Mark Trotzuk – Apparel Lifecycle Impacts & Mitigation of Impacts
Mark Trotzuk is the founder and CEO of Boardroom Eco Apparel, an audited socially compliant company and fair trade manufacturer that creates custom lifestyle clothing collections for fashion-conscious people who demand style, comfort and increased functional performance from their everyday clothing. Boardroom Eco Apparel is a Bluesign® brand member. In April of 2008, Mark’s passion for the environment brought him the opportunity to train with Al Gore as a presenter for The Climate Project; a Canadian initiative to increase awareness of Global Warming and Climate Change.www.ecoapparel.ca
“Be careful with what you do, it’s very complicated once you start down this path” – MEC buyer on eco claims for his products. If you are going to be responsible for your product, you have to take all risks associated with every step of your product’s life cycle.
So where to start:
Choose a fiber.
Need to know every stage of its lifecycle (ie, later, how much energy will be required to upkeep it)
You need to learn how to measure your impact. This is the most difficult thing to do in committing to eco.
Recycled Polyester can save 40-70% in energy savings over virgin polyester. Even then, great amounts of energy are used in dying, drying and spinning product.
25% of chemicals used worldwide are used for textiles.
Eco Apparel has adopted the Swiss Bluesign standard. Consumer Safety; Conserving Resources; High tech and Comfort. That said, the challenge is that the standard is new and many textiles and supplies haven’t yet been approved.
The point with a standard is that ultimately you’re going by the word of your supplier and as much as they say it may be one thing, tests may reveal it’s another.
For example, 200 factories in Bangladesh were visited by Bluesign and found that only 3 of them had wastewater treatment plants. All the other 197 were allowing all chemicals used to just flush out into the water system.
As for social compliance (ie, working conditions), an audit of the highest integrity is most important.
To do a proper carbon footprint for your company you should consider:
Amongst other factors
Eco Apparel gives 1% to the planet because some things cannot me mitigated, such as travel for sales…
Examples of material energy dependency:
Cotton needs to be washed hot and then cycle dried. A study in London suggests that 50% of the products environmental impact comes after the sale of the product
Polyester on the other hand can be washed cold and air dried.
Over the garment’s lifetime, polyester actually uses ½ the energy as cotton.
Approx 3000 recycling companies in North America – for example, collecting and then sending them to third world. 30% of the material is sold as wiping products for auto, cleaning and other industries. Old denim jeans are also being used for home and car insulation.
Reusing polyester can be closed loop because it can be recycled back into garments. The challenge is that polyester has a long life cycle so doesn’t come back to it’s starting point often.
The Eco Index: www.ecoindexbeta.org. It’s a new but complicated program that is being pioneered by the outdoor industry as an open source, transparent database to be used by industry and industry partners to help create an eco index. They are setting guidelines, indicators and metrics. They are asking every company to take one item from their portfolio and measure them against these metrics in the hope of coming up with a point system that can help rate “eco-index” for different products.
To wrap up:
There is no solution yet for how to measure a products lifecycle and its impact though it’s getting there.
Mary is the founder, editor and lead contributor at Social Alterations. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, where she researches responsible fashion and transnational labour rights activism in the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.