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, my Mum & Mariah) 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 attest to the beautiful feel of the fleece, the quality and the longevity 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 boxes/bags are made from card/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?
I've been on the hunt for a recycled fleece with the same quality as my current fleece for a year. I found a couple of options made in Turkey and made in Italy that I liked, however the suppliers would only sell the fleece in 100 metre rolls. The problem with that is because I'm such a tiny business, I don't have the cashflow or the storage space for 100 metres of fleece in each of the 15 different colours I use. My family have been using my current supplier of fleece for 20 years and we love that they let us order smaller rolls of fleece. The supplier have just introduced a small range of recycled fleece to their range that I'm currently testing, with the hope to incorporate it into my fleeces as soon as possible.
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 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.