If you have already checked out Part 1, It was a pretty dark and depressing article and we would like to congratulate you if you managed to pull through to the end. The information in that article was gathered before we had our production plan at The Nature Collective set up. As mentioned in that article, we knew we wanted to run this business in a socially and environmentally responsible way and we knew we needed to see what was “broken” in the garment industry before we could do that. What we didn’t know is just how broken the garment industry actually was. To be honest, when we finally gathered the information you read in the last article, we asked ourselves if a little guy like us could be capable of operating responsibly, given all the hurdles we now face.
We spent months on finding a responsible apparel manufacturer, even weeks on finding packaging to ship apparel in, another few weeks to find a printer to print our designs. We even spent weeks on finding a responsible way to use hang tags on our apparel and ended up doing something different than the norm to cut down on our material use & reliance. Now, we are uncovering what all that work we put in looks like.
We believe responsible production can't be done without transparent production. To hide a vendor or source from our community, leaves us vulnerable to production practices that don't meet our values. So as you read below about our process, from threading the shirts to packaging them to be sent to you, you will see links to each and every vendor and third party vendor, for continued learning and understanding.
Putting this information out there, of-course, opens us up to the possibility that others will take our production research, and use it for their own company. We would like to encourage that for any company who has found themselves reading this article. Though working (what we believe) one of the most responsible methods of shirt production out there is great for branding, the true purpose is to create change in the industry. Change will never happen with just one company. We would also like any companies reading this to join us in never settling for 'better'. What we are doing, we do believe is 'better' than most, but until we find a way to giveback more than we are taking from the environment, it will never be the 'best'. Reach out to us, share you're ideas, and ask for advice.
Our shirts are what’s called a Tri-Blend, which consists of 50% Repreve polyester, 25% Organic Cotton, and 25% Tencel Modal. Our partnership with Allmade, our manufacturer of these shirts, allows us to bring these three materials together for a comfortable, durable, lower impact tee. Allmade plays a core part in our production by tracking the sourcing of their materials, and influencing the factories they work with, to make sure both Allmade and The Nature Collective social standards are being met. You can read more about Allmade's factories and materials below, or directly from Allmade Here.
Let’s dig more into each one of those materials.
29 million bottles of water every year are disposed of by Americans alone. These bottles have the same plastic chemical makeup as polyester, so they can be taken out of our oceans, turned into polyester yarn, and put back into good use. That’s exactly what Repreve does. This eliminates the need to produce more plastics and many of the fossil fuels required to create them.
25% of our shirts are made up of 100% organic, non-GMO cotton that’s grown right here in the USA where pesticide and herbicide regulations are far superior (and mostly banned) than most other countries where cotton is grown. At the same time, worker regulations in America’s cotton industry are also far superior than most other countries that harvest the crop.MODAL
Modal is the secret to the luxurious softness of our tri-blend shirt. An evolved form of rayon, the Lenzing Modal® used, is made from sustainably harvested beech trees in PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified European forests. Beech trees self-multiply and require no artificial planting or irrigation, which means no toxic chemical or over trail on the watershed. They are also extremely resistant to pests and other environmental damage. Lenzing uses a proprietary, low-impact process to break the wood pulp down into fibers.TRAVEL
Not only are these materials better for the environment as they are, but all the raw materials except the Modal are sourced right here in the US, shipped to Haiti to be sewn into shirts, and shipped back to the US for sale.
A typical industry t-shirt will travel 16,000 miles: cotton grown in one country, shipped to another to be processed into fiber, another to be spun into yarn, another to be knitted into fabric, and so on. Haiti, on the other hand, is a half hour flight from Miami and that’s as far as our fabric and shirts have to go – a significant reduction in shipping.HUMANS
The most important ingredient in the process of creating a shirt, is the human. With the number of countries a shirt can see before it's ready to be sold, and the size of the apparel industry in and of itself, it’s so easy to forget about the humans working in sweatshops, barely making enough income to cover basic life needs.
In countries like Haiti, where the average worker earns a mere $3/day to support a family of eight, kids are at a high-risk of being sent to an orphanage. The typical orphan in Haiti is not without parents, but rather without parents who can afford to care for their most basic needs—food, shelter, clothing, education and basic healthcare.
Allmade has partnered with the Global Orphan (GO) Project to produce great quality shirts, while fighting generational poverty in Haiti. GOEX (short for Global Orphan EXchange), the Haitian facility where Allmade shirts are produced, is among a number of ventures the GO Project has developed to create dignified work that keeps families together. They pay workers 5x the going rate for similar jobs in the area; an amount carefully calculated to meet the basic needs of a Haitian household. Not only that, but 100% of GOEX’s profits are dedicated to programs that support orphans.
Among these projects is the Transition Academy. The Transition Academy is designed to help children who are aging out of community-sponsored care, providing them with housing, education, life and vocational skills to help ensure a successful transition to adult independence. The Academy offers majors in Agriculture, Diesel Mechanics, and Apparel. Those studying Apparel learn hands-on skills at the GOEX facility where Allmade shirts are produced.
Allmade has a second factory in Haiti, along with one in Honduras as well. Each meet similar sustainable and humane standards. Read more about these additional to factories here. (Scroll to bottom of link page)
Superior Ink is a Certifiably Green Denver, custom apparel printing shop located in Denver, Colorado. Being a home state printer, our shipping emissions, though present, are drastically cut when compared to shipping across the country. The ink used at Superior Ink is water-based that’s not only better for the environment, but it’s better for your skin and feels great on the shirt. When washing our shirt, water-based inks do not release micro plastics into the watersheds like the typical plastisol inks do, and the designs do not crack, allowing the shirt to last longer.
When it’s finally time for you to receive that awesome new shirt you just ordered, we will be sending it to you in an EcoEnclose 100% recycled kraft mailer with a whopping 90% post consumer content. Not only is this mailer constructed entirely from recovered trash, but once it has made its journey and served its purpose, our mailers can easily be redeposited back into the paper recycling stream.
It's Not Sustainability, It's Responsibility.
Before we leave you thinking we sell the most sustainable shirts on the market, it's important you understand we are not sustainable at all. Sustainable requires us to be able to maintain a certain rate or level of production without the depletion of natural resources. Our shirts do not meet that definition. Our cotton may be organic, saving the environment from toxic chemical use, but they are still a very thirsty plant that strains the watershed. The process of recycling plastics to turn them into polyester does help keep our oceans clean, but it also requires energy to create that fabric. Our packaging used to ship you our shirt does cancel out the need for plastic bags, but that package requires energy in order for it to be produced and it uses an adhesive.
We could keep going on and on (and did in Part 1) but the idea is, we aren't the best, and can't sit back as if we were. Our projects are mean't to be on going as we continue to ask our self, what can we do better, what can we change, what's missing?
So as for our future, we will always look at our current projects and future ones with our strict values and production guidelines. For our future projects, we will look for the most responsible the market has to offer and ask where, with our values, we can improve it. For our current projects like The Shirt Project, we will restart our research process over, using our own production as the 'most responsible the market has to offer' and ask again where, with our values, can we improve it.