Editor's View

Getting Down To Earth

Perhaps you’ve come across these news items or ones like them:
• Nationalgeographic.com on March 18, 2019 ran the article, “This young whale died with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach” by Alejandra Borunda. It states that, “The animal in the Philippines likely starved because its stomach was full of plastic, not food.” Plastic bags, rice sacks, snack bags and tangles of nylon rope were packed in the whale’s stomach like “two dense basketballs” that prevented the passage of food and water to sustain its life. Borunda writes that as far back as 2015, “scientists estimated that around 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested some amount of plastic; UNESCO estimates that 100,000 marine mammals die because of plastic pollution each year.”
• In textiles, microfiber seems to be one of today’s technology darlings, with everything from sheets to clothing and cleaning cloths made from synthetic microfiber materials. Google “microfiber pollution” and you’ll find details of a not-so-darling consequence of synthetic microfibers on the patagonia.com website. It seems particles from the microfibers slough off during the laundering of the textiles that are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants. So they wind up in waterways and oceans, ingested by marine life, and ultimately in turn, by humankind.
The movement toward environmentally responsible living is not just a side issue embraced by a small group of “tree huggers.” The demand and momentum to clean up the environment and protect ourselves and the earth has not only grown, but has seeped sideways into other related causes and aspects of life in interesting ways—as part of the health and wellness, fair trade and betterment of living conditions for workers movements that affect the making of all kinds of products, including and beyond textiles.
Even U.S. politicians are dealing with the challenges of protecting the environment and us in a broadened way with proposals for a “Green New Deal” that is defined not as a single law, but “a suite of economic policies to deliver better job opportunities, less climate pollution, cleaner air and water, and more resilient communities.”
Although more and more causes and consequences of pollution and harmful manufacturing processes and products are being reported each day, there remains a lot of work to do to correct effects already ravaging the environment—and to prevent more damage from occurring.
Trend forecasting company, WGSN, has produced a report titled “Sustainability And The Consumer 2019.” Findings predict that this year brands will need to move deeper than “token gestures” and marketing to “fully embrace systemic change” that reflects consumers’ values regarding concern for the welfare of the planet and its life forms.
A couple of months ago, I asked a company adept at developing in-house brands if they had one in the works for eco-friendly home fashions. The answer was, “No, because our [retailer] customers haven’t asked for it.”
Is striving to create—or sell—more earth-friendly, safe product options using fewer environment-harming processes something a company—or retailer—should have to be “asked” to do before it does it? The article “Out Of Harm’s Way” in this issue not only includes details on new eco-friendly products, but on some of the companies in the industry who with foresight undertook and are continuing to invest in eco-friendly factory equipment and practices.