Archive for November, 2010

The Story of Other Stuff

With over 12 million on-line views, The Story of Stuff is one of the most widely viewed environmental-themed short films of all time.  The 20-minute video presents a critical vision of the consumerist American society.  It examines the connections between a growing number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.

Creater Annie Leonard has spent nearly two decades investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues.  She has traveled to 40 countries, visiting literally hundreds of factories where our stuff is made and dumps where our stuff is dumped.  Witnessing first hand the horrendous impacts of both over – and under – consumption around the world, Annie is fiercely dedicated to reclaiming and transforming our industrial and economic systems so they serve, rather than undermine, ecological sustainability and social equity.

Their on-line community has grown to include over 150,000 activists and they partner with hundreds of environmental and social justice organizations worldwide to create and distribute their films, curricula and other content.

Be sure to check out these great short films today.

The Story of Electronics * The Story of Cosmetics * The Story of Bottled Water * The Story of Cap and Trade

30/11/2010 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Spend Shift

I have yet to read this book but have heard nothing but rave reviews and what better timing to examine our spending habits but a day before Black Friday.

As we continue to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Spend Shift examines what the consumer of tomorrow will look like?  How will they spend differently?  Will brands still matter?  What do changing consumer values say about the state of American values?

In Spend Shift, John Gerzema, world-renowned expert on consumer values, and Pulitzer prizewinning author Michael D’Antonio document the rise of a vibrant, values-driven post-recession economy.  To tell the story of this movement, the authors travel to large cities and small towns across eight bellwether states, to examine the value shifts sweeping the nation.  Through in-depth observation and interviews with experts, the authors analyze the changing consumer psyche, document the five shifting values and consumer behaviors that are remaking American and the world, and explain what it means to businesses and leaders.

* Explores a movement in society where the majority of American consumers are embracing both value and values
* Shows how post-crisis consumer expectations and behaviors will drive business decisions
* Draws on interviews with CEOs and entrepreneurs to reveal how companies like Ford, Groupon and Etsy are reconnecting with the post-crisis consumer

Spend Shift made #2 on the Wall Street Journals best sellers list and is said to be, “compelling, insightful and essential reading for anyone interested in how values are changing and how businesses can connect with consumers after the recession”.  Grab a copy and find out for yourself.

25/11/2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Made in the USA….Can it Be?

NearSea Naturals, a reputable online supplier of organic and sustainable fabrics since 2002, recently joined forces with textile industry veteran Daniel Sanders in order to carry out plans to provide complete vertical manufacturing for local, US made organic fabrics.  The driving force for the new partnership is the “Made in the US” label, which consumers consider advantageous.  Domestic organic and sustainable fabrics meet customers expectations for a variety of reasons, including high production standards, increased economic benefits, and environmental accountability.

NearSea Natuals relocated from their off -the-grid, solar powered facility near Santa Fe, New Mexico to the state known for it’s history in American textile manufacturing – Asheville, North Carolina.  “This partnership is an economic stimulus to the region,” stated Sanders, adding that the fabrics created within its rubric are local and sustainable.  “Everything takes place within 100 miles of our facility – spinning, weaving, finishing, and more.  Our local design and vertical manufacturing of US organic fabrics, coupled with direct-to-consumer sales, is unique to the industry.”

“At a time when many textile jobs and businesses are going overseas, our customers of organic and sustainable fabrics are demanding domestic.  They understand the importance of supporting the US textile industry and want to keep their business supply chains local,” said Tara Bloyd, president of NearSea Naturals who founded the business with her mother, Winnie Culp.  She elaborates:   “I came to organic fabrics out of critical need – to clothe my first child, who was born prematurely. I wanted only safe, toxin-free fabrics next to his fragile skin.  Now this is a lifestyle choice, not only for my family but for an increasing number of other people as well.”

“Organic and sustainable fabrics are making a comeback in the United States,” says Culp, “because of increasing consumer awareness about the importance of sustainability throughout the entire cycle.  We moved our production to Asheville because it is a gateway to the existing textile mills.  We’re doing this at the right time, for the right reason, and we’re finding that more and more people are ready to go green for the whole nine yards.”

23/11/2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Alternative Fibres in High Demand

With so much talk about the soaring costs of cotton these days, we thought we’d offer a fresh perspective from the other side.

Due to undesirable weather conditions including flooding, cold snaps and hailstorms, cotton crops are coming up short this year and with the world’s demand of cotton so high, prices have been skyrocketing – rising almost 80% since July.  With global apparel prices stagnant for some time now,  apparel manufacturers and exporters are being hit hard.  Companies like Jockey, Liz Claiborne, Levi’s and Hanes are in search of a solution so as not to have to pass this price hike onto consumers.

While some are in search of cheaper cotton sources in Banglasdesh and Vietnam, others are attempting to find alterntive cost effective yarns to blend into their cotton garments.  You’d be surprised at the increase of emails we’ve received lately from spinners, knitters and manufacturers from around the world, enquiring about the availability and pricing of our CRAiLAR® fibres.

Both Levi’s and Hanes have stated that they will be integrating new materials into their products in order to lower costs, Bon-Ton chain is switching from 100 percent cotton in items like sweaters to more acrylic blends.  Liz Claiborne, which makes brands like Juicy Couture and Kate Spade, is also playing with some of the materials it uses.  One example, said spokeswoman Jane Randel,  would be shifting from some imported Italian fabrics to “suppliers who produce their own raw materials or yarns”.

Ms. Johnson,  an analyst with First Capital Group, stated that “We may be training a new generation to be far more accepting of synthetic fibers, which is likely to hurt cotton’s market share in the long run.”

We believe that companies can blend their way out of the cotton dilemma.  However, with the higher demand from manufacturers switching away from cotton mixed with the anticipated rise in oil costs, the price of polyester and other synthetic fibres continue to rise  – nearly 25% this past year.  So, are synthetic fibres the solution?

We believe that CRAiLAR® Organic Fibres are the foundation of the first truly sustainable yarn in the apparel industry, and are poised to become the revolutionary next step in sustainable fibres, providing an economically sustainable complement to cotton.

Created using bast fibres such as flax, hemp, jute and kenaf, the yarns made from CRAiLAR® Organic Fibres can be used in knit, woven or nonwoven fabrics, alone, or blended with other natural fibers.  CRAiLAR® can be used in both mainstream and alternative apparel and fashion fabrics, as well as industrial textiles.  Through spinning trials, CRAiLAR® Flax was found to be of very high quality and ideally suited for fine knit items such as T-shirts.

With cotton prices currently well over a dollar per pound, flax is a cost-effective raw material for fibre production.  We estimate that we will be able to provide CRAiLAR® Flax at approximately $0.90 per pound making it an econimically viable complement to cotton.


18/11/2010 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Organic vs. GMO – There’s No Comparison

The cotton industry has weathered many storms this year, literally.  The crop killing hailstorms in Texas, devastating floods in Pakistan and record low tempartures in China, all played a role in the record high cotton prices we’ve been seeing in the headlines.

India, which is the world’s third largest supplier of conventional cotton and is responsible for supplying 51% of the world’s organic cotton,  is facing a dilemma of their own.  Several Indian farmers, specifically in the  Karnataka, Raichur, Nanjangud, Haveri and Hubli regions, may soon fall off the organic cotton map due to shortages of non-Bt cotton seeds and contamination of traditional seeds.

The non-availability of conventional seeds is often due to the contamination of the parent line with the genetically modified variety because of cross-pollination, which is difficult to check or monitor.  Traditional cotton seeds are regularily sent for testing and the results confirm that the seeds are contaminated.  Officials in the Department of Agriculture have confirmed the near absence of the traditional variety of cotton seeds in the market.  These issues have been discussed with National Seeds Corporation Ltd., which can grow the traditional variety of cotton seeds but the process would take at least two years.  The fact is, no farmer could afford to wait for two years which means that in all likelihood organic cotton growers will have no choice but to shift to Bt seeds.

Initially the introduction of Bt cotton seeds brought hope to Indian Farmers.  There was widespread propaganda in India that genetically engineered (GE) cotton crops would provide the solution to poverty and hunger eradication.  On the contrary, recent global analyses have concluded that eco farming – using low-cost, locally available and agro-ecological technologies – is effectively having the same outcome.  The study, completed by Greenpeace, is a comparative analysis of two contrasting methods of agriculture:  Bt cotton cropping that relies primarily on chemically intensive agriculture vs. ecological farming in the example of organic cotton farmers.  The goal of this study was to document the realities of farming in the Indian cotton regions and the focus of the analysis is the economic livelihood of the cotton farmers themselves.

Organic cotton is in high demand in the textile industry across the world.  India was one of the first country’s to have an organic farming policy in place and was at the forefront of promoting organic cotton which fetched a higher  premium than Bt cotton in the market and earned farmers substantially more (Rs. 900) per quintal (100 kg).

Policy makers need to ensure that farmers have a say on what seed, crops and varieties they choose to plant.  They need to safeguard the interest of farmers by developing indigenous technology.   Bt cotton appeared to be a Godsend when first introduced in 2002, but the realities of this ‘wonder crop’ have now set in and it’s become clear that it is robbing Indian farmers of their hopes, dreams, potential as well as generations of seed saving  and farming practices that can’t afford to be forgotten.

16/11/2010 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Vancouver Makes Top 10 List

Vancouverites don’t like to toot their horns too much so we’ll let The Mark do it for us!

In a recent post , titled ‘The World’s 10 Greenest Citites’, they listed Vancouver as one of the Top 10 Greenest Cities and explained how cities are becoming increasingly important fronts in the fight against climate change.

Here’s what they have to say about our wonderful city –  “An urban area carved from an awe-inspiring landscape, it’s no wonder Vancouver is dedicated to protecting the environment.  As part of the city’s 100-year plan for environmentally friendly living, Vancouver has adopted solar-powered trash compactors, developed an innovative public transportation system and reduced its reliance on non-renewable energy to 10 per cent.  The city also contains more than 200 parks.

To check out what other cities made the Top 10 list and to vote for your favourite city, visit The Mark.

15/11/2010 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

Exploring Sustainability in Textiles

The North Carolina College of Textiles will be hosting a sustainability workshop for the textile industry beginning this Thursday, November 11th through November 12th.

The purpose for the workshop is to present key concepts regarding sustainability for the textile industry in the areas of innovation, energy, and the environment.  Information regarding best practices for reducing energy costs and environmental impacts will be presented to promote industry-wide sustainability.

It is hoped that through this conference that participants will collaborate to address sustainability issues and promote work in the following areas.

  • Reducing operating costs
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Reducing resource consumption
  • Reducing environmental impacts and emissions
  • Benchmarking energy and environmental performance
  • Marketing companies and products that incorporate sustainable practices

Notable speakers at the event include David Bennell, of Organic Exchange, who will be discussing Global Sustainable Textile Trends and Marketplace Developments and Tommy Thompson, of Hanesbrands, who will discuss Sustainability:  Impacting Policy and the Future of Apparel and Textiles.

09/11/2010 at 8:06 am Leave a comment

Rising Cotton Prices Hit the Pocket Book

Gone are the days of $5 tees and undies.  Shoppers will begin to pay more for clothing next year as skyrocketing cotton prices force companies to take their chances with price increases even as consumer demand remains slow.

Cotton prices have been driven higher by demand from developing countries, mostly China and India, where rising wealth is boosting consumption patterns.  Severe weather is also to blame, with heavy rains in China and flooding in Pakistan damaging many crops and limiting cotton supply.

Companies like Jones Group, which includes lines Nine West and Anne Klein, and Hanesbrand plan to raise prices on clothing by as much as 10%.  When cotton prices began to rise a year ago, retailers and manufacturers were uncertain how much of the cost would be passed along to consumers but with  cotton now up approximately 80% since the beginning of the year, apparel companies can no longer eat the costs.

Children’s clothing manufacturer and retailer Carter’s Inc., which includes OshKosh B’Gosh brand,  said in October that costs for its spring 2011 product rose 11% and that it expects costs to rise even further for fall merchandise.

“The price increases mark a sharp reversal in apparel price trends, which have been deflationary for at least a decade”, says Emanuel Weintraub, a retail consultant.  “The moves are setting up a “high-stakes poker game” with retailers”, he says, “who are reluctant to accept price increases while their customers remain in a thrifty mood”.

“Larger, well-capitalized vendors are more likely to have the bargaining power to convince retail partners to pass through the increases but some of the smaller firms could be forced out of business”,  says Mr. Weintraub.

Retailers have been shielding customers from the full impact of commodity price rises for some time now.  Weak consumer confidence means retailers are competing even more fiercely for the limited discretionary spending available.  That situation is unlikely to change from now until Christmas, with retailers clamouring to win the attention of cash-strapped consumers through discounting and promotions.

04/11/2010 at 5:30 am Leave a comment

CRAiLAR® Choosing Flax Over Hemp?

On September 20th, we announced that after successfully transforming hemp fibers into yarns and fabrics with the desirable qualities of cotton, we would now begin a strategic shift to use flax fibers as the foundation for the next phase of its proprietary CRAiLAR Organic Fiber technology.

So, why did we switch our primary feedstock from hemp to flax?

Our technology was developed to work on all bast fiber crops.  Hemp was the initial focus as it is an emerging industry in Canada.  Flax is a bast fiber crop so the CRAiLAR® process works very well without any modification. CRAiLAR® is a versatile technology and also performs well on jute, kenaf, and other similar crops.  At the end of April of this year, we announced that we had successfully spun not only a hemp-cotton combination but we’d also successfully spun a flax-cotton combination.  We found the CRAiLAR® Flax to be of very high quality and ideally suited for fine knit items such as T-shirts.  While hemp is also well suited for knit garments, the legal issues surrounding the crop in the USA combined with the farming learning curve that will be necessary to begin the agricultural supply chain, make commercialization of this fiber more difficult than flax.

Our recent spinning trials with CRAiLAR® Flax have been highly successful, which further validates the feasibility of flax as a practical, economically viable complement to cotton.  Therefore a strategic shift of
focus from hemp to flax was announced earlier this year.

To learn more about this strategic move, please visit our site to review our CRAiLAR® Fact Sheet.

02/11/2010 at 5:30 am Leave a comment

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