because it is the right thing to do.
All of our clothing are currently made in China, with care. Despite misunderstandings stemmed from the perpetuation of stereotypes, the majority of Chinese garment workers enjoy much higher workplace safety and salary than garment workers in the rest of Asia. Moreover, we only work with factories that employs workers from local areas and pays a salary that is almost 100% higher than the local minimum wage.
7. Take responsibility for our products’ end-of-life.
Why: Since we are responsible for the production of our clothing with inputs of raw material, water, energy and outputs of environmental externalities, we should also be responsible for our clothing at the end of their use phase. This allows us to ensure that the material utilisation is maximized and that the environmental impact is minimized through proper reusing, recycling or disposal of our products.
We are currently working on extending producer responsibility (EPR) policy. Please stay tuned for more updates