WHY IT MATTERS
Education in the garment and apparel industry is important. We can’t make a positive change in this world if we don’t know what needs to be changed and why. When the idea for this business was born, we thought that simply offering organic cotton made shirts with our designs printed on them was going to make a huge difference. That’s what we always imagined “next level sustainability” meant. In reality, that doesn’t even put a dent on the damages the apparel & garment industry leaves behind. So before we get onto the good, we need to know the bad.
Here’s a quick outline for why sustainability in the apparel & garment industry matters:
Two billion t-shirts are made every year, using fibers like industrial cotton. Cotton actually makes up 40 to 50% of the world's clothing material and is often grown in regions with minimal regulations. This directly exposes workers and the environment to deadly pesticides and herbicides that are outlawed in the United States.
Cotton uses 27% of the world's insecticides and 11 % of the world's pesticides despite using only 3% of the world's arable land. This is more pesticides than what’s used on any other crop worldwide.
At the same time, cotton is drinking anywhere from 700 to 2000 gallons of water just to produce a single t-shirt.
Once cotton is grown, these materials are then transported across the globe using bunker fuel, a heavy oil residue so toxic that most countries won’t let ships using it within 200 miles of shore. The materials are sent to countries like India, China, USA, Brazil and Pakistan, who make up 75% of the global cotton production. In countries with minimal regulation, cotton is spun into yarn, knitted into fabric, and sewn into garments by workers, often in sweatshop conditions, for a wage that does not allow them to meet even their most basic needs. In countries like Haiti this translates to an increase in orphans, many of whom’s parents were forced to give them up because they couldn’t afford to care for them.
Poly Mailer. We’ve all seen one, even if we didn’t know it at the time. "Poly Mailer" is the name of the plastic bag used to ship clothing. Be it a big box store or a small town clothing shop, more times than not, poly mailers are used to get newly purchased clothes from point A to point B. These add to the one trillion plastic bags used annually across the globe. Though poly mailers are recyclable, they require special equipment that most recycling centers do not have; which results in a lost effort and our oceans and lands being filled with a product that will disrupt our planet longer than we will be alive.
Polyester makes a great athletic shirt, but at a deadly cost. Polyester Plastic requires oils and fossil fuels to produce. This polyester production for textiles resulted in 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gasses in 2015 alone. That’s the equivalent of 185 coal power plants' annual emissions.
Production of polyester shirts isn’t where the damage stops. Every time you wash a Polyester shirt, it releases plastic micro particles into our water systems that last forever.
The continued production of polyester means a continued production in fossil fuels and a continued risk of oil spills and wildlife disruption. With the rate at which the fashion industry is climbing, this means not just a continued production, but heightened production and heightened issues as we head into the future.
Screen printing is the art of bringing your design from a computer to a print on a shirt. The most commonly used ink in screen printing is Plastisol, typically based on PVC Polymer. That’s the same material used on professional grade white water rafts, or your home garden hose. This material requires a long list of chemicals to turn it into ink form. These inks are damaging not just from the impact of producing them, but they are also leaching into the air during the actual printing process, which creates harmful air pollution. On top of that, the discharge/waste of these chemical filled inks is extremely toxic for the ground. So that PVC based plastisol is waging war on us from all angles, and it’s not done yet. Over time as you wash a Plastisol printed shirt, like the very polyester fabric it may be printed on, it too will break down sending micro particles of plastics into our water systems.
The above information and research has come from the following sources.
Do we have your attention yet? If you’re like us, then you, too, realize that focusing solely on organic cotton doesn’t put a dent in the dirty monstrosity called the apparel business.
SO WHERE CAN WE GO FROM HERE?
Let’s focus on the good and talk about how we can make that dent a significant one.
We believe in full transparency. 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.
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.
Allmade uses an organic, NON-GMO cotton that's grown right here in the USA where pesticide and herbicide regulations are far superior 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 is the secret to the luxurious softness of Allmade’s tri-blend shirt. An evolved form of rayon, the Lenzing Modal® used by Allmade 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, and they are extremely resistant to pests and other environmental damage. Lenzing uses a proprietary, low-impact process to break the wood pulp down into fibers. Read all about it here.
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 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.
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.
Print Natural is an environmentally friendly, custom t-shirt screen printing shop. They print everything by hand, not only to ensure the highest quality prints, but also to cut down on the electricity needed to produce large print runs. The ink used at Print Natural is a vegan, organic, water-based ink that’s not only better for the environment, but it’s better for your skin and feels great on the shirt. When the shirts are made and ready to be sent to us, Print Natural also uses carbon neutral shipping.
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.
Is this the best we can do? Absolutely not. At least, that’s what we will always tell ourselves in order to keep striving to do better. As we grow as a company, we have a couple of promises we would like to lay out.
We will never use garments that can not be traced back to the humans that take part in bringing it all together. Our future success will never come at the expense of inhumane working conditions or unfair wages.
We will always hold sustainability over better profit margins. We are no anomaly—our business needs to make money just like any other—but we hope we can find, and perhaps lead, the path to an environmentally friendly business plan that makes both the profit margins happy and mother nature happy.
Here are some things we want to look into for the immediate future. As we grow, we will change and update this list:
Hemp—We are slowly beginning to research the impact hemp has on humans and the environment. This could be a great opportunity to expand our fabric options.
Other Products—We would like to believe our impact on the world doesn’t end with apparel. We are always looking at what other products we can incorporate into our mission to set a new standard.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Strive for Better
When it comes to growing into a more sustainable version of ourselves, we want to start by saying: don’t aim for perfect, aim for better. We don’t live in a home that utilizes only collected rain water, run solely by solar and wind, and our closet isn’t full of organic or recycled clothing. It seems today, every product and every action has a negative impact on the world in one way or another. From our personal experience, if you try to go from not knowing, to perfectly sustainable, it leads to an overwhelming and disastrous attempt, oftentimes with minimal to no changes at all in actuality. Instead, we suggest focusing on one thing in your life, be it your transportation to work, power for your home, the farm you buy your vegetables from, or a shirt in your closet. Focusing on just one shirt can give you the time necessary to understand the affects the apparel industry has on the environment, as well as learn what companies are working to change that. Once you allow yourself the time to figure this out, you’re far more equipped to add a second category into your life, and work on finding the most sustainable route there as well.
Hold them to a Higher Standard
The internet is both a beautiful thing and an evil thing. On the evil side, the internet allowed us to grow the biggest gap to date between the consumer and the corporations of the world. Corporations have been able to quicken the rate of sale and lessen the time consumers take to get to know their brand. This has allowed a lot of corporations to fall into inhumane and environmentally damaging tactics while going unnoticed. But here’s what’s beautiful about the internet: it can be used to stop this trend. It can be used to hold our brands to a higher standard. Using the internet to get to know our apparel providers or veggie providers or furniture providers is the first step towards closing that gap and truly knowing our brands. Understanding where it’s made, how it’s made, who makes it, etc., allows us to make more educated decisions on what we buy.