Last week we looked at some of the biggest environmental culprits within the cotton supply chain. So naturally, let’s look at ways to solve them!
How can I green-up my supply chain?
First, let’s get to the root of the problem… literally.
When it comes to the raw materials, cotton is a water intensive crop and accountable for 8 – 10% of all pesticides used worldwide. To avoid soil and water contamination, use organic cotton.
Most organic practices leave out synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Plus, organic cotton has a higher yield compared to conventional cotton –so you’ll get more bang for your buck.
When looking at spinning and grey cloth production, the majority of impact lies in energy use. Production using renewable energy sources and greater waste recapture can reduce impact at this stage greatly.
If you can’t find facilities which use renewable energy, how about going to places where the electricity grid is greener and doesn’t use as much coal or fossil fuels?
At the textile finishing stage, greater attention can be given to effective and alternative methods of dying fabric. There’s already some great options out there such as the ColorDry process which eliminates water from the process and reduces energy consumption by 60%. Now that’s a win-win situation.
But I understand, perhaps a complete process revamp can only be done at a later time. If so, it’s worth investing in water and chemical reuse programs. These are great for your wallet and the planet. Normally, up to 50% of chemicals are recoverable and these programs can cut costs by 30%.
Photo by Ralph Blvmberg on Unsplash
Another option is naturally coloured cottons (as used by our friends at the Peggy Sue Collection) which are available in several shades of green and brown (rather than white). These cottons have been saved from extinction by Sally Fox, a cotton farmer who has been developing colour-grown cottons for over 30 years in northern California. Colour-grown cotton can be made into coloured or patterned fabrics without the use of toxic dyes.
And last but not least, when it comes to the Make Up stage, one significant move we can make is to be mindful of packaging. Alternative solutions include reusable packing within the supply chain and recycled and biodegradable materials for consumers. Check out companies like Original Repack.
Even if there’s materials you can’t yet replace (like polybags), simply folding clothes one more time before shipping them can save up to 50% of material used. Every 30-40 days an average person will throw away their body weight in packaging. So even small changes have great impacts.
Let’s talk about transport.
In most fashion supply chains, clothes will need to zip around the world before making it to their customers. All of this transport means a lot of carbon for the planet.
To avoid this, its best to establish a supply chain with each check point as close as possible to the next. Then how do you get it to each checkpoint? While flying cargo may be quickest, it also uses 40 times the CO2 compared to a normal container ship.
When possible, always try to choose maritime transportation, particularly inland barge. And of course, don’t forget to offset the remainder of your emissions with carbon offsets!
Great! So, how do I implement these action plans?
Stay tuned next week to find out about the next step on how to implement these action plans into your supply chain!
Thangavel, Karthik & Gopalakrishnan, D. (2014). Environmental Analysis of Textile Value Chain: An Overview. 153-188. 10.1007/978-981-287-110-7_6.