There’s More to Green than Money

I want to talk about ways to reduce waste in a typical fashion design office/studio. I have some ideas, but I would love this to jumpstart a discussion to brainstorm even more ideas.

Product Development:
–here’s the most green thing a designer can do: make quality items. pick solid materials. perfect your patterns. sew them right.* make things people will buy and wear and keep and wear again and again instead of tossing them into landfills because it was cheap swill that didn’t last two parties.

–fitting notes can be input directly into your spec file on a laptop or a computer in the same room as the fitting instead of printing out multiple copies of multiple page spec packs (this is also a huge timesaver).

–keep scraps from samples for embellishment sew-outs (for example, if you continue to embroider on denim as part of your line’s signature, you can take large** denim scraps to your embroiderer and ask them to use them for your sew-outs).

–consider a password-protected internal blog (instead of xeroxing ten copies of that really cool movie set) to share ideas and images with coworkers.

–leftover scraps (fabrics, random buttons, trims you’ll never use, leftover discontinued items you can’t source anymore) can go to places like Scrap SF, or directly donated to camps and schools for arts and crafts classes (you can check for possible tax breaks on this).

–fabric scraps can be used as rags for cleaning the studio and office (velvet wipes dust beautifully–I used to dust with old Crown Royal bags when my dad owned a bar)

–scraps can also be wrapped around handles of metal tools for easier use.

Sales & Marketing:
–scraps can be used for swatchcards/books if you’re running the same fabric the next season (usually basics like white cotton jersey), or cut your swatches from the scraps off your sample cuts.

–people are lazy and will recycle more if it’s convenient. keep recycling bins near the important spots like near the printer, the copy machine, etc.

–the obvious: recycled paper goods, soy-based ink, using both sides of the paper, turn things off when not using them for a while.

electronic faxing

staple-less staplers

–refillable pens

–all internal communication done via email or IM. then you can verify that yes, they got the memo, without giving them three copies.

green electronic waste management for old monitors, printers, cartridges, etc.

–consider donating your old, but still working cell phone to a worthy cause.

–I know a large insurance company that keeps all their records as PDF files. They’re backed up on an external server and automatically deleted as a file dates past seven years.

–use recycled/reused cardboard as packing material instead of styrofoam peanuts.

–you can also use plastic air packs (about the size of a small foot), made of recycled and recyclable plastic, and people can reuse them over and over again until they get punctured (they’re fairly durable).

–stock your kitchen for real dishes and flatware for your employees instead of using disposables.

–use low-emission solutions, solvents, cleaners, etc.

–buy quality goods, so you’re not replacing your “bargain” over and over again

read this

and this

So, what ideas do you have?

*I’m not talking about couture techniques or even necessarily heirloom-worthy. Just well made things that last a good while. And apparently Kathleen demands pockets in her pants and quite frankly, so do I.

**large as in big enough for the embroidery machine to be able to hold onto the fabric–check with your embellisher

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  1. Kathleen says:

    My pet peeve is that going green means granola crunchy or twigs and leaves to most people but it doesn’t have to be that way. Green can be luxurious. For example, consider using cloth napkins rather than paper ones. Most people consider using cloth napkins as a luxury but we use them daily. You can buy them from a restaurant supply. Or, even nicer is to buy embroidered linen napkins you find at garage sales. Those are often in pristine condition because people have never used them, they’re too “fancy”. It’s a tragedy that they never get used …and who says they have to match or have your initials on them? Those are often so beautiful, what better way to enjoy a daily guiltless luxury than with fine embroidered linens? Better to celebrate an embroiderer’s artisanry through usage rather than having them stuck in a drawer where they’ll rot and no one will ever see them.

    Tip for linen napkin users: To avoid having to iron them, pull them out of the dryer while they’re still damp and fold them with some torque to it.

  2. Sahara says:

    This is a fantastic post! When I was cleaning out my great aunt’s closet, and examined her suits from the 30’s and 40’s, the sheer quality and perfection of the construction––this may sound corny––made me slightly teary. On the other hand, when I walk down my street (which is one big junior market), all I see is what my partner refers to as “disposable date clothing.” It is ALL about making quality garments.

    It is a common practice amongst us knitters to find wool sweaters in thrift shops, unravel them and re-knit them into other objects; and no, they don’t look beat up.

    Anyway, this is personal. For design studios out there, there are charity quilters WHO ARE DYING TO HAVE YOUR LUXURIOUS SCRAPS! One studio’s swatches and scraps, are another homeless mom’s blanket.

  3. Heather says:

    I find our napkins at thrift stores, consignment stores and “antique” stores.

    Usually less than a dollar each for lovely napkins.

    Then when they get threadbare, they are very nice dusting cloths.

  4. Joan Hawley says:

    Great post! Don’t forget the other easy things like compact florescent bulbs. I’ve been changing over to them a bulb or two at a time. Makes me feel green when I turn them on.


  5. anne says:

    I’m one of those dreaded home sewers, so not all of this is applicable to DEs.

    I’ve bought buttons, trim, fabric by the metre and in pieces (although that was silks) from DEs.
    I’ve been to warehouse sales at factories making bridal wear, children’s wear, good designer clothing, and recreational clothing (including Goretex).

    They make some money, I get fabric I’d never see elsewhere, and we’re all happy.

    Small scraps can be used as pocket and waistband facings, baby clothes, bags, you can add appliques to your garments – if the fabric is nice, why waste it? When my daughter was tiny, the scraps left over from making me a t-shirt were enough to make her one too. Sadly, now she’s nineteen, that’s just not the case any more ;-(

    Oh, and I’ve just unravelled and reknitted a jumper(sweater) I spun and knitted ten years ago, as I’ve got rid of a lot of weight recently and it now fits again, and looks as good as new.

  6. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Cool. I knew some of this, but thanks for updating us on the rest.
    Since I bought Trader Joe’s reuseable grocery bags, I haven’t been collecting as many paper and plastic bags, but I’m going to use them for my yard sale this weekend.

  7. Diane says:

    It took awhile but I finally trained myself to carry tote bags for *all* my shopping. Someday I hope to see at least one other person in the store using canvas instead of plastic.

    Worn out linen napkins make great press cloths. In quilting, a wet press cloth under a hot iron can turn any wonky block into a flat pancake.

    Also, I’ve been using cotton scraps and dryer lint as a mulch for my tomato plants.

  8. I was thinking about a return program for end consumers- If they returned an item with an explanation of why they didn’t want it any Besides strenthening the loyalty of the consumer,you’d find out which items need improvement, and make sure clothes got donated (tax deduction), instead of tossed. As an alternative to donating, I was thinking a yearly re-fashioning contest would be fun. Returned stuff would go to interested design students or re-fashioners, the winner would get a prize, and the rest would be auctioned off or sold in a special sample sale (crediting the refashioner, of cours). Plus, it might show you creative new ways to adjust your existing patterns for new styles.

    Of course, that involves shipping, so it’s not a perfect solution.

    Also, and totally separately, there are some weavers of rugs, etc who can use scraps. Let me see if I can dig up some contact info.

  9. Our motto is reduce, reuse, recycle and REinvent and it works great. is another good resource for finding a home for many items that would normally go to a landfill. Broken electronics, cardboard tubes, excess packing materials, you name it, there’s someone on freecycle who wants it and will come and get it.

    My blog pales in comparison to this one, but I did write about Freecycle here:

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