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. 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 (just myself and my Mum) are paid fair wages and work in 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, have 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 carefully and 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 kids clothing for her fleece brand. She can attest to the beautiful feel of the fleece, the quality and the longevity of it as she has been using the fleece for decades.
My packaging is plastic free and minimal to keep it as sustainable as possible. The mailing boxes and thank you slips are made from card and are recyclable. 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 fabric 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. I currently use polyester as I like it’s properties. The specific polyester I’m using is fantastic quality, lasts a long time and washes and dries incredibly well. However I don’t like that polyester isn’t biodegradable and releases microfibres. 
For a while I considered using wool as it is breathable and biodegradable. However, ethically, I don’t like the suffering of the animals involved. Addiotionally, wool has to be hand washed, takes a long time to dry and is very expensive. I estimate I would have to add £50 to my current fleece prices, which would push the fleeces out of the price range for many of my customers. 
Recently I’ve been looking at cotton fleece. Like wool, cotton fleece is breathable and biodegradable. In terms of sustainability, cotton uses a lot of land, water and pesticides which isn’t ideal however it is arguably more sustainable than polyester. I’m currently searching for a cotton fleece that matches the quality of my current polyester fleece, with the hope of switching to cotton in 2024. 
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 as little as once every few weeks.
What are your resources for education on sustainability?
While sewing your fleeces I often listen to podcasts, particularly sustainability podcasts. My favourites 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.