This year, whatever you do, don’t “just” give gifts. Instead, make gifts of clothes and accessories imbued with an additional message – that of environmentally-responsible production. There is a broad array to choose from. Here are some pointers to give you ideas.
Who doesn’t know by now that the fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries? But even so, there’s nothing like an on-trend gift. So opt for an attractive product with minimal impact on the environment. A clean, on-trend gift. Here in France, the AGEC Act (Against Wastefulness and for the Circular Economy) is aimed at speeding up an overhaul of the production and consumption model to reduce waste and safeguard natural resources, biodiversity and the climate. Moreover, a great many initiatives have already been taken by companies, often French companies. Christmas is the perfect time to support them.
One piece of advice: take your time before you buy, look at the labels and find out about where the materials come from, the production methods and locations.
An upcycled, on-trend gift
Upcycling, a way of re-using materials that appeared on the scene as far back as 1994, has since met with growing success among consumers. These days it’s about trying to avoid throwing things away by salvaging and re-using the materials to make something new. While upcycling stops waste from ending up in landfill, most importantly it reduces air, water and ground pollution. In some cases, this process is part of a real virtuous circle with short supply chains, reindustrialisation and insourcing processes and preservation of true know-how. For example:
An elegant laptop sleeve
Accessories brand Saint-Lazare strives to repurpose raw materials and accessories from scrapped vehicles (seatbelts for example) to craft sleeves, card wallets and bags. This start-up employs people who are vulnerable due to disabilities (the ESAT assistance through work scheme) and works with local partnerships. The products come in pouches made from rubbish (recycled plastique bottles). Lastly, the goods are delivered by bicycle or on foot to make for a carbon neutral process. It’s worth noting that this laptop sleeve is made in France from recycled car materials, and also felt remnants that come from TGV interiors.
A travel bag to get away from it all
727 Sailbags has opted to recycle old ship sails picked up from sailmakers and seafarers. The products, which meet Oeko-Tex standards, are produced in accordance with environmental standard conformity certificates. A certificate sets out the life story of the sail used, the serial number of the item and the number of products made out of the same sail. As an added bonus: you can pick out a particular repurposed sail to craft that bag intended as a gift. A great idea when it comes to setting a course for ecology.
Socks with solidarity in mind
We all poke fun at socks as an overused gift idea. But Chaussettes Orphelines (“Lonesome Socks”) are no ordinary socks, with a special story behind them. The brand collects and recycles old socks (which can be left at various drop-off points or sent to the association), unravelling them to salvage the fibres. So Chaussettes Orphelines are made out of these various thre ads. But the concept also follows the circular economy model. Chaussettes Orphelines runs needlecraft and creative workshops for women in accommodation and social integration facilities, and for underprivileged children to develop their dexterity. The socks get sorted in a centre for social and occupational integration. In addition, the recycled socks purchased on the site come with a prepaid return label to send off 500 grams of old socks. This is a good idea, bearing in mind that 1 kg of recycled socks equates to a CO2 saving of25 kg. Moreover, it takes 1,350 litres of water to produce a 60-gram pair of cotton socks. Shop address: 2 rue des Gardes, 75018 Paris, France.
Photo ©Chussettes Orphelines
Trainers are a real societal phenomenon, accounting for one out of every two shoe purchases here in France. So what’s the problem? Well, their production processes are not at all eco-friendly. But besides the big names which are making an effort, more than 150environmentally-responsible brands have been created here in France to offer more ethically-sound designs. Two such brands have joined forces: O.T.A (On The Asphalt), which specialises in wearproof soles made from recycled tyres, and Basus, which produces clothing using recycled natural fibres (mainly cork), with local made-to-order collections. The partner companies have produced a pair of sneakers made from cork leather and recycled tyres, certified by the Leather Working Group, an organisation which ensures that environmental standards are met in the leather goods industry. The laces are made from recycled plastic.
A more respectful version of that standard-issue gift
Those emblematic and essential pieces that are jeans and T-shirts use a lot of water to produce, spread toxic substances around and breach workers’ rights, with those workers often being children. While the setup of cleaner initiatives is starting, they still only account for a tiny proportion of the global market a gift of a cleaner pair of jeans and/or T-shirt to support them and put your commitment into practice.
A cleaner pair of jeans
Cotton cultivation, spinning, weaving, dyeing, bleaching, a mind-boggling life cycle – the production of just one pair of jeans is a disaster for the environment. Picture this: a single pair can travel up to 65,000 km and generate 20-40 kg of CO2 emissions. To address this, here are three worthwhile recent initiatives:
- Chevrons, a young French company, sources the most natural, responsible raw materials possible to produce its Eco Denim jeans and jackets. This is evidenced by the fact that it takes the brand one round trip within France to make its jeans, all modes of transport included. The company uses 60% recycled cotton and 40% GOTS-certified organic cotton for its jeans, which require 80% less water than a standard pair. 97% of the end price of this purchase made in France gets fed back into the French economy. Moreover, every 150 pairs of jeans sold funds a job based in France for a year. Furthermore, you can get involved by giving your opinion on upcoming designs.
- Ace Denim jeans are even less resource hungry, requiring 90% less water and produced without chemicals, using laser bleaching technology. The brand objects to the tempo of conventional collections, and offers a single design and fit with the quantity limited to 700 pairs.
- It’s worth noting that the Lee brand offers gold & bronze jeans which are 100% recyclable. They are certified by Cradle to Cradle in conjunction with Artistic Milliners, a leading organisation when it comes to overhauling the fashion industry. This production method is about quality materials and re-use thereof, renewable energy, carbon footprint and water management and social justice. These jeans are made from organic cotton, requiring 58% less water, in a factory which generates solar energy.
A more respectable T-shirt
The cotton which accounts for a quarter of the raw materials used to produce textiles is a calamity in terms of its environmental impact. This prompted Max Havelaar to develop organic cotton, in 2005. The association prevents soil from getting depleted by factory-style cultivation. Favour linen, which is a biodegradable material that needs little water to grow, or Tencel™, which is more virtuous. And most importantly, bear in mind that an environmentally-responsible T-shirt is first and foremost one that’s built to last. So make a sustainable gift of a high-quality timeless number. Take a look at these:
- Le T-shirt propre: (“The clean T-shirt”), a men’s and women’s collection made from organic or recycled cotton, linen and shortly hemp, without the use of chemicals or insecticides, coloured with dye that’s certified Oeko-Tex 100 and GOTS. In addition, the waste water from the production process gets fed back into the circuit. These are easy-care, non-iron garments, with laundering at 30°. They are shipped without plastic packaging.
- The Fairtale.eco site will leave you spoiled for choice. It offers organic and environmentally-responsible women’s T-shirts from various brands. They come in various cuts and colours, organic cotton, Tencel™ and hemp. The ethically-sound, transparent approach brings with it a description of each of the materials used, its production location and the associated certifications.