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The scoop: Patagonia is a forward-thinking billion-dollar brand. But there is always work to be done. Let's see how they chalk up.
Is Patagonia sustainable?
- Patagonia uses mostly recycled materials.
- They have a lifetime return and repair program for all of their products.
- Patagonia still uses animals in their supply chain, but they try to do it as responsibly as possible. I'd rather see no animal use.
- They are slightly above average when it comes to labor conditions.
- Patagonia looks to go carbon neutral by 2025.
Zoom out: Patagonia hits on the environmental side, but they have some work to do, especially regarding transparency & ethics surrounding suppliers and animal welfare.
Dig deeper → 3 min
Hot take The Zero Waste movement is failing.
Some key talking points
1. Barrier to entry The environmental movement has struggled with inclusivity and accessibility since its inception. Geographic location can heavily impact one’s ability to practice zero waste.
Bulk food stores, farmers markets and zero-waste shops sprout up in trendy metropolitan cities like San Francisco, but are rarely sighted in rural towns.
2. Trendy products = more consumption Pressure on companies to be more sustainable is seemingly a victory for environmentalists. However, as consumer-centric businesses seize upon Zero Waste trends, the advertising has paradoxically become about consuming more, rather than less (there are exceptions).
Alternatives to Zero Waste
- Diet Reducing consumption is largely considered the single most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. Second to that is purchasing local foods and unprocessed foods.
- Transportation Reduce reliance on car and air travel. Use public transportation, or bike. Or, you can never leave your house again because... covid.
- Fast Fashion Avoid the incredible footprint of fast fashion. Buy second hand, stay informed. Unlearn the tendency to purchase quantity over quality.
- Activism The climate crisis was caused by individual consumers. To change what you can’t directly control, become involved in activism. Looking for a place to start? Try Fridays For Future or Sunrise Movement.
Proposal Instead of the Zero Waste movement, let’s call it the Low Impact movement. Names are powerful, and not only is this phrasing more attainable, it is less self-righteous and exclusionary.
This is a beautiful movement that has lost its authenticity. The more genuine we can make it, the more impactful and widespread it will become.
Dig deeper → 7 min
How it stands
- An estimated 45-70% of clothing donated in Western countries (US, UK, Germany) enters the global used clothing trade.
- Clothing is sold to traders in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda) and ends up in used clothing markets in cities, towns and villages.
- Starting in 1980, economic liberalization (i.e. reforms to open their borders to international trade) in Sub-Saharan Africa caused domestic manufacturing to decline and increased demand for imported, cheap, used clothing to the region.
- The used clothing trade is a lucrative profession for those with limited job prospects. A used clothing trader in Nairobi can make up to 1000 shillings a day ($9 USD), 10 times the prevailing wage.
- In 2016, the East Africa Community (EAC) - an intergovernmental organization of six East African countries - decided to ban all imports of used clothing by 2019 to boost local manufacturing and create employment opportunities. The effects of this ban are unclear.
What can we do
- The problems plaguing the Sub-Saharan African textile industry are complicated to say the least. Limiting the used clothing trade is not enough to reinvigorate manufacturing.
- Dominant trends like fast fashion encourage consumers to buy new and improved products and discard the old ones at the expense of manufacturing economies in developing nations. Next time you go to donate those old T-shirts, carefully consider the downstream impacts. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.
Dig deeper → 3 min
The scoop The fashion industry faces criticism for not following environmental standards to produce cheaper closet updates. Once again. But at what cost?
At the expense of exploiting cheap labor and adding to the global problem of industrial pollution. Brands such as Zara have been at the center of this heated debate as they continue to follow their fast business models.
The invisible price tag
- Online fashion houses such as Zaful, Shein and Romwe make millions on their fashion lines by taking advantage of low-wage labor in sweatshops in China and other parts of Asia.
- Customers fall victim to the low prices of their goods but a rising number in the online consumer market have complained about the sub-standard quality of the items they purchase.
- Consumers of fast fashion tend to ignore the moral and environmental standards that companies disregard.
What are the consequences?
- Over 265 million children globally are enslaved by manufacturing houses found guilty of illegal labour practices.
- As of 2017, only 15% of old clothes were recycled.
- Companies such as Zaful make greenwashing claims about their sustainability programs but there is a shadow of doubt as to what their policies on environmental management actually are?
Eco-friendly goes beyond price
- There are strict sustainability guidelines which restrict organic cloth manufacturers from scaling their production.
- Sustainable fashion must enable the consumers to lead more minimalist lifestyles.
Choose slow fashion
- Consider quality over quantity. What is that you really need?
- Leverage your purse by purchasing from sustainable brands in order to facilitate the shift towards a sustainable industry.
- Upcycle by using old fabrics for other uses once you’re done using the fashion item, to create a circular consumption pattern for yourself.
Dig deeper → 4 min