Since we launched sales 9 months ago, we have gotten some great coverage in the media and on blogs. A lot of these have focused on the “greenness” of our tops. One of our more recent mentions came from Treehugger, a well-known environmental blog and newsletter. While we love to get positive reviews and are very proud of some of our accomplishments, I have to agree with my good friend John Rooks. John argues that sustainability is not a color, it is transparent. In an article he wrote for Environmental Leader, John concludes with, “Sustainability is transparent, void of obscuring color. It is clear, open, and visible. Sustainability is naked.”
In light of all the positive press we have received, we decided it was time for Atayne’s first Naked Truth report. Just like it sounds, we are going to bear all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Below is Part I of The Naked Truth 2009 in which we address the positive and negative environmental story of our products. In Part II we will address the operations of our company at large including our social impact. It is important to remember sustainability is three-fold: environmental, social, and financial.
To start off, I do have to agree with our positive press. There are many good environmental attributes of our product. Here are a few of our favorites:
- It takes considerably less energy (about 70% less) to make recycled polyester than virgin polyester.
- We use a material that would otherwise go into a landfill (over 70% of all plastic bottles do).
- We have minimized “product miles” and the resulting emissions by consolidating our production in the US and Canada, the countries where we sell 99.5% of our product.
- We design our products to minimize laundering to help save a considerable amount of energy (80% of a garment’s impact on the environment comes from consumer care). The most recent design improvement to do this is the loop. We also try to educate people on the best way to care for their Atayne tops: Play Hard. Rinse Top in the Shower. Hang to Dry. Repeat.
That being said, our products are FAR from perfect. Whether it is carbon emissions, industrial waste, or post-consumer waste, our products and operations negatively impact the environment, as does EVERY manufacturing operation. Here are some of these “bodily imperfections.”
The dyeing of our fabric is something we are not satisfied with yet. The dyeing process for most apparel is chemically and water intensive. While we strive to select colors that are less chemically intensive, there is still no great solution when using synthetic fabrics (with natural fabrics there are some better options).
The graphics on our current tops were applied using the “conventional” screen printing process. This included the use of plastisol, which contains PVC. Thankfully we have found a local artist who does screen printing the old fashioned way. We will now be applying our graphics using water-based inks in v2.0 of our tops. This is still not perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction by avoiding the use of plastisol.
Our current tops contain activated carbon, which is derived from coconut shells. The mixing of the synthetic fibers (recycled polyester) and natural fibers (activated carbon) makes it tough to recycle the fabrics, although research is currently being conducted to address this issue. That is why we have made the decision to move away from the activated carbon for another natural fabric enhancer, Chitosan. This will keep the polyester in a more pure form allowing it to be more readily recycled. We are also developing prototypes to turn old tops of all brands into bags. This will provide a use for fabrics that have a mix of synthetic and natural fibers, e.g. polyester/activated carbon, polyester/cotton.
That is a brief look at the good, bad, and ugly in regards to our products. If you think I missed something or there are other burning questions, please feel free to comment or ask. This should be less of a report and more of a conversation. I hope you join us next week for The Naked Truth Part II.