Like many companies in the last few years, we are more and more aware of the threat that manufacturing places on our environment. Of course, almost everything we do has some sort of impact, but one of the main concerns of our customers is our use of polyester.
Polyester is often touted as a bad material - but is this true? We took a closer look into our options to see exactly what the facts are.
No printing process or material is 100% eco friendly. While some are definitely more green than others, all fashion has some impact on Earth. It's our responsibility as a company to reduce that impact and still offer high quality clothing.
Firstly, we care deeply about sustainable fashion. In reality this means we want to create high quality, long-lasting clothing that you can wear for a lifetime. How many T-shirts have you ever bought from a high street store that are cheaply made and lose their shape after a few washes? 'Fast fashion' is a huge contributing factor for waste. With that in mind, we are choosing to create custom-made clothing that will last years, even if the cost is higher.
When looking at printing options, sublimation is the only viable option for us. Not only does it produce vivid, beautiful colours but it is also one of the most eco-friendly printing processes available.
- Sublimation inks are safe, pose no hazard to the workers handling them or the environment
- Because the sublimation inks turn into a gas under heat and pressure, water is not needed for printing
- Unlike screen printing, all of the dye ends up in the garment and ZERO percent is washed into waterways
- As sublimation is printed in CMYK, only a minimal amount of ink is needed to create endless colours
There is, however, a more complex relation with sublimation in that the material the ink goes onto has to be synthetic, otherwise it doesn’t work. So for that reason, we use 100% polyester. Polyester gets a bad rep, so let's look closely at why we chose it over cotton.
Polyester is a by-product of the oil industry. When petroleum is being processed at refineries, the extractions are spun together to create man-made fibres and this is woven into garments. While we are aware that the oil industry has a massive effect on our planet, this by-product makes use of the elements that would normally be disposed of.
The oil industry, specifically petroleum, is what powers most of our cars, provides us with heat and generates electricity amongst hundreds of other uses. It may be bad for the environment, but we all use it daily many times over. We hope that in the future, new technology like electric-powered vehicles can eliminate the need for this product.
What does excite us, is that there is a recent addition of recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. We're currently looking into this material and hopeful it will become available to us soon!
Because we are aware of the effect oil production has, we looked at other options. Nylon is similar to polyester but produces more energy waste in production, and wool, silk or leather is not vegan-friendly. That leaves us with one real alternative; cotton. However, aside from the quality of the final product suffering, we found there were just as many, albeit different concerns to think about.
- Cotton is made from plants, which requires large areas of agricultural land and animal habitat to be destroyed and devoted to the cotton plant. 2.5% of the world's surface is cotton farms.
- Numerous toxic pesticides and fertilisers are sprayed onto the plants and into the environment. More worryingly, these chemicals cause serious health concerns for workers, particularly in third world countries where most of the cotton is grown.
- The plants are grown in arid conditions, yet the plant requires massive amounts of water to thrive. Water is therefore brought in from other sources.
- We cannot ignore cotton's relationship with slavery. Yes, even in 2020. With low wages for workers and inadequate protection for farmers against chemicals used, there are many human-rights issues. We should mention that many big companies are now enabling the growth of sustainable, organic cotton which reduces these concerns.
Sustainability and the future
We wouldn't be honest if we didn't look at the effect polyester has on our environment after it has been sold as a garment. The materials we choose continue to impact in ways we might not be aware of.
All clothing, including cotton and plant-based materials release micro-fibres into waste water when washed. However polyester fibres are not biodegradable. This is offset slightly because polyester is a material that requires less washing than plant-based materials and dries quickly, eliminating the need for driers. Furthermore, polyester does not need to be ironed after each wash and it's for these combination of reasons that we feel polyester is a good choice for us.
It's a difficult conversation, because we want to be honest about why we chose polyester, so we have created a list of ways that we can reduce this waste even further;
More wear, waste less
Buy only clothing you think you will wear many times, that is well-made and can be washed without losing it's shape or colour. It may cost you more upfront, but that cost can be saved when you don't have to replace the garment. It's tempting to buy those cheap, mass produced T-shirts for a one-off party or festival, but where will they end up in a years time?
Wash well, not often
Washing your clothing in the correct way will not only make them last longer, but also reduce the impact on our environment. Wash in cold water, on a quick cycle only when they're dirty. Try to resist washing individual items and washing after one wear unless you really have to. Hang dry instead of drying in a tumble drier when possible.
Polyester is far from perfect, but after studying the alternative options we feel like we have made the best choice to get sustainable, long-lasting fashion that has the least impact on our planet that we can achieve at this time. We will continually re-evaluate and upgrade any part of our process or materials whenever a better method is possible.
To find out about other ways we reduce our carbon footprint, you can read about our 'promises' here.