When I first started designing my own line of clothing, I was nervous. Would people like the designs? Would they want to buy them? What would happen if I made a mistake? These were all questions that haunted my mind during the first few months of launch. But no matter how many times I went back over them in my head, there was one thing that never crossed my mind: sustainability. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how important it is for fashion brands to be socially and environmentally conscious, as well as ethically sourced when sourcing materials and fabrics for their clothing lines.
Know your suppliers.
The first step in making any product sustainable is knowing the materials that go into it. Don’t just look at the label and assume it was made sustainably, because many brands do not tell you where their materials come from or how they are sourced. Instead, find out who supplies your company with its materials by asking questions about where they get them from and what kind of working conditions exist there–and then check those answers against reputable sources like Greenpeace or Amnesty International’s reports on human rights violations in various countries around the world (you’ll find links to both on this website).
It’s also important that you consider whether a supplier pays its employees a living wage–that is: enough money so that workers can afford housing, food and healthcare at least at basic levels without having to work overtime hours just so they can make ends meet each month–as well as whether there has been any recent controversy surrounding environmental damage caused by this company or others like it (for example: Shell Oil).
Do your research.
Before you buy a product, do your research. Check out the company’s environmental policy and labor policy, as well as their sourcing and social policies. For example, does the company use recycled or fair trade materials? How much of their products are made in-house (versus sourced from another country)? Is there an ethical element to their manufacturing process–for example, do they employ local workers who are paid a living wage?
Shop local, if possible.
- Shop local, if possible.
- You’ll be more likely to find a company that is transparent about their practices, supports the local economy and environment, and cares about you as a customer.
Keep it in the family.
There’s nothing like working with someone who is invested in your business. If you can find a supplier that will go above and beyond for you, even if it means losing money on the deal, then you’ve found gold!
They’ll help guide you through the process of making ethical sourcing decisions and keep an eye out for any potential issues. They may even be willing to give advice on how best to approach selling your products as sustainable goods–this is especially true if they have experience selling sustainable products themselves.
In my experience, there are two types of suppliers: those who care about their customers’ bottom lines more than anything else; and those who care about making sure their customers are getting high quality products at competitive prices while also ensuring their suppliers are treated fairly (and paid accordingly). The latter type will often work with smaller businesses because they know how hard it can be when starting out–they want everyone involved in making a product line successful so everyone benefits!
Look for certifications.
Look for certifications. Certifications are a great way to ensure that your products are ethically sourced. You can look for certification logos on the packaging, or check out the company’s website and see if they have any certifications listed there. There are many organizations that offer this type of service, including Fair Trade USA and the Rainforest Alliance (both of which are listed in alphabetical order below).
Certifications can help you identify responsible companies as well as products that aren’t sustainable–which means you’ll know what not to buy!
Choose sustainable fabrics and materials.
In order to make sure your product is sustainable, it’s important to choose fabrics and materials that are organic or natural. This means they’re made from renewable resources and don’t contain any toxic chemicals. If you want to be even more eco-friendly, look for fabrics made from recycled materials instead of new ones.
You can also check for Oeko-Tex certification on your fabrics–this means that they’ve been tested for harmful substances like formaldehyde (which can cause skin irritation) or heavy metals like lead and mercury in the dyes used during production. GOTS certification indicates that a product has been produced according to strict guidelines regarding worker safety, environmental impact reduction measures such as waste management practices implemented by manufacturers involved in its creation (e.g., no use of pesticides), among others
Consider biodegradable and compostable options when appropriate.
- Biodegradable and compostable materials are not always the best choice. For example, if your product needs to be made from a material that is durable enough to withstand the rigors of everyday life in a busy household, it may be more environmentally friendly for you to use an alternative that does not break down quickly.
- Biodegradable and compostable options can be expensive. It’s true that some biodegradable plastics cost more than traditional plastics–but this isn’t always the case! If you’re looking at price tags on packaging products at your local hardware store or grocery store, make sure they’re comparing apples-to-apples by checking their labels carefully before buying anything (and don’t forget about sales!).
Sustainable sourcing is complicated, but not impossible.
Sustainable sourcing is complicated, but not impossible. You may be thinking: “How do I know if my products are ethically sourced?” That’s a good question! It’s easy to get lost in the sea of buzzwords and greenwashing that surrounds sustainable manufacturing. But here’s the thing: it’s up to you as a consumer (and even more so as an employee) to do your homework and find out what’s going on in your supply chain.
There are many ways you can research this information–I recommend looking at certifications like Fair Trade USA or Rainforest Alliance, reading companies’ mission statements and social media pages, reaching out directly by phone or email with questions about their production methods–but ultimately it comes down to asking yourself two questions: Are people being treated fairly? And is there an environmental impact?
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly aware of its impact on the environment. People are looking for ways to be more sustainable and eco-friendly, and this includes their fashion choices. If you’re interested in creating products that are more eco-friendly, it can seem like a daunting task–but there are plenty of resources out there to help make this process easier!