|Laura Harrier in her eco-friendly dress at the Oscars.|
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Eco-friendly? Sustainable? On the red carpet? This got me Googling. It turns out that Harrier was representing the Red-Carpet Green Dress Initiative, a 10-year project pushing for more sustainable practices in fashion by challenging designers to think about fashion in an eco-friendly context.
Pretty cool. But I don’t own a lot of Louis Vuitton. Ok, I own no Louis Vuitton. This led me on a quest to understand who the leaders in sustainable fashion are for the brands that my family and I wear. Or, I wondered in fear, is my closet filled with clothes from brands that pollute the environment, exploit factory workers, and use the most environmentally unfriendly materials?
Fortunately for me, there is an app – Good on You -- that ranks brands by 1) their impact on workers in their supply chain; 2) their resource use and disposal, energy use and carbon emissions, impacts on water, as well as chemical use and disposal; and 3) their use of animal products. There is a five-point ranking system, from “Great” to “Not Good Enough” and “We Avoid.”
I started with the Patagonia pull-over that I got my daughter for Christmas, which scored a “Good.” Whew! The app says that all of Patagonia’s cotton is certified organic and uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials. The company scored a “Great” on Labor, noting that it has made progress on ensuring payment of a living wage across some of its supply chain.
On to my younger daughter’s new Adidas sneakers. Another “Good”! We are on a roll. Good on You reports that Adidas has made a commitment to reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by 15 percent by 2020. But its animal ranking is only “It’s a Start.” Hold on a minute…I have six rescue cats. (I’m not kidding.) Turns out Adidas uses down feathers without specifying the source and they use leather. But they also use wool from non-mulesed sheep. Not familiar with mulesing? Don’t worry, I looked it up and it’s not pretty. So, it’s good that Adidas’ suppliers do not do it. PETA agrees.
Finally, I looked up my Athleta skort. It scored “It’s a Start.” According to the App, they use a low proportion of eco-friendly materials but have committed to implementing a re-use program.
It turns out there are a lot of apparel companies changing their processes to put people and planet first. And, not only are they changing their practices, but they are setting ambitious goals and reporting transparently on their progress. Here are a few other examples:
H&M: Each year, the retailer launches a new Conscious Exclusive collection of high-end ,environmentally friendly pieces. And, it has pledged that all cotton in its range of clothing will come from sustainable sources by 2020.
Levi’s: They have introduced Water<Less Innovations, clothes that are manufactured using far less water than traditional methods. You can also get a pair of Levi’s Authorized Vintage jeans, which basically is a used pair that have been redone to look amazing. What’s more amazing is that, according to Levi’s website, “wearing vintage jeans saves an estimated 65% of the water typically used during the life cycle of a pair of jeans, since no new water is necessary to grow cotton.”
Eileen Fisher: They have pledged that all their cotton and linen will be organic by next year, and that all their U.S. retail and office space will be climate positive. In addition, since 1997, the company has been a signatory member of Social Accountability International, a multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to developing and implementing socially responsible labor standards.
Mango: The company offers a sustainable fashion line called Mango Committed that uses organic cotton, Tencel and other recycled fabrics. By 2022, they pledge that their clothing will contain 50 percent sustainable cotton.
But wait, there’s more. Enter my 13-year-old daughter and her subscription to Teenage Vogue, which recently had an article on sustainable fashion. It gave high marks to several labels including Alternative Apparel, Siizu and Blue Denim. And there is no doubt why more retailers are catering to my daughter and her middle school friends: According to the market research firm Mintel, 44 percent of younger millennials said they would like to see more eco-friendly fabrics used in clothes.
But beyond consumer demand, companies know that using less water and natural resources in production will save money, and that paying factory workers a living wage and providing safe working conditions will ensure a stable workforce.
There you have it. Green Book won for Best Picture and sustainable fashion made its debut on the red carpet. Maybe next year it will be on an eco-friendly red carpet.
So, if you haven’t seen this year’s Academy nominees, there is still time – and you can feel good about it regardless of if you’re wearing Louis Vuitton or an organic cotton T-shirt from H&M.