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our sustainability guide

Sustainability in fashion is a highly complex issue with socioeconomic and environmental aspects as well as the consideration of animal rights. There are hundreds of different certificates individually covering each of these areas. The BLUE SIGN measures the ecological sustainability (use of chemicals) whilst FAIR TRADE focuses on developing small-scale producers (working conditions). It is rare for one certificate to cover multiple aspects but the closest to blanket certification for the integrity of sustainable textiles comes from the global organic textile standard certification (GOTS). GOTS independently rates working conditions and examines all materials and chemicals to verify the organic origin of the fiber.

We all are responsible for doing the best we can to achieve the highest standard possible in all 3 categories: working conditions, materials used and chemicals involved. Small companies have limited choices due to the high minimum purchase on fibers, fabrics and accessories and also face the problem, that the fashion industry often cannot offer a sustainable version of the fabric or accessory needed. Therefore we often have to develop fabrics from scratch to make sure all ingredients are sustainable to the core. This is a highly challenging but exciting task at the same time.

Sustainability starts with the cultivation of the raw material and production of the fabric, continues with the manufacturing process and distribution and ends with you, the consumer: are you consuming consciously? How long do you use your clothes? Do you repair what is broken or just replace it? There are so many aspects to sustainability and some are easier to implement than others but we all have a voice that can make a great difference.

We develop our fabrics in close cooperation with our suppliers to ensure a sustainable product from scratch. It is not always easy to judge what is and what isn’t sustainable. Sadly, a lot of greenwashing takes place in the fashion industry, but the more you know, the better you can evaluate and decide what you want to consume and therefore be the change you want to see in the world!

We have developed a simple color system for navigation on fabrics and certificates from our perspective. Our aim is to support you on this journey with this guide, which makes no claim to be complete but shall offer you orientation.




FABRICS

Bamboo is a fast growing and a naturally renewable tree-like grass. It requires little maintenance to cultivate as it doesn’t need any pesticides or herbicides and very little water to grow. It also produces 35% more oxygen than trees do. Bamboo regrows from its own root-system which is great for soil health. These are all great benefits, the downside to it is that bamboo is mainly planted as mono culture which leads to a displacement of wildlife and a drastic decrease of biodiversity of existing ecosystems (this is true for all monocultures from avocado to soy to cotton) and secondly the raw material is always coming from China (so far) which has little to no environmental standards in place. Bamboo can be sustainable for some products and not for others. Let’s take a look at bamboo fabrics: Bamboo is a silk-like beautiful soft fabric with many great advantages but turning the raw material into this delicate fabric it requires an intensive chemical process (like viscose). If spun within a certified closed-loop production process or is mechanically (instead of chemically) treated.
We would classify it GREEN - very sustainable. Bamboo from a conventional uncertified production process we would classify ORANGE-RED (orange for the renewable eco-friendly source, red for the chemical waste)

Bamboo characteristics
Very soft, high color fastness, naturally antibacterial, durable, breathable, dries quickly, regulates heat and cold, antistatic, absorbent, dries quickly


Cotton (organic): Despite decades of environmental mismanagement, cotton still has the capacity to reach its sustainable potential. Growing organic cotton avoids using synthetic herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers and is generally less environmentally-destructive than conventional cotton. It follows the rules of ecological farming that are controlled and certified by independent organizations. Usually harvested by hand, it provides a higher quality than regular cotton. Organic cotton cultivators must promote sustainability within the communities where they operate, workers who produce organic cotton must be compensated fairly, and environmental degradation must be kept to a minimum. In 2016, a life cycle analysis of organic cotton conducted by PE International found that organic cotton uses 91 percent less fresh water and could be processed using a third of the energy as conventional cotton. In general cotton is biodegradable but needs more water to grow than any other textile fiber (while water is becoming scarce) but is still a good choice if certified organic. 
We would classify it GREEN - sustainable

Cotton (non-organic) has all the positive characteristics of organic cotton but it is produced under inhumane and sometimes criminal conditions. Conventional cotton farming degrades the soil heavily and uses strong pesticides and insecticides which lead to toxic waste that can lead to infertility, desertion and sickness affecting both the land and the people farming it. It also needs vast amounts of water in areas where water is scarce. Experts assume an average of 11.000 liters of water are being used per kg cotton and the pesticides used make 25% of all pesticides used globally (source: fairlis.de). You can find a number of documentaries on this topic online. However it still comes from a natural renewable source and is biodegradable. 
Therefore we would classify it RED-ORANGE - medium sustainable (orange for the renewable biodegradable source, red for the chemical waste and extensive use of water)

Cotton characteristics
Soft, high color fastness, breathable, absorbent, durable, recyclable, antistatic, absorbent, dries slowly


Cupro, also known as Bemberg™ (which is manufactured by Asahi Kasei from Japan), is made from a byproduct or the waste of the cotton industry. It is basically regenerated cellulose fiber made from cotton linter or cotton waste. It is chemically transformed into a filament and therefore counts as a synthetic fiber. The chemicals necessary for production are highly toxic. The fabric itself is completely biodegradable. 
We would classify cupro which is verifiable produced in a closed loop process, like at the factory of Asahi Kasei, GREEN - sustainable. Cupro from a conventional uncertified production process we would classify RED

Cupro characteristics
Very soft touch and silk like look (vegan silk substitute), breathable, antistatic, absorbent, naturally antibacterial, dries quickly, low breathability, wrinkles, pilling


LENZING™ ECOVERO™ , is a modified version of viscose with a lower environmental impact and it is fully biodegradable. EcoVero is developed from certified (FSC, PEFC) renewable wood sources. Its production requires up to 50% less water in comparison to conventional cotton or generic viscose. The entire production process offers absolute transparency in the supply chain. Fibers used for ECOVERO™ have been certified with the EU Ecolabel as they consistently meet high environmental standards throughout their life cycle. 
We would classify it GREEN - sustainable.
This material has been awarded the EU Ecolabel, for its fully certified low environmental impact at all stages, from production to disposal.

regular viscose - see viscose

EcoVero characteristics
Very soft, lightweight, breathable, anti-bacterial, moist absorbent, dries quickly, resistant to moths and fungus, hypoallergenic, low thermal stability


Linen (organic), made from flax fibers, is very attractive in hot weather since it has cooling qualities and dries quickly. It is also one of the most expensive natural fibers due to the time and resource-intensive process of production (much higher than cotton). Certified organic, the flax is usually water-retted or retted on ground, which means no chemicals are used in the production process. It is biodegradable and if linen is cultivated in accordance with proper care of the land, it is not harmful to the environment. The greatest advantage of flax over cotton is probably its resilience, it can grow in cooler areas, on poor soil and only requires small amounts of water. 
We would classify it GREEN - very sustainable.

Linen, even if not certified, has a relatively low impact on the environment but the chemicals (sulfuric acid, caustic soda or chlorinated lime) used to get rid of the plant’s pectin do create sewerage and pollution. We would still classify it GREEN - sustainable.

Linen characteristics
biodegradable, breathable, sturdy, light weight, absorbent, antibacterial, dries faster than cotton, low pilling, cooling, wrinkles a lot


Lyocell or Tencel/ LENZING™ TENCEL™, tencel and lyocell are the same in all but the name. The name Tencel™ refers to branded lyocell fibres created by Austrian textile company Lenzing AG. It’s a man-made ****cellulosic fiber derived from sustainable PEFC certified wood sources. The fiber production process of LENZING™ is a closed loop process reusing and recycling the solvent at a recovery rate of 99,7%. The fiber is biodegradable and, if not dyed, would even be compostable. The closed-loop solvent system, ensures that no to very little solvent is wasted or dumped into the ecosystem, the solvent is not toxic. Very little water is used compared to other natural and synthetic fibers. 
We would classify it GREEN - very sustainable.

Lyocell, is a form of rayon, it is composed primarily of cellulose derived from wood. The production process is more efficient compared to rayon and less waste is produced. If trees for lyocell production are not grown sustainably, production of this material could have a negative environmental impact.
We would classify it GREEN- ORANGE - medium sustainable.

Lyocell characteristics
Biodegradable, sturdy, silky touch, regulates heat and cold like wool and linen, absorbes 50% more humidity than cotton, antistatic, antibacterial, long lasting, medium color fastness


Polyester (recycled), even though polyester has a negative impact on the environment at every stage of its use cycle it sometimes makes sense to use recycled polyester. Outdoor/sportswear and travel-wear are good examples. It is very durable and weatherproof, can be spun ultra-fine (about 3 times thinner than silk). It does not absorb water which is why it dries quickly and is very easy to handle in general. Giving a second life to material that is not biodegradable is generally a good thing. Recycled polyester can contain toxins and pollution since its made of all kinds of plastic with little control over where it came from and it still releases a lot of micro plastic into the water with every wash. According to a recent study by a team from Plymouth University, in the UK, each cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700.000 plastic fibers into the environment. Additionally it is very hard to get color consistency with recycled polyester which can lead to high levels of re-dyeing, which requires high water, energy and chemical use.
We would classify it RED not sustainable.

Polyester, all of the above is also true for polyester only that virgin polyester is an oil based synthetic fiber and like RP it is not biodegradable. The pro aspects are that it is long lasting and usually doesn’t change much over time compared to natural fibers. It needs just a little steam to get back in shape and is easy to handle in general. It sure has some benefits, especially in the outdoor/sports section.
But we would definitely classify it RED - not sustainable.

Polyester characteristics
Sturdy, long lasting, highly moisture-wicking, dries quickly, highly resistant to environmental conditions, not biodegradable, very hospitable to microorganisms which leads to malodor (lyocell or other naturally anti-bacterial materials are a great alternative to polyester)


Viscose or Rayon, is a semi-synthetic type of rayon fabric made from wood pulp but it is not as environmentally sound as one might think. The production process uses high concentrations of chemicals. It is impossible to produce rayon, for instance, without using sodium hydroxide, which pollutes waterways and reduces air quality. Carbon disulfide is another integral part of the rayon production process, and this chemical has been linked to adverse effects in humans such as birth defects, cancer, skin conditions, and heart disease. Furthermore, extracting pulp wastes about 70% of a tree, and the remaining chemically-contaminated tree material is usually indiscriminately dumped. If that would not be enough common viscose is not made of sustainable PEFC certified wood sources which can come from ancient and endangered forests, harming valuable and irreplaceable ecosystems. On the other hand it is a very comfortable, breathable choice for summer clothing.
Yes, it is based on renewable primary sources but the process needs lots of energy and generates huge amounts of toxic waste when not produced in a monitored closed loop process. Green alternatives are EcoVero and lyocell.
We would classify it ORANGE-RED - low sustainability.

Viscose characteristics
soft touch, absorbent, anti-static, breathable, biodegradable, wrinkles, pilling


Wool, Merino
Wool is a beautiful natural material that has many great properties to offer: it regulates temperature, absorbs moisture and odour, is long lasting and fully biodegradable. Merino wool is especially soft and skin friendly due to its fine structure. High quality merino wool fabric doesn’t require any softener or conditioner. It is 3 times softer than natural silk.

RWS - The Responsible Wool Standard + ZQ are voluntary standards that address the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. Both claim to ensure that the five freedoms of animal welfare stay intact:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

As great as it is to have standards and certificates like that, there is always the truth of an industry generating profit and to really ensure animal welfare, cctv on the farms or unannounced audits multiple times a year would be absolutely necessary to prevent abuse. We believe these standards are an absolut minimum but currently there is no higher certification. Nevertheless both standards do allow tail docking, where sheep have their tails cut or burnt off - it is executed for the same reasons as mulesing and should be just as well forbidden and in both standards you find phrasing that allows a wide interpretation. Neither the Responsible Wool Standard or the ZQ certification allow wool operations to knowingly sell their sheep into the live export trade, but they do allow for sheep to be sold to slaughterhouses.

Mulesing free, mulesing occurs when the skin on the backside of a sheep is cut off. It is argued that this deeply cruel practise exists to protect sheep from flystrike, a disease where flies lay eggs in the folds of skin on a sheep. However, flystrike is only such a problem for merino sheep because they have been selectively bred to have more wrinkles of skin, and more wool, for the sake of industry profit. There is no need to mulese. Both standards (ZQ and RWS) have a complete prohibition on mulesing.
We would classify RWS certified wool GREEN - sustainable. Wool without certification we would classify ORANGE - medium sustainable (green for its  biodegradable natural source, red for the mistreatment of the animals and the cruelty they must endure)

Wool characteristics
breathable, temperature regulation, highly moisture-wicking, water repellent, durable, high elasticity, very soft touch, thermally insulating, hypoallergenic (Merino wool is beneficial for allergy and asthma sufferers. Recent medical research shows that fine merino wool garments worn next to the skin are a natural remedy against eczema. They act as ‘second skin’ and stabilize the humidity level and the micro-climate of the skin surface. They reduce symptoms such as itch, skin redness and rush), pilling



CERTIFICATES


Relevant and credible certificates in detail on following pages:

IVN - Internationaler Verband der Naturtextilwirtschaft 3* by Greenpeace
GOTS 3* by Greenpeace
OEKOTEX MADE IN GREEN 3* by Greenpeace
BLUE SIGN 2* by Greenpeace
CRADLE TO CRADLE 2* by Greenpeace
EU ECOLABEL 2* by Greenpeace
OEKOTEX100 1* by Greenpeace
GLOBAL RECYCLE STANDARD


Certificates that should be observed critically

BCI - BETTER COTTON INITIATIVE - has nothing to do with organic cotton, it aims to be a little more economical and considerate in the exploitation of land. BCI cotton contains conventional genetically modified. It is an industry driven initiative with big brands as key players.

OCS - ORGANIC CONTENT STANDARD - it is monitoring the general content of organically grown fibers but is not checking on the manufacturing conditions, chemicals used or social criteria.

There are a lot of brand-made certificates that usually are never more than green-washing like H&M-Conscious, C&A-Wear the Change, Zara-Join Life or Mango-Committed Collection. The direction is certainly a good one but a valid certification must always include strict and ideally high standards and frequently executed external auditing.


If there are still unanswered questions please don’t hesitate to contact us via email at support@webandits.eu