10 Fashion Brands That Will Keep You and Planet Earth Looking Good
By Mary Mazzoni
In 2013, shoppers were reacquainted with the tragic story of their clothing when a massive factory collapse claimed the lives of more than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers.
The nonprofit Fashion Revolution, formed in response to that disaster, continues to track the apparel industry's progress on environmental stewardship and human rights. But four years later, big brands are still not doing enough to disclose their efforts to customers, the organization concluded in a recent report.
Some former corporate bogeymen like Adidas, Nike and H&M are moving in the right direction, but big labels are playing catch-up compared to newcomers and competitors that were sustainable from the start. Before you refresh that summer wardrobe, consult our list and spend your dollar where it counts.
Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds founded Indigenous more than 20 years ago with a big dream and a steep uphill climb. Inspired by the women's weaving collectives of South America, the pair envisioned a scalable fashion line based on ancient techniques and fair labor.
The company employs around 1,500 artisans working in groups of three to 30, which made quality control and consistency a challenge at the outset. "We're dealing with a unique production model—it's diversified, it's spread out—and we had to create a new systems model," Reynolds told RSF Social Finance. "That took a lot of time and collaboration and money."
After years of work, the company's supply chain runs like a well-oiled machine. Indigenous was among the first in the apparel sector to adopt Fair Trade certification. It now works with more than a dozen Fair Trade field organizing teams to source its cozy sweaters and everyday basics for men and women, which are made from organic and other natural fibers.
Everlane was founded on the principle of "radical transparency"—and it's not joking. The e-commerce company discloses the true cost of manufacturing and shipping each product, as well as its markup, and customers can explore each of its partner factories online.
Everlane claims to source from "the best factories around the world," but the label's surprisingly competitive prices align with its transparent model: A men's or women's shirt sells for around $25, while a pair of pants will set shoppers back around $65.
Fredrik Marmsater Photography, LLC, courtesy of Patagonia
"When we make a decision because it's the right thing to do for the planet, it ends up also being good for the business," Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote in his 2016 book, Let My People Go Surfing.
The 78-year-old nature enthusiast grew his company from a passion project to one of the most successful outdoor gear and apparel brands in the world, with 2015 revenues topping $600 million. But Chouinard's vision for a company with a net-positive impact never faded.
The private company switched to 100 percent organic cotton in 1996, and its line makes good use of other sustainable materials like recycled wool, down, nylon and polyester. It was one of the first mainstream labels to offer Fair Trade fashions and now boasts nearly 300 certified styles in its portfolio.
The firm headed by CEO Rose Marcario also considers itself an activist company and regularly backs environmental causes, donating $10 million in Black Friday profits to grassroots eco groups last year.
Trends change quickly, and modern shoppers expect something new every time they log onto a brand's website or step into a store. While major fashion labels often reach for environmentally intensive materials and sweatshop labor to keep up, Reformation is out to turn the system on its ears by merging fast fashion and sustainability.
The women's label uses only sustainable materials, such as vintage and deadstock fabrics. Each piece is made by fairly paid workers in downtown Los Angeles, and its online and retail stores feature new fashions every few weeks.
The concept dreamed up by 30-something entrepreneur Yael Aflalo seems to be working: Supermodel Karlie Kloss invested in the certified B Corp, which also counts it-girls like Rihanna and Taylor Swift as fans.
Warby Parker is known for disrupting the eyewear industry. Its stylish frames, competitive prices and e-commerce-driven model quickly amassed a mainstream following, and the company's valuation grew to $1 billion in only five years.
But the label's innovative use of the "buy-a-pair, give-a-pair" business model is arguably what keeps customers coming back. For every pair of spectacles or sunglasses sold, the company distributes a pair to a person in need through its nonprofit partners, totaling more than two million pairs to date.
Some fans may also be glad to hear about the company's growing activist streak: It is one of 1,370 big brands involved in We Are Still In, a pledge to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions despite the U.S.' abrupt exit from the Paris climate accord.
Americans send moret than 13 million tons of textiles to the landfill each year. In the UK, around 30 percent of clothing is worn for less than a year before being landfilled, amounting to 350,000 tons annually, thanks in large part to the fast fashion cycle.
Tom Cridland is another up-and-comer looking to change that. The 27-year-old Londoner founded his label three years ago by outfitting some of the most dapper gents in Hollywood, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller and Daniel Craig. Two years later, he launched his "30-Year Collection" of men's T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets that are guaranteed to last—you guessed it—for 30 years.
The line is manufactured ethically in Portugal and Italy, and seeks to "fight fast fashion" while promoting more "sustainable" and "ethical" clothing, Cridland told Fortune last year.
Sustainability and business ethics are top of mind for Eileen Fisher and her eponymous fashion label. "Ten years ago, I decided to take baby steps toward making clothes that helped versus hurt the planet," Fisher told Inc. magazine in 2014. "But recently I realized we're not moving fast enough: We have to start sprinting, and actually lead the fashion industry to make these changes now."
Last year, Fisher and her team adopted a set of bold goals for 2020. The company known for its women's basics pledged to become carbon negative, create an entirely ethical supply chain with a focus on fair labor and human rights, and "use the most sustainable fibers we can lay our hands on," among other targets.
"It's really about two words," Fisher told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. "No excuses."
Men will never know the struggle of blowing a week's pay on undergarments only to see them left threadbare after the first wash. And all of that wasted money does little more than contribute to expanding waste streams and poor working conditions around the world.
Enter an unlikely union between entrepreneur Catalina Girald and "Jane the Virgin" actress Gina Rodriguez. Their eco-minded lingerie and swimwear brand Naja won't break the bank, and it empowers women workers rather than oppressing them: Naja's garment factory employs mostly single mothers and female heads of household who receive above-market wages and healthcare benefits.
Most swimwear is made from nylon or polyester, both of which are petroleum products. Summerlove is one of several brands opting for a recycled nylon blend made from discarded fishing nets and other nylon waste. The company claims this simple swap slashes energy use by more than 65 percent while turning waste into resource.
Known for its "$99 eco bikini," Summerlove's suits have graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, and they're all designed and manufactured in California.
United By Blue
United By Blue
Philadelphia entrepreneur Brian Linton founded United By Blue with one goal: Leverage an outdoor apparel brand to actively improve the natural spaces he knew and loved. His label focuses on relaxed, summer-ready fashions for men and women, and the company promises to remove one pound of trash from American waterways for every item sold.
Over the past seven years, Linton and his team facilitated nearly 200 cleanups and removed an astounding one million pounds of trash from waterways. "We do our own dirty work," Linton told the Philadelphia Citizen. "We decided that by internalizing the cleanup work, we would be able to have a larger impact than if we donated money."
Mark Twain once quipped, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."
That may be so, but with a growing number of sustainable, fair-trade and eco-conscious fashion brands, those clothes can also help make the world a little better.
Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni. Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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