Friday 2 May 2008

Going green in the Textile World

Marcia Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy USA is dedicated to providing the consumer with a fusion of fashion, wellness and social responsibility, and hence specialises in providing a range of “cool organic fashion” without compromising quality or performance. She stressed the significant link between organic food and organic garments: not only did they appeal to the same consumers, but 60% of the weight of the cotton harvest goes into food as oil. Her preferred fibres were organic and Fair Trade versions of wool, cotton, silk, angora and linen, but she did also use Tencel, bamboo, and seaweed. Dyes had to be low impact, indigo was recycled. All suppliers had to demonstrate social responsibility, fair labour policies and animal rights as core values. Miscellaneous points made:
  • The US consumer feels he has more impact on the planet’s health by buying the right things than he does by voting.
  • The organic fibre market was growing rapidly – at 44% pa between 2005 and 2010 according to the first line on a slide and at “an average annual growth rate of 116%” on the next.
  • Organic cotton was a $245million business in 2002 and will be a $6.8 billion business by 2010 - presumably at retail level.
  • Organic cotton sales more than trebled from 20 million in 2005 to nearly 70 million in 2007 - no units provided.
  • Organic cotton needs to be certified: some unscrupulous suppliers claim organic if they avoid pesticide spray for the year’s production.
  • Nike target 5% organic cotton use by 2010
  • every time we increase costs by doing the right thing we make more profit” (Patagonia Clothing).
Her company partnered with the Environmental Media Association, NRDC, the Rainforest Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, the Soil Association, the Rodale Research Institute, Amnesty International, Stop Global Warming, the Waterkeepers Alliance and the CA Coalition for Clean Air.
Asked why she used bamboo fibre, Ms Zaroff said this fast growing weed brings an interesting new handle. Did she know it was viscose rayon made from bamboo pulp in one of the more polluting and environmentally unfriendly Chinese factories? No – she thought it came direct from plant. Another audience member commented that the Chinese are working on a new mechanical extraction process to make a bamboo bast fibre, but any fine fibre with a soft handle is made using the rayon route.
Asked about US Organic cotton she said US farmers find it hard to go organic: they lease the land and can’t invest in building soil quality. They also harvest mechanically – a process with a large carbon footprint. So if you want to buy certified organic cotton, invest in, and buy direct from farms - offshore.

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