In light of the recent economic downturn, small businesses have suffered in every sector of the market – this includes marketers and retailers of so-called “green” fashion statements. The environmentally conscious dresser could find everything from jeans to blouses to shoes boasting entirely green beginnings. However, these eco-brands have become fewer and father between making it difficult to find garments utilizing the once highly touted organic cotton. On the bright side, large retailers have adopted more sustainable production practices and are considering everything from water use to soil health and fair trade.
In 2006, Levi’s introduced a line of jeans using organic cotton called “EcoJeans” but shortly dropped it to develop its “Water<Less” line. A pair of Water<Less pants requires 96% less water than traditional jeans to produce, a difference of 40 litres for some styles. Levi’s is promoting efficient use of water by encouraging users to wash their jeans once every two weeks.
Other large corporations that have taken to using organic cotton and other eco-conscious production methods include Nike, Walmart, H&M and Target. Nike will construct all of its cotton based products with at lest 5% organic products by the end of 2011. In 2006, only 52% of its products utilized organic cotton. Nike also employs recycled polyester in its All Conditions Gear and only the most environmentally responsible leather suppliers.
Walmart is striving “to be supplied 100% by renewable energy, create zero waste and sell products that sustain people and the environment” while simultaneously donating money to green initiatives around the world. In October, Walmart announced its commitment to sustainable agriculture and will donate upwards of $1 billion to small and mid-sized farmers to help stimulate both small business and responsible farming methods.
H&M displays products sewn from 100% organic cotton in each of their departments and is striving to increase the use of organic cotton by 50% every year until 2013. Additionally, the company audits all of its suppliers to make sure they comply with local environmental laws and require that all factories with wet processing mechanisms like dying and washing have a waste water treatment facility on site.
Target has included recycling stations in all of its stores for plastic shopping bags, plastic, glass, aluminum and small electronics. The company even gave away 1.5 million reusable shopping bags on Earth Day 2010.
As we continually strive to reverse the effects of industry on our planet at a local level, it is refreshing to find out that so many of the biggest companies are attempting to do their part as well. While small and local businesses are the key to getting our economy back on track, we must remember to do our research before supporting any business. The more change we can spark, the better.