Rethinking Sustainability

Rethinking Sustainability

Sustainability is a term most of us are familiar with - a concept we associate with doing good for the environment. I used to think that sustainability was a pretty straightforward concept. As long as we use something natural or recycled, and avoid the use of harmful chemicals, we are being sustainable. When I was researching materials for Maison Noelle, I gradually learned that engaging in sustainability might need a little more consideration than that. 

There’s a tendency to define sustainability based on the material origins. If it comes from nature, it must be good. Or if it comes from waste that was recycled, it must be good because it means we are reducing our waste problem. It sounds reasonable, but is it really that simple?

One of the sustainabile materials I considered using - before finally deciding on organic cotton - was recycled polyester (rPET) fabric. The idea of turning plastic waste into apparel sounded appealing, especially since minimizing waste was one of my main concerns. After reading more about this fabric, however, I learned that it releases tiny plastic fibers (microplastics) during washing. All fabrics release fibers, but unlike natural fibers, microplastics are not biodegradable. This means once released, they will stay in the water, and there’s a chance they might end up in our water and food supply. Research into microplastics is still at an early stage, and we have yet to learn about their possible effects. It could be that the benefits of using rPET fabric outweigh the effects of microplastics, but until we have better understanding, I thought it would be best to consider other options for the time being.

Other materials that seemed like good sustainable options were bamboo and hemp. At first, they sounded like they could be cooler alternatives organic cotton. But then I learned that the process of turning bamboo into fabric could be chemically intensive. In addition, bamboo and hemp fabrics are mainly produced overseas, whereas it’s possible to source organic cotton fabric that’s grown and woven domestically. 

Why is the domestic factor important? Sustainability is often seen from environmental perspective, it’s easy to forget that being sustainable also means bringing positive impact on the society we live in.

The pandemic lockdown helped me to realize how much our apparel industry - like many others - depends on overseas supply chain. While the idea of global partnerships is generally good, I felt it was important to support domestic and local businesses whenever possible, especially after seeing soaring unemployment numbers during the lockdown.

Striving for sustainability is an ongoing journey, a never-ending learning process.

It’s a journey that teaches me to constantly adapt and adjust, with the goal that with each step we will come closer to achieving sustainability.

Thank you for stopping by, and for being a part of our journey.




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