Creating a Sustainable Apparel Industry
By Susan Lanier-Graham
This April marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. When the first citizens took to the streets in 1970, they hoped to mobilize the world’s citizens to change the planet’s future.
“Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day took place because one senator was troubled by the lack of attention being paid to environmental issues,” says Tony Keane, CEO of EarthX.
How it Started
EarthX began as Earth Day Dallas. Today, it is the world’s largest environmental expo, conference, and film festival, covering five blocks in the Dallas Arts District over one weekend in April. The EarthX mission is to “connect a global community to create a sustainable world for all life and future generations.”
Keane expects Earthx2020 to be the biggest event yet.
“Earthx2020 will pay homage to the half century of planetary advocacy that followed and leverage the power that hundreds of thousands of people coming together can bring to championing a better planet for future generations.”
Trammel S. Crow, a Texas-based environmentalist and businessman, founded EarthX in 2011 to promote environmental awareness and impact through conscious business, nonpartisan collaboration, and community-driven sustainable solutions. Tucson-based Fed By Threads (FBT)—an organic sweatshop-free boutique apparel maker—shares this hope and vision. It is one of the sustaining sponsors for Earthx2020 and has a three-year agreement with the organization.
“EarthX, under Crow and Keane’s leadership, changes the way businesses interact with sustainability,” explains FBT president and partner Skya Nelson. He sees the partnership as the ideal way to educate, innovate, and change the apparel industry and beyond.
Fed By Threads Promotes Sustainable Fashion
Nelson established FBT to counter the exploitative fast-fashion industry. With the advent in the 1990s of so-called “fast fashion,” people have more clothing than ever before. This leads to excess waste, pollution, and massive amounts of water use. According to EKOenergy, “the incomprehensible scale of the fashion industry and the sheer quantity of fabrics that are produced for clothing each year is what makes the fashion industry so destructive.”
The first problem is the massive amount of textiles in landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, textiles accounted for almost 17 million tons of waste in 2017 alone. The production process is also destructive. That includes the manufacture of synthetic fibers, excessive water used for raising cotton, massive amount of electricity for running machinery, and emissions from coal-powered manufacturing plants.
In contrast, FBT promotes sustainable eco-friendly apparel. The company’s ethical Supply Chain Aware (SCA) manufacturing from dirt-to-shirt offers guilt-free fashion. The FBT clothing uses sustainable, recycled, and organic fabrics. FBT is introducing an exciting new line of hemp apparel from inside the Earthx2020 Hemp Pavilion in April.
FBT Promotes Sustainability Through the Use of Hemp
Nelson always thinks of solutions to problems when designing products.
“When I’m working on a product line, I’m often trying to imagine the end product,” he explains. “We question what problems we have in our industrial system right now and look at how we can offer a solution.” Part of that solution for the apparel industry is the manufacturing process. FBT uses green/eco-friendly and non-toxic manufacturing. Another part of the solution is the supply chain. Every garment is made in the USA where FBT can inspect the manufacturing facilities. Another part is using sustainable fabrics such as hemp.
“You can use hemp oil to create hemp polyester to replace oil-based polyester,” explains Nelson. Even when products end up in the landfill or ecosystem, they are biodegradable. “This means fish are eating plants rather than plastic,” Nelson says.
He is excited about the possibilities of using hemp as a sustainable, organic apparel source. “We’re picking products that have a future that doesn’t need to be reimagined.”
Hemp has been part of the textile industry for millennia. According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was one of the earliest plants used for textile fiber, dating back to 8,000 BC. But plastic killed the hemp industry. In the 1930s, a propaganda campaign began to discredit hemp. After DuPont patented plastic fiber, it launched a lobbying campaign to erroneously tie hemp to narcotics. The US Congress passed the “Marihuana Tax Act” in 1937, outlawing hemp production. That was not reversed until the 2018 Farm Bill.
The FBT Message for Social Good
FBT ties its social agenda of environmental change with feeding the hungry across America. It provides meals through a partnership with Feeding America. Nelson expects that over the next three years, the FBT partnership with EarthX will provide more than two million meals.
“We’re seeing real change,” he says. “We really do think globally but act locally. Education is the key to all of this.”
“We are excited to have Fed by Threads on board as the exclusive apparel partner for Earthx2020. With a mission to manufacture garments that are sustainable and ethically produced while working to feed millions of children in need, we look forward to partnering with them on championing a better planet for future generations,” says Keane.
Earthx2020 is April 24-26, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. The Hemp Pavilion & Stage—EarthxHemp—offers information on the environmental benefits of hemp-based products. For more on EarthX, visit www.earthx.org and check out Fed By Threads at www.fedbythreads.com.
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Susan Lanier-Graham is a freelance writer and speaker based in Arizona and Texas. Find out more at www.wanderwithwonder.com.