Sustainability Cheat Sheet

Sustainable, Environmentally-friendly, fair trade…all this new terminology is enough to make you dizzy! Why you’re hearing these buzzwords so often lately is because people are  getting smarter and choosing products that are better for our health and the survival of our planet. We understand that most of us don’t really understand what these words really mean and how they have anything to do with us.

Look no more, North is coming to you with an all-inclusive cheat sheet to help you make better choices for you, your family and our beautiful planet.

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Sustainability simply means that we allow for continued life on our planet for generations to come.  So how do we break that down into something less vague? It means we consume, produce, and develop at a rate and in a way that allows for future generations to survive on our planet.  That doesn’t sound like an unworthy cause, right?

After all, isn’t our goal in life to leave the world in even a slightly better position than when we entered it? Don’t let that life goal overwhelm you.  It can simply mean ensuring that everyone you love knows undoubtedly every day that you do love them. “That you choose kindness whenever possible…and it is always possible,” says the Dalai Lama. The we put the health, safety, and compassion for our neighbor before any selfish needs (not essential needs).  That means in producing and consuming.

So what does that look like in a more consumerism sense?

Choose to support those brands that are fighting the good fight to sustain a healthy world for the future.  Yes, the products may cost a little more, but shouldn’t we stop and wonder how a pair of jeans can cost $20 in the first place? Who made the fabric? What is that fabric made of? What was used to dye it?  In order to keep the cost down on a garment, producers will often opt for less expensive highly toxic dyes. Yikes!

Not only is that no good for your skin, but imagine what it does for the environment. How? For instance, in order to dye large amounts of garments, manufacturing plants must fill gigantic vats of water full of chemical dyes and bring them to an extremely high temperature. Once those garments are dyed, that vat is then dumped into surrounding land and waterways.  There is actually a river in China that shows a vibrant example of what next season’s hot color trend will be.  Terrifying.

Make conscious choices when buying your fashion, accessories and beauty products.  Not only does this decision affect the health of the planet…but it affects our and our family’s personal health.  Choose brands that use natural dyes rather than chemical.  Choose real, long lasting fabrics like wool or linen or sustainably produced fabrics like tencel, rather than synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon that flake microplastics into our oceans every time you wash them.

charcoal linen scarf, eco friendly fashion, unisex scarf, accessories for women
Variously Charcoal Linen Scarf

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Aisha Kimono

Choose beauty products that use natural and/or organic ingredients.

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Routine Inc Sexy Sadie Natural Deodorant

See our article on the “Top Ten Toxins To Look For In Your Beauty Routine.” Keep reading for our break down on “What is Eco-friendly?” and sign up for our newsletter at  Next week we will be launching a downloadable cheat sheet on what fabrics are sustainable for your next shopping trip!

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Eco friendly simply means not harmful to the environment or inflict the most minimal harm.  Considering the 100 billion items of clothing and 14 billion pairs of shoes sold in 2019 alone, all requiring often long, complex production processes and heavy use of energy there’s no doubt that fashion can be a dirty business.  The fashion industry is said to fall only second in line, after coal, as the most environmentally harmful industries. Here are the main issues:

o   Chemicals – 8000 synthetic chemicals are used in the fashion, textile and footwear industry to turn raw materials into fina products. Not only do these chemicals pose health hazards to the people who work with them, particularly without using protective equipment , but many of the chemicals end up in freshwater systems.  (there are rivers in China that become vibrant evidence of next year’s color trend as most of these chemicals and dyes are dumped directly into waterways).

o   Energy – If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind China, the USA, the European Union, India and Russia. In fact, the emissions it creates are equivalent to 372 million cars driving for one year, according to the 2017 Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report. Fiber production, spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing fabrics, as well as clothing manufacture, all consume high levels of energy. Fuels are used in machinery for ploughing and harvesting, while electricity is the most common power source for factory machinery, cooling and temperature control systems, lighting and office equipment. Oil is used to fuel boilers to generate steam, as well as liquefied petroleum gas, coal and city gas.

o   Pollution – Toxic chemicals from pesticides and insecticides used in cotton production at farm level, as well as the 8,000-plus different chemicals supporting the dyeing, manufacture and finishing processes, all release huge quantities of effluents into fresh and oceanic waterways. Microplastic are accumulating rapidly in marine habitats around the world, and research is showing that a major source of these comes from waste water contaminated by plastic fibers from washing clothes made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, acrylic, polypropylene. Microplastics are particularly dangerous with other pollutants including pesticides and manufacturing chemicals adhering to them. As well as causing harm to marine life, these microplastics can then work their way back into the food chain via fish and seafood.

o   Waste – Despite the well-aired public mantra of ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’, it’s estimated that the fashion industry creates around 13 kilograms of fashion waste for every person on the planet every year. That waste is equivalent to a landmass larger than the size of France. To combat this, the industry must adopt a ‘circular economy’1 approach, rethinking and redesigning the way products are made, used and disposed of.

o   The average consumer now buys 400 per cent more clothing than 20 years ago. Fewer than one per cent of garments are recycled into new clothing each year, and only 20 per cent of textiles are recycled at all. A huge amount of waste also occurs further upstream in the production process. The average piece of clothing lasts for 3.3 years before being discarded.

o   Use of synthetic fabrics releases thousands of kilograms of microfibers into fresh and oceanic waterways every day, anything from 240,000 to 3 million plastic bags per day.

o   It’s estimated that extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20 to 30 per cent

o   Every ton of discarded textiles that is reused stops 20 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

o   Fewer than one per cent of garments are recycled into new clothing each year, and only 20 per cent of textiles are recycled at all.

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Fair trade, aka Ethically traded, means that supply chains have been vetted to ensure safe and fair working conditions from start to finish.  A garment can be “Made in the USA” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been ethically traded.  Where did the fabric originate? How were those employees paid? This goes farther than the individual who sewed the garment.

Many large producers can make a play on words and say that they pay a fair wage based on the country of origin’s minimum wages standards.  Unfortunately, this is not enough.  Many large garment producing countries are plagued with corruption causing governments to keep minimum wages down to as low as .30 cents a day to gain business and bribes.

Many instances, employees of these manufacturers, many of which are women, are forced to work 14 hour days at well-below poverty wages and sometimes even physically abused if not producing at a rate that management desires.  Not only does fair trade ensure fair wages, but it also encompasses safe working conditions (people can be forced to work with toxic chemicals without any gloves, face protection, etc., causing them or their offspring to experience (thesaurus) debilitating diseases), regular working hours, and even worse it works to conquer the hundreds of millions of the current population subjected to modern-day slavery.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are living in modern slavery or forced labor today, many in the supply chains of clothing brands and retailers. According to this Index, 58% of people in slave labor are found in the major cotton or garment producing countries of the world –, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Pakistan. In such contexts regulations do not exist, or are poorly implemented, and migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labor.

Choose to support those brands that are fighting the good fight to protect human rights.  Yes, the products may cost a little more, but shouldn’t we stop and wonder how a pair of jeans can cost $20 in the first place? Who made the fabric? What is that fabric made of? What was used to dye it? Who sewed the garment? Who shipped it? How much did the owner of the factory pay their employees for all that work and still make enough to sell it to a popular brand name store? How much did that brand name store profit on the garment? See, how hard it is to add that up and not realize that someone is being exploited in the process. And it is usually those at the bottom of the totem pole.

Stay tuned for next week’s newsletter that gives you a cheat sheet on types of fabric to keep an eye out for when decorating that gorgeous, healthy body of yours!

North is for the conscious, beauty minded fashionista who wants to have style, but not at the cost of the environment and our friends and family’s future. We have curated a high-fashion, on trend collection of trusted sustainable, eco-friendly, ethically traded apparel, accessories, lifestyle items and beauty products that have been 100% vetted by our stringent compliance process.  Can we be annoying to our vendors? 100%! Lol.  You and our planet are worth it.  Shop consciously.