Material Exchange

Sustainability scoop newsletter no. 3

December 2022 | Sustainability Bulletin No.3

Happy holiday season!

And happy December to all! Although we are still in a bit of a November state-of mind. This is because November is always a busy month filled with sustainability conferences and events galore. This year has been no exception with the 27th UN Climate Change conference, Textile Exchange’s 20th Anniversary Meeting, and Material Exchange x USFIA’s Fashion Assessment and Impact-Reduction Workshop. It’s been a whirlwind month of sustainable thinking and digging into ways to work toward a more equitable and sustainable future of fashion. 

We like to think of this past month as NOW-vember because there is no time like NOW to be agents of change. All of us in fashion must work harder now toward more responsible sourcing, designing, producing, and selling of the materials and products we produce as an industry.  

So please keep your fists up, your hearts open, and make all sourcing and business decisions like a wonderful future world depends on it – because it absolutely does – and it starts NOW.

Yours in sustainability,  

The Material Exchange Sustainability Team

Notes from two NOW-vember sustainability events

Policy, planet, and people on the agenda at USFIA

The United States Fashion Industry Association’s (USFIA) annual conference took place in New York City on Thursday, November 10th and Material Exchange was a proud sponsor of the day.

The United States Fashion Industry Association’s (USFIA) annual conference took place in New York City on Thursday, November 10th and Material Exchange was a proud sponsor of the day.

2022 Apparel Importers Trade & Transportation Conference

The event featured deep-dive discussions on many policy-related issues affecting fashion and the global supply chain with inspiring, thought-provoking perspectives by industry experts. Here are just a few of many sustainability takeaways from the day:

  • Climate-change events are now the second largest factor affecting trade decisions, after geo-political tensions. More frequent and more severe storms disrupt the supply chain across all levels, as well as delay shipping along major trade routes. It seems policy is finally paying attention to science.
  • The Ports of Long Beach and New York are working on green corridors where slow steamers, better fuel-using freighters, and retro-fitted vessels will have their own pathways and terminals. Still a few years away, these initiatives promise to reward lower-impact shippers with a more direct route and expedited off-loading.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Control is launching a new interactive tool for importers to view known forced labor stats per region. The tool should be live on their site sometime in early 2023 and will help with sourcing decisions and the upcoming supply chain labor compliance standards.

Want more fashion trade news out of Washington? Sign up for USFIA’s newsletter here and read what the senators are doing!

Tidbits and takeaways from Textile Exchange's conference

Material Exchange was thrilled to join over 900 in-person attendees from 560 companies, brands, and organizations over four packed days at Textile Exchange’s annual conference in Colorado last month!

Fashion activists, farmers, scientists, brands, and sourcing professionals descended on Colorado to dive into what needs to be done to reduce the impact of textiles and fashion and discuss ways and practices to shift away from the status quo.

Here are just two of many great outcomes of the event: 

Transparency and traceability: Both are easy to talk about, but really difficult to do.

Textile Exchange Conference 2022

Nevertheless, we must work to get there: to minimize risk, achieve worker equity, and comply with upcoming regulations. How does this happen? We collect site-level data, gather all transaction documents, and ask, ask, ask until physical verifications are received. Then, we share learnings so it’s easier for the next person!

LCAs coming soon: In 2023, Textile Exchange will invest in poly, cotton, and leather LCAs (life-cycle assessments) so the industry has assessable data to peruse and use to drive better sourcing decisions in an open-source database. The data will also include biodiversity-impact information that LCAs exclude, as well as focus on the environmentally-positive attributes of materials, such as biodegradability!

Want to be part of Textile Exchange’s fiber and fabric community? Check out all the ways to weave yourself in here.

Check out our Digital Sourcing & Sustainability Survey Report

Thank you to all who participated in our 2022 Digital Sourcing & Sustainability Survey.

The results are in and the data can now be found in our latest report. And guess what: the findings are fascinating!  But don’t take our word for it, please judge for yourself by perusing the report right now. Happy reading!

2022 Digital Sourcing and Sustainability Survey Report​

Fashion student wins essay competition

Why do chickens have more rights than humans?

This fall, Material Exchange offered our first-ever academic scholarship contest!

All submissions were blindly read by a team of four. A GIANT CONGRATULATIONS goes out to Meg Fisher on her winning post! Meg is a Sustainable Fashion major at Glasgow Calendonian New York College and founder of Fibr Studios. Read Meg’s thought-provoking post here where she explores the question: Can the fashion industry take a page from the food industry?

Material Exchange Educates: Monthly sustainable sourcing strategies explained

Material Exchange is committed to sharing ways to reduce the social and environmental impacts from the industry we all so dearly love. There are a plethora of inputs into every material and product created, which means there are also a plethora of outputs, in the form of pollution and waste. This is a wicked problem. To decrease harmful outputs, we must work hard and reduce the number of material inputs.  

That’s the focus of this month’s Material Exchange Educates section where we share ways to reduce natural resource consumption in fashion products – by dematerializing!

Sourcing for dematerialization​

Why it’s important: There is a greater-than-imagined number of material inputs into every item we create.

Take, for instance, a 100%-cotton, long-sleeve, button-up shirt. That solid shirt with buttons has over 30 inputs:

Sourcing for dematerialization

For the blue fabric, cotton from cotton plants (1); water (2); pesticides (3); fertilizers (4); fuel for transport (5); electricity for ginning, spinning, and weaving (6); bleach (7); and dye (8). For the plastic buttons, petroleum (9) + terephthalic acid (10) + ethylene glycol (11) to make polyester resin; color compound (12); water (13); electricity for blending and injection molding (14); and fuel for transport (15). And so on as we continue to add up for the thread, labels, hangtags, and other specified components.

These inputs are made up of both natural and manmade resources: the more that go into a product, the more we take from nature, and the more toxins and waste that come out evert step of the way. On the positive side, reducing the amount of inputs means less energy, water, and processes are required, yielding a smaller footprint. Designing out waste involves thinking differently from start to finish, and this difference is what we need in order to drive a more equitable and just future for all.

What it means: Simply put, dematerializing is minimizing the amounts of natural resources (such as water and raw metal ore) and the number of virgin materials (which require processing and energy through the supply chain tiers) when designing products.

How to achieve it: Source and select mono-fiber yarn and fabrics instead of blends, which makes them easier to sort and recycle at product end-of use. Comb through your bill of materials and combine or eliminate items such as labels, tags, and packaging. The lower the amount of inputs, the easier to break down or disassemble when you start a take-back program. If you cannot eliminate items, then reduce the dimensions of poly bags, boxes, and such. Reuse what exists, chop up pieces, and create patchworks, felts, attachers, and ties from damaged goods or post-production scraps.

Which materials get you there: Post-industrial and post-consumer textile-to-textile recycled yarn and fabric can get you there, as well as deadstock goods (so much fabulous fabric already exists!). Also look for recycled metal, poly trims, and fasteners; recycled down and fiber-fill for pillows; bedding and coatings; and recycled poly or paper labels and tags.

Who has them: 

Creative Artisans does! India’s Creative Artisans produces artisanal and bespoke madras, print, and dyed fabrics with the planet in mind. They work toward dematerialization and zero-waste in many ways, including creating fabric with Altag yarn, comprised of 20% agricultural waste and local vegetable market leftovers! Creative Artisans also upcycles leftover poly strips into custom woven fabric for handloomed bags and more. They’re dedicated to making fully recyclable materials and offer regenerative organic cotton. Creative Artisans holds Global Recycled Standard, GOTS, Bluesign and Khadi Mark certifications, and are members of Nest. Check out their handmade, low-carbon collection here

Charming Trim & Packaging does, too! Charming produces hangtags and packaging in a range of recycled paper options, replacing the need to cut down trees for virgin wood pulp! They work toward dematerialization by simplifying products such as: eliminating metal grommets and matte laminations on hangtags to make recycling easier. They also manufacture recycled cotton and rPoly labels and work to reduce energy and water use. Charming is Bluesign, Okeo-Tex and Global Recycled Standard certified and offers biodegradable labels printed with water-based inks. Plus, they’re charter members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition! If you have to label it, do it sustainably with Charming Trim & Packaging – check them out here!

Source smart from your heart!

Thread in the shape of a heart

This month begins a season of festivity, lights, generosity, and love! Speaking of love, we recently published a blog post about the good things happening within the sourcing industry based on our survey results. It looks like people are starting to source with their hearts! Please open this link, open your hearts, and read this month’s sourcing blog entry!

Join us at these upcoming events!

Footwear & circularity webinar
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
6pm CEST | 12pm EST | 9am PST

Global Footwear Sourcing at Texworld
January 31 – February 2, 2023
Javits Center, New York, NY

LA Textile February 2023

LA Textile
February 22 – 24, 2023
California Market Center, Los Angeles, CA

Material Exchange