How And Why We're Eco
"During my time in the fashion industry I discovered all of the awful atrocities that occur behind the scenes of manufacturing: from exploiting workers, to dumping hazardous chemicals into our environment, I was totally shocked. I couldn’t believe that businesses would do anything they could for a bit of extra profit. I swore to solve the problem I was facing sourcing eco fabrics and Offset Warehouse was born."
Charlie Bradley Ross, founder & Director, Offset Warehouse
What is an "eco" fabric?
Anything that is created or consumed has a social and environmental impact. The word "ethical" or "eco" is generally understood as a product that is socially or environmentally beneficial.
Find examples of negative and irresponsible production on our why buy eco textiles page that we work to combat here at Offset Warehouse.
Offset Warehouse makes eco easier and more accessible
As Charlie discovered first-hand, being ethical in the world of fashion and interiors is hard work! Eco fabrics are still being produced in relatively small quantities, and to both find these textiles and then be able to acquire just a few metres takes a huge amount of time and research. We want the whole world to buy ethically, so here at Offset Warehouse we make it easier by doing all of the sourcing for you, and at quantities starting from just one metre!
How are our products "eco"?
All Offset Warehouse’s products are socially or environmentally responsible. So every time you buy from us, you can feel good about benefitting and ensuring a farmer’s or a weaver’s safety and livelihood, or that the environment is being carefully looked after.
There are many ways to be ethical. Each product we offer either benefits the people who make them, the people who handle them or the planet – and most often all of these. Every product is accompanied by a detailed description telling you exactly how it’s ethical and/or sustainable. You can also filter the fabrics by their eco credentials, so that you can decide just how you want to be ethical.
It's worth noting that "sustainability" can mean different things to different makers depending on your values and project. For our product selection, we distinguish "ethical production" as the socially beneficial characteristics of a product, while "sustainability" generally refers to the environment and life cycle.
Being "eco" protects your loved ones too.
Just like our food, if our clothing, bedding and towels are made from non-organic fibres, they are likely to contain a whole range of harmful chemicals that have been retained from both the farming and the manufacturing processes. And along with inhalation, ingestion and injection, our skin absorbs these substances into our bodies in exactly the same way as how a nicotine patch works – what goes onto our skin goes into our body. Greenpeace recently tested a number of clothing from highstreet stores, and found them filled with harmful toxins - scary stuff. Even with food, the use of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers affect the seed, so soapy water helps, though it doesn't eliminate what is engrained.
The benefits of organic fabric – particularly for children – are numerous, but the main one for our body is that it is hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant. This means it’s the best choice of material for those who suffer from asthma or allergies, or those who have sensitive skin that is prone to irritation. Organic fibres also breathe better because they've not been made heavy or altered with chemicals, which in turn helps absorb and remove heat and moisture, keeping the body cool, dry and healthy.
|"My son has very sensitive skin, and my doctor recommended that I try him out with organic fabrics. Now, whenever he wears clothes made from organic fabrics his skin is a lot less irritated, which means we need to use a lot less cream on it. Thank you!” - Heidi, mum of two, July 2012|
What do all the eco terms mean?
There are lots of different terms used to describe the products we sell. Here are the main ones, so that you can make more informed purchase decisions. Many of these governing bodies’ principles overlap, so sometimes it’s difficult to give definitive descriptions for every product. But where appropriate, all a product’s accreditations are mentioned on its page.
|Eco Credentials Explained|
|Certified Organic||Textiles where fibres are free from herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilisers or any genetically modified seed. Certified Organic means that both the production of the fibre on the farm, and the processing of this fibre into textiles has been checked at every step of the processing supply chain, has met organic standards and is certified by one of the many governing bodies. The international gold standard for organic textiles is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).|
|Uncertified Organic||The production process is exactly the same as for Certified Organic, except in some circumstances farmers are unable to afford the certification process, which tends to be expensive. In these cases, we ensure that these suppliers work with reputable ethical fabric initiatives, thereby supporting their organic credentials. It could also be that they are transitioning from conventional to organic cultivation, in which case you would see the cotton described as "transitional", "sustainable" or "better".|
|Fair Trade||Fair Trade ensures fair and safe labour practices, including outlawing child labour. It also ensures that workers are paid a fair price for their labour. Fair Trade is certified as such by an external body.|
|Recycled||Fibres have been taken from one waste product and reconstituted into a fabric. For example, plastic bottle are recycled into rPET (Recycled Poly Ethylene Terephthalate).|
|By-product||Mainly refers to animal products, including such things as milk. A by-product of one process, which would otherwise be disposed of, is used to create a fabric.|
|Reclaimed||Saving fabrics which would otherwise have ended up in landfill, contributing to CO2 emissions.|
|Sustainable||Harvesting raw materials in a way that can be replenished in time to be used again.|
|Co-operatives||There are lots of different co-operative models, but primarily it means that the workers own part of the business, and as such have a say in its running and also a share in the profits.|
|Natural dyes||The raw materials for the dyes are taken from nature i.e. plants or food waste rather than constructed from dangerous chemicals.|
|Azo-free dyes||Dyes which are free from azo, a chemical which is environmentally damaging and is toxic to humans. Under certain conditions, the azo organic compound can undergo a cleavage where the new compound is an amine - a known carcinogen. They're also water-soluble so are easily absorbed by the skin and can be toxic to aquatic life.|
|Natural Bleaching||The fabric is whitened without the use of chemicals or optical brighteners, generally without chlorine.|
DON’T SEND YOUR UNWANTED FABRICS TO LANDFILL – SEND THEM TO US INSTEAD!
Shocking figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that in the USA in 2010 alone, more than 11 million tons of textiles were dumped into landfill across the country. The effects of this are far-reaching: decomposing fabric releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to global warming, plus the dyes and chemicals in many of these fabrics leach out, contaminating both the soil and groundwater.
As part of our commitment to reclaiming fabrics and saving them from landfill, we’ll take in your unused remnants and offcuts (not clothing, though, unfortunately) and find homes for them.
For scraps and larger fabric pieces: please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give you all the details on how to send them to us.
Are you a fashion or creative business?
If you're a business and looking to deepen your understanding of what ethical and sustainable textiles are, and how you can use them, check out our Masterclass "Ethical Fabrics and Why we Need to Use Them" over on our sister business The Sustainable Fashion Collective.