Patagonia’s New Clothes Are Made From Poop and Dried Beetles

Author: Eleanor Goldberg | Published: April 28, 2017 

Patagonia is putting bug poop in its new clothing line. You heard that right.

In an effort to dye its clothes without using toxic chemicals, the green-minded apparel company is making its new Clean Color Collection with natural dyes sourced from 96 percent renewable resources. Those include dyes derived from the poop of silkworms, dried beetles and byproducts of food waste, Patagonia announced Thursday.

“Why the alchemy?” the company said in a press release about its new experiment. “Because dye is dirty.”

The apparel line debuts at a time when consumers are increasingly aware of the hazardous materials used to produce clothing, even among big-name brands.

In 2012, Greenpeace conducted a major investigation into the contents of clothing items from 20 global fashion brands ― including Armani, Levi’s and Zara. Among its findings, it concluded that two articles of clothing from Zara contained cancer-causing amines from its use of azo dyes. Just days after Greenpeace published its report, Zara committed to going “toxic free” by 2020.

Patagonia said that many of its synthetic dyes use less water, energy and carbon dioxide than its competitors do, but it’s looking to further reduce its environmental impact.

Patagonia is also addressing the food waste crisis by incorporating byproducts of food waste into the line. Across the world, one-third of the food produced is lost or squandered. These byproducts are being saved from decomposing in landfills, where they’d otherwise release methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.


Fashion Revolution Week: Six Ways to Shop Mindfully

Author: Ellie Pithers | Published: April 26, 2017 

WHO made the clothes you’re wearing right now? It’s a simple enough question. But four years on from the Rana Plaza disaster, it’s more important than ever that we keep asking it.

This week marks the anniversary of the collapse of the Bangladesh factory complex that killed 1,138 garment workers and injured a further 2,500 in one of the worst industrial tragedies in history. In four years the Bangladeshi government, clothing companies, and labour unions have made some progress towards improving workers’ rights. 38 people have been charged with murder – although none have been convicted.

But just a few months ago, in January, protests erupted in Bangladesh over low pay at dozens of garment factories in Bangladesh. Scores of protesters have been arrested, and over 1,500 have lost or been suspended from their jobs, though that number is probably far higher, as a recent investigation by the New York Times found.

Conditions in the factories remain desolate. The minimum wage in Bangladesh – 32 cents an hour – is still frighteningly low, indeed the lowest minimum wage in the world. Garment workers earn £44 a month, which is nowhere near a living wage. And Bangladesh’s largest factory owner lobby has said it will not enter into new wage negotiations until 2018.

It’s easy to feel powerless when faced with these statistics. Fashion’s supply chains are incredibly complicated beasts that require hours of unravelling – from farm to factory to store, from zips to buttons to beading, it’s never clear under what conditions they came into being. Often brands don’t own factories outright – so garment production is subcontracted out, making it difficult to hold people to account. As Jenny Holdcroft, Assistant General Secretary at IndustriALL Global Union, told a panel at Fashion Question Time, held in the House of Commons on Monday: “Companies are getting the benefit of workers’ labour without shouldering the responsibility of being their employer.”

But it’s also easy to start asking questions. In the spirit of transparency, this week also marks Fashion Revolution Week, an ethical initiative whose current focus is #whomademyclothes, a campaign which encourages consumers to demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. Here are six ways to get involved with Fashion Revolution Week, and shop mindfully in the process.

Snap a label selfie, post it on Instagram or Twitter, tag the brand, and ask them #whomademyclothes. During Fashion Revolution Week last year, the hashtag reached 129 million people through 70,000 posts on Twitter and Instagram.


How You Can Get Involved in Fashion Revolution Week 2017

Author: Kendall Benton-Collins | Published: April 24, 2017

When faced with complexity, we have a tendency to bury our heads in the sand – an ancient survival mechanism perhaps? Creating a better, fairer world is hard. Fashion Revolution Week is a great way to begin.

The threads that bind us

The older I get, the more connections I see in the world around me. We live in a vast interconnected universe where seemingly disparate topics are in fact intimately linked on some level. Social justice, the multi-billion dollar fashion industry, environmental conservation and animal welfare – all of these things come into play every time we decide to purchase an item of clothing. It’s kind of overwhelming isn’t it? We can unwittingly impact on the world around us on a daily basis, without ever fully comprehending the consequences of our actions.

I can’t tell you that if you do x y and z everything will be fine and all fashion supply chains will become transparent and equitable tomorrow. But the good news is that we are not powerless. We can create positive change, which will lead to a socially and environmentally bright future. I know that we can do this. I also know that it won’t be easy…but it will be worth it!

Join the global revolution

About 75 million people work directly in the fashion and textiles industry. Many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe conditions, with very little pay. On April 24 2013, 1138 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. People all around the world are still suffering as a direct result of our fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organisation which is saying, enough is enough! All year round Fashion Revolution campaigns for systemic reform of the industry with a special focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution Co-founder Orsola de Castro said:

“Have you ever wondered who makes your clothes? How much they’re paid and what their lives are like? Our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, and sewers. Eighty percent of them are women between the ages of 18 and 24. Many of the people who make our clothes live in poverty. This needs to change.”

Fashion Revolution Week (24 – 30 April) will bring people from all over the world together to ask brands #whomademyclothes, and to demand greater transparency to help improve the working conditions and wages of the people who make our clothes.

How to get involved

A simple but powerful step you can take during Fashion Revolution Week (and beyond) is to take a selfie showing your clothing label, tag the brand on social media and ask them #whomademyclothes? The important thing is to be persistent! Keep asking until you receive a satisfactory answer.


Why Transparency Matters

The 2017 Fashion Revolution Transparency Index

We believe transparency is the first step to transform the industry. And it starts with one simple question: Who made my clothes?

This is our focus for the next five years. We believe this simple question gets people thinking differently about what they wear. We need to know that as consumers, our questions, our voices, our shopping habits can have the power to help change things for the better. With more consumers encouraging brands to answer ‘who made my clothes?’, we believe Fashion Revolution has the power to push the industry to be more transparent.

While we are seeing companies share their policies and commitments on human rights and the environment, there is still much crucial information about the practices of the fashion industry that remains concealed — particularly when it comes to impact on the lives of workers in the supply chain and on the environment.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2017 reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.


Chemicals in Textiles: Risks to Human Health and the Environment

Published: 2004

The Swedish Chemicals Agency (Kemikalieinspektionen) was assigned by the Swedish government to compile available and relevant information about the risks to human health and the environment from hazardous substances in textile articles. The intention of this report is to serve as a base for further work on developing risk reduction measures for hazardous substances in textiles at the EU level. The study includes three main parts: a. An overview of textile consumption in the EU and Sweden. b. A screening study with the aim to identify hazardous substances/groups of substances posing a potential risk to human health and the environment. c. A literature study of data on exposures and effects related to hazardous substances in textiles.

Increasing consumption of textile articles and use of chemicals The consumption of textile articles has increased rapidly in the EU during the last decades. Textile materials are produced in large quantities and are included in a broad variety of widely used consumer articles. Chapter 3 presents an overview of consumption of textile materials and articles in the EU and Sweden.

Increasing production and consumption of textile articles also mean an increased use of chemicals and raw materials. Large quantities of chemical substances are used in the production of textiles, from processing of fibres and raw materials to the final touch of the finished article.

Substances used in the production of textiles can remain in the final article as minor contaminant amounts, and articles may also contain substances formed by degradation. Other substances are intentionally added to textile articles in order to provide a specified function, such as colour or easy-care. Substances in textile materials may be released from articles and expose humans and the environment. Textile articles are used in a way that both consumers the environment can be exposed to chemicals released from the articles. An overview is presented in Chapter 4.

Information is needed in the production- and supply chains

Although large quantities of substances are included in textile production, there is no comprehensive overview of hazardous substances that may be present in textile articles placed on the market.

To assess the chemical risks related to the use of textile articles it is necessary to have information about the identity of the substances and their hazardous properties. Access to information on the contents of hazardous substances in textile materials and articles is important for the manufacturers, importers and suppliers along the production and supply chains.

The requirement in the REACH Regulation, Article 33 (Section 2.1.1) concerning the duty on suppliers to provide information on hazardous substances in articles is limited to Substances of Very High Concern that are listed on the Candidate list. Thus, this duty to provide information does not included e.g. dermal allergens. 7

The majority, approximately 80%, of the textile articles consumed in the EU are imported from a non-EU country, and it is also common to import semi-finished textile materials while the article is finally manufactured and labelled in the EU. The textile supply chains are often long and complex with a global span and important information is drastically decreasing in the many steps from producer to consumer. The flow of chemical information in the supply chains is generally not adequate. The knowledge about chemical contents in textile articles should be made more readily available by increasing and improving the information exchange along the supply chain.

One step towards improved information exchange along the supply chain is the international initiatives in the SAICM programme Chemicals in Products (Section 2.3). The legal information requirement on suppliers of substances in articles needs to be further developed.

Identifying chemical substances related to textile articles

The study presented in Chapter 6 was performed to identify substances with a reported use in textile production. The REACH registration (Section 2.1.1) is one source of knowledge since data for hazardous properties and recommended use for substances should be included in the registration. Further data was also collected from several databases.

The focus of the screening study was to identify substances of potential risk to human health and the environment. Approximately 3 500 substances were identified as relevant for use in textile. However, the actual use and the presence in the final textile articles have not been verified for all these substances. It should be noted that this identification approach managed to cover only a part of all the substances that may be found in textile articles.

Of the identified substances about 2 000 substances are not yet registered under REACH. Due to the volume limit for registration and the limited obligations to register substances present in imported articles, the REACH registration data is insufficient for risk assessment of many substances used in textiles. In some cases REACH registration data for risk assessments was not easily accessible for evaluations of specific uses, and for about one third of the identified substances the REACH registrations was the only source indicating textile use.

Improved quality of data and increased availability in the REACH registration would facilitate and improve the decision-making regarding risk reduction measures for hazardous substances in textiles.

The focus of this study is functional chemicals as they are expected to be present in textiles at relatively high concentrations. However, auxiliary chemicals and unintended degradation products may also be present in the textiles and cause harmful effects on human health and the environment, but these types of substances are not covered by screening study due to the limitations.

Substances of potential risk to human health

Approximately ten percent of the identified 2 400 textile-related substances are considered to be of potential risk to human health. These substances are all functional chemicals, which are expected to be present in the final article at relatively high concentrations, and include azo dyes of direct and acid application type and fragrance. There may also be other types of substances, such as auxiliary chemicals and impurities/degradation products, that can be of potential risk to the human health. The concentration of such substances are generally lower 8 in the final textile article than the concentration of functional chemicals and therefore they were excluded from the scope of the screening study.

The identified azo dyes of direct application type have properties that are associated with an increased risk of cancer and developmental effects, whereas the identified azo dyes of acid application type and fragrances have properties that are associated with an increased risk of allergy.

The relevance of azo dyes was also confirmed by studies in the open literature. Azo dyes of direct application type are mainly used in cotton textile while azo dyes of acid application type are mainly used in polyamide. Since both cotton and polyamide are common materials on the EU market there is a potential for large-scale human exposure to azo dyes of direct and acid application type. These dyes are loosely bound to textile fibres and in particular small children sucking or chewing on textiles could be highly exposed. The dyes also have properties indicating that they are persistent in the environment and may accumulate in the aquatic food chain, which could lead to an indirect exposure of humans through dietary intake. For small children, ingestion of indoor dust, which to a large part consists of textile fibres, may also be an important exposure route to textile-related substances for small children, especially since textiles constitute a large part of the surface in the indoor environment.

The presence of hazardous substances in textiles, including azo dyes of direct and acid application type, should be further investigated.

Carcinogenic, reprotoxic and/or sensitising substances (allergens) should be avoided in articles with direct and prolonged skin contact. Although the methods we used to identify substances of potential risk involve many assumptions and limitations, the results are consistent and give reasons for further investigations, especially of azo dyes of direct and acid application type but also fragrances.

Substances that may cause severe health effects should be avoided in articles with direct and prolonged skin contact.

The overall scientific literature points out disperse dyes as the main cause of textile-related allergic skin reactions and disperse dyes were also identified as substances of concern in our screening study. In addition to the disperse dyes, we identified acid dyes as a group of sensitising substances of potential risk to human health that previously have not been associated with textile-allergy to any great extent. It is thus likely that the disperse dyes is not the cause of all reported cases of allergic skin reactions, for example certain acid dyes could also cause cases of allergic skin reactions.

Based on the findings of our screening study more than 200 allergenic textile-related substances, as for example acid-type dyes, could contribute substantially to allergic skin reactions. The testing of dermal allergy to sensitising dye substances used in textiles should be developed. Substances of potential risk to the environment Approximately five percent of the identified 2 400 textile-related substances are considered to be of potential risk to the environment. These chemicals are all functional chemicals which are expected to be present in the final article at relatively high concentrations. The evaluation of the function chemical substances clearly pointed out azo dyes of direct and acid application type as substance groups of potential risk to the environment. The 2 400 substances also include auxiliary chemicals or impurities.


Death From Above

Author: Christopher Collins | Published: April 17, 2017

It’s December in Quitaque, and from dusk till dawn, convoys of trucks brimming with freshly picked cotton barrel down Highway 86, destined for gins in nearby Silverton and Roaring Springs. There, giant vacuums draw the cotton into the bellies of whirring machines and then, emptied of their cargo, the trucks race back to the fields to be repacked. During harvest season, the roadsides of this part of the Texas Panhandle are lined with little white drifts of cotton.

Cotton farming is big business in this region, where most of the state’s $2.2 billion crop is grown. Quitaque, a community of 387 people about an hour and a half southeast of Amarillo, is surrounded by a phalanx of cotton farmers who each year plant tens of thousands of acres. The town is an island in a vast white sea.

Though the industry is a lifeline for Quitaque’s economy, and the lives of folks in town are tied to the work of neighboring farms, residents say the relationship has a big drawback: the repeated and indiscriminate spraying of pesticides that is killing trees, poisoning livestock and making people sick.

The cotton convoy is rushing up and down the highway as Jerry Beck, a portly, white-bearded man in his 60s, steps into the Caprock Cafe, a country diner run by his wife. Despite below-freezing temperatures, he wears a short-sleeved shirt with a pocket that bears the imprint of a chewing tobacco can. He looks every bit the former sheriff that he is.

Beck periodically spits into a Styrofoam cup as he explains that Quitaque is under siege by crop dusters, pilots hired by farmers to spray pesticides on fields to kill weeds and prepare the cotton plants for harvest. Sometimes the pilots miss their marks and inadvertently deliver a cloud of poison to people, plants and animals.

Beck has firsthand experience with the “chemical drift” problem, as regulators call it. In May 2016, a duster spraying a field near Beck’s house sent an off-target blast of paraquat dichloride, a toxic pesticide, wafting over his home. The next day, he noticed that his vegetable garden and fruit trees were starting to show signs of being poisoned, which he blames on the paraquat, according to his complaint with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). His biggest worry is that three of his grandkids were playing outside when the chemical drifted through his property.

“I remember thinking, ‘Boy, that ain’t good,’ because they were all exposed to it,” Beck said. In the following days, Beck’s granddaughters complained of headaches and difficulty breathing, problems that he attributes to the pesticide exposure.

The use of paraquat is tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the chemical’s extreme toxicity. It can cause death in humans, and even limited exposure can be “corrosive to the skin and eyes,” according to a risk assessment conducted by the agency. A 2009 UCLA study found that people exposed to paraquat are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. The chemical has been banned by the European Union and China.

The label printed on containers of Gramoxone, a widely used pesticide whose active ingredient is paraquat, warns against breathing the chemical’s mist and says to seek medical attention if the poison comes into contact with skin or clothing.

Based on interviews with 11 people in Quitaque, it appears that the chemical drifted at least 5 miles. Its path started behind Beck’s house on the south side of town, cutting a swath through downtown and moving farther east, where it spread to more rural areas. In its path were trees, gardens, livestock, pets and people.

Kim Reiss, who runs a commercial organic garden in Quitaque, claims the pesticide made her nose bleed. “That was so weird. I never have a bloody nose,” she said. Over the next few days, the fruits and vegetables in her garden began to die. The leaves of the plants were pocked with what she described as “cigarette burns” that kept getting bigger. Reiss said she lost $8,000 worth of produce. That’s in addition to the adverse effects of being exposed to pesticides before the fall harvest each year, when farmers hire crop dusters to spray cotton fields. “Usually, while they’re defoliating [the cotton], I spend a good portion of that time being sick,” she said. “They call it allergies. I call it being defoliated. It’s a strange place to choose to live.”

About a month later, in late June, Quitaque farmer and rancher C.L. Hawkins was repairing a fence in one of his fields when he says the wind carried a wave of pesticide onto him. “I was working on a fence right across the road, and he was sprayin’. Boy, I just went ahead and got out of there,” said Hawkins, who complained to TDA.

Then, in September, Quitaque wheat farmer and cattle rancher Paul Teegardin reported to the agency that the pesticide drifted onto grass he uses to feed his beef cattle. Though it was the first time he had filed a formal complaint, Teegardin said his land has been under assault by crop dusters for at least two years.


Organic Cotton Market Grows as Consumers Demand Sustainability

Published on: February 14, 2017

With growing concerns over sustainability and pollution globally, more organizations are beginning to turn to organic cotton when manufacturing textiles. Conventional cotton uses a very high amount of dangerous pesticides, and also requires a great deal of water. While organic cotton is more costly, it has a much smaller environmental impact. Additionally, as more people are beginning to factor in sustainability when buying clothing and other products, using organic cotton can give companies an edge over their competitors.

Currently only a small percentage of the global cotton market is organic, as it takes time to convert a traditional farm to an organic one, and production is more expensive. But there are many benefits to producing organic cotton, and not just to the health of the environment. It also impacts the wellbeing of the farmers and other nearby people.


Did People Suffer For Your Cotton Shirt? DNA Tagging Lets You Track Its Origins

Author: Elizabeth Segran | Published on: March 22, 2017

Cotton is a dirty crop, often tinged with human suffering.

Consider the farmers in India, the world’s largest producer of cotton. There, the crop is generally harvested on small farms, where families go into debt to buy seeds from Monsanto, a seed supplier that dominates 90% of the Indian market. As I’ve reported before, it only takes one bad year for a family to lose everything. This has led to an epidemic in suicides, with an estimated 300,000 farmers taking their own lives over the past two decades in order to spare their children the consequences of this debt.

Given devastating figures like these, many consumers understandably want to know more about the origins of the cotton they buy. A solution to that problem is not as far away as you think: Pimacott, the American division of the Indian cotton supplier Himatsingka, has been working on a technology that uses DNA tagging to allow you pinpoint exactly where your cotton comes from. As its name suggests, Pimacott only develops pima, a variety of cotton that is grown largely in the San Joaquin Valley in California and in particular regions of Peru. Because the company focuses on high-end cotton, it needed a way to assure customers that they were getting authentic and unadulterated pima, especially because raw pima might be brought overseas to be woven and turned into products.


You Can Help Save the Environment by Wearing Eco-Conscious Clothing

Author: | Published on: March 15, 2017

When you reach into the closet and choose your clothes or scour the racks at your favorite retailer, the choices you make have an impact on the environment.

Jeans manufactured in the USA or made to fair trade standards, organic cotton T-shirts, and sweaters that can be washed in cold water and hung to dry are far gentler on the Earth than clothing manufactured in sweatshops overseas from chemical-laden fabrics.

Opting for a “green” wardrobe means paying close attention to fabrics, countries of origin, and laundering requirements, and considering how to dispose of clothes that are torn or no longer trendy.

The decision to emphasize environmental sustainability in your wardrobe is easier than ever. Here are some tips to get started.


Our Cotton Colonies

Author: Meta Krese | Published: March 20, 2017 

A major thread of the British Empire, the crop helped weave the efficient and ruthless structures of today’s globalized economy. The T-shirts we buy at retailers like Gap and H&M may feel far removed from the bloody past of a crop synonymous in

the 19th century with slavery and sweatshops. But when one follows the global supply chain of cotton growers, workers, traders and factory owners, it becomes increasingly apparent that capitalism has not, in fact, traveled far at all from its bloody origins.

Cotton is a flexible crop. It will grow anywhere rain is plentiful and temperatures remain above freezing for at least 200 days a year. Archaeological records show that humans have cultivated it for millennia in Africa, India, Central America and South America. As early as the 7th-century B.C.E., Herodotus described the army of Xerxes I of Persia wearing clothes of exceptional beauty “made of wool that grew on trees.”

Europe was late to the game, relying on linen, flax, silk and wool through much of the Renaissance. When the English India Company brought cheap and colorful calico and chitz to Britain in the second half of the 17th century, they were an instant hit. Europeans loved that the lively colors didn’t fade with the first washing.

To squash this new competition, European textile producers used all kinds of leverage against the Indian cotton industry. France outlawed cotton entirely in 1686; England passed a partial ban on Indian cotton in 1701 and a stricter ban in 1721; Spain, Prussia and other nations followed suit with various restrictions.

Businessmen eventually saw an opportunity for profit, however, and began building a European cotton industry grounded in colonialism and slavery. The cheap cotton harvested by enslaved people in North America allowed Britain to undercut India’s prices. According to historian Gene Dattel, Britain was importing 1.2 billion pounds of cotton annually from North America by 1860. Nearly 1 million workers in Britain’s mills and factories rendered the cotton into garments that made up 40 percent of national exports.

“Cotton,” writes Dattel in Cotton and Race in the Making of America, “was the single most important contributor to Britain’s economic power and its rise to preeminence as a world empire.” Cotton became a springboard for the Industrial Revolution, and for a global economy that favored limitless accumulation of capital.

Today, cotton crops occupy about 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land. The industry is the primary source of income for hundreds of millions of farmers and factory workers. That income is typically meager, however. Cotton workers are the perennial losers in a global race to the bottom. Multinational clothing companies seek out the cheapest textile manufacturing hubs. Factories, in turn, buy the cheapest cotton they can find. Any added expenses, including higher wages, may prompt buyers to flee to ever-cheaper factories—sometimes leaving entire national economies in tatters.

In These Times followed the cotton life cycle from the fields of Burkina Faso to the factories of Bangladesh to the sales racks of Slovenia. Along the way, we spoke with the people who make the shirts, jeans and countless other items you wear every day, to understand the real wages of cotton.