Hi! It’s Jo-Anne :) I’ve spent a lot of time this year learning about sustainability and how I can make my business as ethical and sustainable as possible. I’ve written here some of what I’ve learned and how I’m trying my best to minimally impact the planet.

The fashion industry plays a huge part in the climate crisis. Although a lot of ‘sustainable’ brands would have you believe that the best way to be sustainable is to buy X sustainable product over X fast fashion product, the best way to truly be sustainable would be to not buy anything at all. Everything we buy has an impact on the planet.

The next best thing to not buying anything at all would be investing in quality items that you know you will use, that will last a long time and from a brand that is responsible ethically and sustainably.

What steps do I take to make Surf Coo ethical?

Everyone who sews for Surf Coo (currently just myself and my Mum) are paid fair wages and work in very pleasant and safe working conditions. This is a direct contrast to most factories in, for example developing countries, where the conditions are not safe for working in, are overcrowded, have poor fire safety regulations, lots of particles in the air, are dangerous and have unfair wages.

What steps do I take to make Surf Coo sustainable?

Surf Coo fleeces are made to last. We take extra time and care while sewing to make sure our stitches are neat and that everything is stitched properly. We also sew every fleece from start to finish so that we can oversee that every detail is done correctly.

I use quality materials. My fleece fabric comes from Taiwan and my Mum has been using it for 20 years to make the highest quality Scottish kids clothing. She can properly attest to the beautiful feel of the fleece, the quality and the logevity of it as she has been using the fleece for decades.

I keep my packaging plastic free and to the absolute minimum to keep it as sustainable as possible. The mailing bags are made from paper and are recyclable. The thank you slip is also recyclable in the paper bin. To make the packaging special I wrap wool around the jumper, which I’m afraid can’t be recycled. However it can be reused, I would love it if you would save the wool and reuse it perhaps to decorate a future gift.

I don’t keep any stock and instead only sew an item when I get an order. This is called made to order and it is a great way to reduce waste. Fast fashion brands intentionally overproduce garments and then throw everything that they don’t sell into landfill.

Isn’t polyester bad for the planet?

Polyester is bad for the planet. However it is impossible to look at the negative effects of polyester in isolation since every fabric is bad for the planet (polyester: non biodegradable, wool: animal cruelty, cotton: uses a lot of land, water and pesticides, viscose: uses a lot of trees.) Apart from organic fair trade cotton, there isn’t one fabric that is significantly more sustainable than the others. However I can’t use organic fair trade cotton because it doesn’t keep you warm in the cold. I’m excited for the development of new fabrics and the development of chemical recycling to create a circular economy for polyester.

Why don’t you use recycled fleece?

So far I haven’t been able to find a recycled fleece that reflects the feel and quality that I want at Surf Coo. When I weighed up what was more sustainable between using recycled fleece that didn’t feel as nice or lasted as long, vs using a non recycled fleece which is better quality and has therefore has a longer lifespan, I decided that it was more sustainable to use the non recycled fleece. However I am still looking for a good quality recycled fleece and aim to find one that meets my standards by 2023.

What can customers do after buying a Surf Coo fleece to help reduce it’s carbon footprint?

The largest part of a garments carbon footprint comes from after it is purchased. Tumble drying in particular is terrible for the planet. I recommend air drying your fleeces, especially because fleece dries so quickly. I also recommend washing your fleeces as little as possible. Depending on what you’re up to of course, you can wash your fleece only once a week or every two or three weeks.

What are your resources for education on sustainability?

While sewing your fleeces I often listen to podcasts, particularly sustainability podcasts. My favourite are “Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press” and “What on Earth: The sustainable podcast”.

I also read the book “Let my people go surfing” by the Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, which was a great resource on how to build a sustainable business.