The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Unravel Documentary

This is the final resting place of your cast-off clothing

When people in the West throw their clothes away, their cast-offs often go on a journey east, across the oceans, to India’s industrial interior. From the Kutch District of western India to the northern city of Panipat, garment recyclers turn into yarn the huge bales of clothes that come from people and places distinctly strange. With little exposure to Western culture other than the Discovery Channel, the garment recyclers rely on their imagination and the rumours that travel with the cast-offs to create an an intriguing perspective on the West.

Director: Meghna Gupta

Producer: Meghna Gupta, Gigi Berardi

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Apparel Industry Forms Association to Address Sustainability

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which includes Cotton Incorporated as a member, is a trade association representing more than a third of the global apparel and footwear industries, formed to address current social and environmental challenges to the industry. Last summer, it unveiled the Higg Index, a tool to measure sustainability. It focuses on water use and quality, energy and greenhouse gas, waste, chemicals and toxicity.

Target, which has had numerous high/low fast fashion collaborations, adopted the Higg Index within parts of its supply chain. Upon the Higg Index’s debut, Target’s Scott Lercel, director of social responsibility and sustainability, said, “This tool allows our teams to make better decisions, improve our supply chain and, most importantly, reduce our impact on the global environment.”

Inditex Group, the parent company of Zara stores, has a strategic environmental plan that aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 10% in 2015, and by 20% in 2020 when compared to 2005. It also intends to promote eco-friendly alternatives in the development of new products and ancillary materials.

All of these corporate initiatives are significant. Because even though just 33% of consumers are even likely to seek out environmentally friendly clothes, 69% would be bothered if they found out an apparel item they purchased was not environmentally friendly, according to the Environment Survey. And 40% of consumers say they would blame the manufacturer if they purchased apparel and then found out it was produced in a non-environmentally-friendly way.

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Sustainability Drives Innovation

Here are some fine recent examples of product and service innovations that incorporate sustainability.

  • Replenish. Most household cleaners consist of a disposable plastic bottle, a detergent and a lot of water. Shipping a product which is 90% water through retail stores does not make a lot of sense. Replenish is an innovative reusable cleaning product. You simply buy a detergent refill and add water.
  • Shwopping. Marks and Spencer launched a project which aims to reduce the volume of clothes that are thrown away to landfill, whilst supporting the charity Oxfam. Customers can bring unwanted pieces of clothing and place them in bins known as ‘Shwop Drops’. The clothes are then given to Oxfam to re-use, recycle or re-sell. In the last year some 4 million items have been Shwopped in over 400 M&S and Oxfam stores. This has helped Oxfam raise £2.3 million for its many good causes.
  • Sustainability is a Driver of InnovationNewlife Paints. What do you do with your unfinished tins of paint? The average household in the UK has 17 tins of partly used paint. These tins typically reside in the garage until they are eventually taken to the tip and then into landfill. Chemist, Keith Harrison, decided to do something about this environmental nightmare by creating Newlife Paints which collects and recycles tins of paint – repackaging them and selling them in a range of 32 colours.

Sustainability is more than just recycling. It is about creative design in products and processes that encourage and reward good behaviour by consumers. And the consumers seem to like it.

With thanks to Chris Sherwin of Seymourpowell for pointing out these examples.

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