Sustainable is becoming quite the buzzword of late. Unfortunately, most of the time it's being used incorrectly. Sustainability is a wonderful thing, and it's certainly something to always keep in mind as a consumer and producer. I choose to label my clothing line as "sustainability focused", not because I am slacking off and willing to allow "unsustainable" business practices and manufacture, but because as a business there will always be grey areas where we can DO BETTER. There is no set formula for sustainability and no agencies enforcing its implementation. Therefore we are all constantly learning ways to better ourselves and our products. Using good sense to weed through the nonsense and constantly keeping in mind sustainability as a goal is the most effective means of success. Within manufacturing it is immensely complex to be 100% sustainable. Lets break down exactly what it means to be sustainable:
1. Creating a product with zero impact/ creating a product while implementing methods to give back and replenish everything that product requires to be manufactured.
2. Sustainable means a product MUST BE zero waste! Any waste generated from manufacturing the product must biodegrade harmlessly into the environment that created it. Zero waste means: no synthetic dyes, no synthetic/organic treatments that can be environmentally damaging, no plastics (think: shipping mailers, bags used to transport goods during production etc...), no synthetic (petroleum based) materials-such as fabrics, thread, elastic, buttons closures, zippers etc...
So if you are producing or purchasing a product that does not strictly adhere to 1 or 2. Simply put: it is not sustainable. It can be marketed as "working towards" it-or even "part way there"- however, it is not "sustainable" in the current state and should not be advertised as such. It misleads consumers and makes them feel like they are making a "safe" choice, and that choice has no environmental consequences, when it really does.
To really see the challenges of sustainability within manufacturing you have to delve into the grey area of supply chains and EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THE PROCESS. This is what I'm talking about when I say we can do better, but to do better we have to have a certain amount of control. An individual is not always able to assert control to implement sustainable practices within its supply chain. Without seeing manufacturing environments in person/working within them for a few years...it can be challenging to imagine the scale of the individual items and manufacturers necessary for even one project. The next post in this series will detail the origins of a product and all the steps from beginning -----> finished product