Is there such a thing as a sustainable fabric? In a word: No. We don't have any. Neither, for that matter, does anyone else.
What we do have are fabrics with some superior sustainability characteristics. And, in our efforts to balance beauty, performance and sustainability, our fabrics get high marks. That said, we still have a long way to go.
where we stand
We believe that a sustainable fabric is one that leaves the least impact throughout its lifespan - from creation, through its long life, and once it reaches its usable life's end.
what we're doing
There are several elements to consider when looking at sustainability as it relates to fabric, from embedded energy to carbon footprint, waste created, transportation, and end of life strategies.
We've chosen three key areas for our fabric development efforts. They are far from the only things we focus on, but we acknowledge that given our size, they are areas where we can be most effective in positively influencing our industry and the market at large.
Beginning of Life and End of Life (BOL/EOL) strategy.
We look at the energy and resources used to create a fabric, and the opportunities and systems to deal with a product at the end of its useful life. We also distinguish between the life cycle of the garment and the initial and end considerations of its fiber. Our considerations around BOL/EOL fabric impacts have led us away from entire fiber categories, specifically nylon, for example, and towards others, such as recycled polyester and organic cotton.
We are particularly focused on the use of recycled polyester in place of nylon, since nylon cannot yet be recycled. While nylon is still widely used in the outdoor apparel industry (due to its durability) we believe its lack of ability to be reused and kept out of landfills is a significant enough factor that we choose to avoid its use. Currently the only place we use nylon is in the reinforcements at the boot area of our ski pants. In addition we choose to focus on fiber categories like organic cotton, wool and recycled polyester, where we feel the benefits in terms of BOL/EOL are high.
Restricted Substances List.
Nau has developed a Restricted Substances List (RSL) and protocol to ensure that our products are safe for workers at the factories, safe for our customers to wear, and that Nau voluntarily meets the strictest global legislation. The substances included on the RSL list are either restricted by legislation or voluntarily selected for elimination by Nau. We require our suppliers to comply with our RSL. An independent lab tests our products to be sure they do not exceed the limits of any of the compounds on the list.. We go to great lengths to ensure that our list exceeds the industry standard and helps push safe, high performance fabrics forward.
We seek to implement and use systems that allow us to know where our fibers and fabrics are created and what paths they follow to get to us. Traceability is effectively a means to an end. By creating relationships with different partners (including Organic Exchange, GOTS, Zque and Asure), we are able to ensure that the standards we have for our materials and products are met by the vendors we work with. This in turn allows us to speak with confidence to our customers about the steps we are taking to move our fabrics towards more sustainable creation and production. Traceability also allows us to strategically identify new areas for improvement, such as energy efficient fiber sourcing close to the point of manufacture.
Just when we think we know what we're talking about with regards to fabric development, the landscape changes. The process of creating fabrics that cause less harm and meet our high standards is ever evolving. We'll continue to examine our decisions around what fabrics we create and how, evaluate new and emerging options, and evolve our practices in ways that can further our efforts to reduce the impact of our products, and our business.
There's always more to learn:
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