Consumers now expect sustainability and ecological sensitivity to be factored into the cost of manufacturing and selling consumer goods. Corporations such as Patagonia, through their Footprint Chronicles, and Timberland, with their nutrition label for social responsibility, have started a major trend that pulls back the veil on the apparel industry, making us aware of the major demands that the textile industry put on our world. It's not enough to just offset your purchases. Through our purchasing decisions, we can alter how the industry operates.
The EcoTag for apparel, shown below in a draft format, was designed as a prototype to make sustainability factors more transparent for purchasing decisions across all brands -- not just these brave few who are striving to lead the industry. The ultimate goal of the EcoTag is to incent corporations to make their sustainability measures accountable to their customers. “Sustainability grading” or other methods of ranking products, derived from ecotagging, would create new ways for customers to evaluate the value of a product, while forcing corporations that have since been uninterested in bringing sustainability practices to their businesses to change their behavior.
The front panel of the tag displays the standard SKUs for a product, as well as the costs of offsets and recycling that have been factored into the product price.
The back panel of the EcoTag gives a view into how a piece of apparel was sourced, produced, and shipped, as well as the average carbon cost and whether the clothing is organic, recycled, and/or biodegradeable.
Ideally, the tag would be resized, printed, and affixed to goods in a way that had minimal impact on the product’s carbon footprint.
Without an industry-wide standard for this type of information, it will continue to be difficult for consumers to make educated decisions about what they purchase and how their purchases will influence the world. With proper education of the consumer at point of purchase, the latent waste of the textiles industry may be reduced and ideally replaced with more sustainable options.
Download a one-page PDF summary of this piece at this link: http://www.davidsherwin.com/EcoTagForApparel.pdf.
If you're interested in helping with this endeavor, please feel free to contact me at david at davidsherwin.com.