Sustainable Apparel Coalition delivers the eco-skinny on your skinny jeans


Tom Philpott of Grist wrote a very enlightening piece on the efforts of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition – an industry-wide group of leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, manufacturers, non-governmental organizations, academic experts and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world.

In this write-up, Philpott catches up with two of the main forces behind the Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Patagonia executives Yvon Chouinard (founder/owner) and Rick Ridgeway (vice president of environmental initiatives).

I spend a lot of time shining a light on murky areas of the food system, but what about the industrial-apparel complex? Just as the food we eat has a material basis and a history, so do our clothes. It turns out that I know a lot more about the (grass-fed, local) beef I ate last night than I do about the (non-organic) cotton T-shirt on my back.

Recently, a group of apparel-industry companies banded together to launch a tool to help consumers — and the industry itself — figure out the environmental impacts of our clothing choices. The Sustainable Apparel Association consists of big-name brands like Patagonia, Adidas, Nike, and Timberland, retailers Walmart, JCPenney’s, and Target, and well as Duke University, Environmental Defense Fund, and the EPA.

The plan is to develop a comprehensive database to track the ecological impact of clothing at every level of production, manufacture, distribution, and consumption, with the goal of giving every garment on retail racks a sustainability score.

The industry is smart to jump out ahead on the issue. According to The Believer‘s Andy Selsberg, journalist Elizabeth Cline is working on a book due out in the spring of 2012 that’s being billed as “the Omnivore’s Dilemma of clothes” — a reference to Michael Pollan’s 2005 blockbuster on the food system. “Fashion has parallels to food,” Selsberg points out. “Most clothing is too cheap, that cheapness has tragic costs, clothing is an agricultural product, and we consume too much of it.”

I recently caught up with two of the main forces behind the Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Patagonia executives Yvon Chouinard (founder/owner) and Rick Ridgeway (vice president of environmental initiatives). Here’s what we talked about:

For the rest of the article, go to GRIST here.