WHAT IS THE MOST SUSTAINABLE T-SHIRT? (PART 2)

In the first part to answer the question “What is the most sustainable T-shirt?” we have already established that such a T-shirt, if newly produced, cannot exist in principle. However, we strongly believe there are important aspects that can be applied to produce a more sustainable product: A holistic approach from raw material to the end of the use phase is crucial, with raw material selection, production processes and transparency across the entire value chain being of great importance.

In the case of the T-shirt LEGNA, we have therefore paid close attention to all these aspects to minimise our impact on the environment as far as possible, while always keeping a close eye on quality and comfort.

The following elaborations should therefore explain in more detail how we have decided in each case from a purely sustainability perspective and what guides us:

Raw materials

We select raw materials according to their ecological life cycle performance: We do not use conventional synthetics (virgin or recycled) due to microplastic pollution; cotton is used only after detailed investigation based on our own specific criteria; animal materials only if they are repurposed and of Swiss origin (Swiss wool, Swiss deerskin).

In the case of the T-Shirt LEGNA we chose our wood-based fibres not just because this certain type of material has a drastically lower environmental impact than, for example, conventional cotton (see Higg Index and below). We also decided to work with this great material because we intend to show that there are a lot of exciting alternatives to cotton and synthetics out there and that this is only the beginning of our quest to develop alternative, sustainable solutions.

So why do we believe our raw material selection is a considerate, sustainable choice?

  • The wood stems from sustainable forestry, is of organic origin and the resulting fibres are biodegradable

  • Fibre manufacturing process takes place in closed loops, where over 99% of the solvents can be reused over and over

  • Our wood-fibres compared to conventional cotton:

    • Require up to 70% less space for cultivation

    • Require up to 20 times less water consumption

    • Have a very high dyeing efficiency,equiring half the dye quantity and energy consumption to achieve the same shade

    • Have a very low bleaching requirement

Transparency

We look at the entire value chain, from raw materials to fibre production, spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing, confection and we’re happy to let our customers know about every single detail if they’re interested.

In case of the T-Shirt LEGNA, we not only know and communicate where the final product was confectioned (“made in”), but we try to inform the consumer of the bigger picture of textile production, as elaborated in the next passage.

Supply chain optimization

Optimizing along the whole supply chain is very difficult and uses a lot of effort, but we sure believe it’s worth it. We established our entire supply chain in Europe, not only to optimize transportation routes and logistics, but mainly because it allows us to control and monitor each and every production step more closely. For instance, when our decision was made for a suitable T-Shirt fabric, our next step wasn’t to find the cheapest garment producer, but to collaborate with one that fulfils our strict environmental criteria, produces according to our high quality standards and most importantly, fits into our story and the rest of the supply chain.

Therefore, our fibres for the T-Shirt LEGNA are produced in Austria with wood from Europe and South Africa. They are then shipped to Portugal where they are spun to yarns, knitted to fabrics as well as dyed and finished all by the same company. From there, the finished fabric is transported by truck to our production facility, which is less than an hour away from the fabric production. Except for the wood, the fibres and the sewing yarn, all other main production steps are therefore done in Portugal in a perimeter of less than 100km before the finished T-Shirts are shipped to Switzerland and sold to our customers.

Social standards

We strive to select production partners at all stages of the supply chain who offer fair working conditions. Although it can be assumed that social standards are generally quite high at our production sites in EU countries, we try to investigate further and prioritize those that have more detailed evidence of compliance and we personally try to visit each and every one of them.

Production processes

A large portion of a garment’s environmental impact (roughly 30% – see here for example) stems from wet processes, dyeing and finishing. There are interesting innovations being developed with natural dyes, no-water-dyeing etc., but most of them are not commercially available or fully applicable yet, especially for natural fibres. While we do put a strong emphasis on this matter, we had to go with the currently most sustainable option out there, meaning we relied on the highest possible environmental standards that are currently commercially available (GOTS and Bluesign certified dyeing house, dyed and finished according to Bluesign and OekoTex standards) to ensure a high quality and long lasting product, while trying to avoid any unnecessary harm to the environment. Having said that, we will not stop researching and prototyping for even better solutions and are open for collaboration and suggestions for improvement.

Development for circularity

The buzzword circularity is a tough nut to crack and we wouldn’t dare to claim that we’re fully circular (yet). What we did do though, is make sure our T-Shirts do not leave any harmful substances in the environment should there ever come a point for its end of life. Our T-shirt is designed to be fully recyclable because it’s made of 100% the same material. Hence, we made sure we’re not using blended fabrics, we avoid any unnecessary chemicals, plastics etc. so that our T-shirts could potentially biodegrade. The latter doesn’t mean the product should be buried in the backyard or mixed in with food scraps, but returned to us. We’ll know how and where to surly feed it into a recycling loop or dispose of it.

Adhering to all these criteria – especially along the entire value chain is enormously complex and requires extensive development and research. This might be why we are way slower than other companies in the development of new products, but we do not want to have to make compromises when it comes to product performance and sustainability.

If you have any inputs, suggestions or ideas for improvement,Please feel free to reach out and talk to us, we’re eager to learn and get our products to the next level.

 


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