How many of us really understand how clothing is made, the intensive process it requires to become a garment, and the immense environmental impacts this process has? Maybe we are aware that sustainable clothing is better, but do we actually know why?
To really grasp the importance of making (and buying) sustainable clothing, we have to understand the enormous impact the fashion industry and its practices have on the world. By 2050 it is anticipated that the fashion industry will use up to 25 percent of the world’s carbon budget, making it one of the most polluting industries, second only to oil.
From fiber to fabric, textile supply chains are some of the most complex of any manufacturing arena.
The process of making fiber, natural or synthetic, is a highly energy and pollutant-concentrated process that requires a vast amount of natural resources. Conventional methods of growing and manufacturing cotton use copious amounts of toxic chemicals to get it from seed to fiber, then into yarn, which then gets woven into fabric. Bleaches and dyes are used throughout to get a desired color, as well as extreme water usage to wash between chemical processes. Each of these steps often happen in different factories, sometimes in different countries, with many different hands. A tedious, resource dependent process indeed.
Then there are synthetic fabrics, although they don’t require agricultural land and use little water in production and processing, they are harmful to the environment in other ways. Synthetics are not biodegradable, and all rely on petrochemicals aka fossil fuel extraction for their material. Which as we know is the key player in our ever-burgeoning climate catastrophe. Post production, there is also the microfiber issue when synthetic clothing is washed. Microfibers release into our waterways via washing machines and can cause immense damage to marine life and ecosystems.
No matter which way you slice it, conventional clothing manufacturing is quite visibly detrimental to the health of the planet. Compounded with the sheer volume of clothing and accessories being mass-produced at inhumane rates, we definitely have a problem Houston. This dire problem is why the importance of switching over to sustainable production methods is at the forefront of fashion industry conversation and action.
We are proud that Synergy has been a leader in this movement for well over a decade. At our core, Synergy is not only committed to creating clothing with a minimal environmental impact, but also empowering men and women through ethical employment practices. Our motto is “How it’s Made Matters” and we have stood by that in our practices since day one.
Our clothing begins with GOTS certified organic cotton grown and loomed into fabric in India. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria and is backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. This hard-earned certification guarantees the highest environmental and ethical standards for the whole manufacturing process.
Organic cotton means a world of a difference environmentally. It is grown using methods and materials that have a lower impact than conventionally grown cotton, such as no use of toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and without using genetically engineered seed. All of our fabrics are made with low impact dyes as well. These dyes have a high absorption rate, which decreases the use of rinse water and produces less waste.
Another key factor in reducing waste and negative environmental impact is to stop using virgin resources to create new materials and repurpose what we already have. For example, recycled polyester – a much more sustainable alternative to virgin polyester – uses up to half as much energy to make and saves plastic from landfill. While most of our clothing is made with organic cotton, we do use recycled poly in some pieces for better elasticity. We believe it is a much better alternative to using virgin material.
However, we are aware now that recycled polyester still sheds microfibers into the water. We suggest using a product like a Guppy Bag, which reduces fiber shedding and filters 99 percent of the fibers that do break through. For more tips on reducing microfiber pollution check out this list from Plastic Pollution Coalition.
We also believe that sustainability isn’t just about treating the earth with respect, but people as well. Reciprocity and mutual reverence between nature and humans is a crucial component in symbiosis and sustainability. Each of our garments are ethically sewn in a GOTS certified factory by men and women who are paid a living wage for their work in a safe, humane working environment. By treating our employees with respect, we create garments that are not only high quality, but that are empowering the people who made them.
On top of this, all of our production facilities and warehouse strive to operate within green business protocol, and we ship out our final garments in biodegradable/recyclable packaging. We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment in every way possible, and part of that commitment is a responsibility for our clothing even after it is sold. We offer incentives for customers to recycle any Synergy clothing they no longer wear by bringing it back to us.
Garments in good shape will be donated to local nonprofits and women's shelters. Those that are not wearable will be donated to environmentally responsible textile recycling programs.
From our home base in Santa Cruz, California to our handwork seamstresses in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, our Synergy family is part of a global community with purpose. Through each of our practices and relationships we are empowering a sustainable global economy. We strive to empower consumers to make more purposeful choices in the clothing they buy and wear.
One of the easiest and most effective ways we can have a positive impact on the planet is to choose products that are sustainable and ethical. Ethical fashion is about more than just clothing, it is casting a vote for the type of future you want for the world and all the beings who live on it.
Read more on Synergy’s commitment to sustainability here.
Written by Alexa Rae
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Happy Fair Trade Month! Although we celebrate and practice fair trade every day, we are uniting with the global marketplace to highlight the importance of ethical manufacturing and consumption during the month of October. Fair trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first.
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