There was a time when terms such as “ecology,” “sustainability,” “environmentalist” and “eco-friendly” belonged to a group (perceived to be small) of “tree-huggers” with ideas that many thought were radical, unnecessary or even just silly.
However, I don’t think this was ever a small group. There were millions, at the time, who wouldn’t have used the terminology, but were, in fact, careful about waste, water usage, preserving the natural beauty of their surroundings and consuming only what they needed. People like my parents. They appreciated what they had and made good use of it—all of it, from water to clothes to furniture and food.
This same sensibility is gaining traction today in the general populace and is embraced by who-knows-how-many across the globe. It gets more complicated when we talk about producing textiles and textile products, but there are smart people out there who are taking sustainability very seriously and coming up with ingenious alternatives to less environmentally friendly products and practices. This trend is not a blip in the history of textiles; I think it’s a permanent shift—a sea change, if you will, that once we’ve incorporated into our lives, it will not make any sense to go back.
Seshadri Ramkumar’s feature, “Sustainability in the industry: where do we go next?” presents some powerful opinions by experts in their fields. Their insights are not necessarily textile specific; they’re comprehensive, because there just is no way to talk about textiles as if they are produced in their own universe. We all know they’re not. The whole value chain—from the chemical manufacturers to the workers making end products who recycle their soda cans—is an integral part of how we succeed in transitioning to a more sustainable industry. Or not.
Science doesn’t make things up, and scientists must be believed. I get stories about astounding breakthroughs in my inbox regularly, and our ability—and our will—to scale up and commercialize is growing with the science. Regardless of what the U.S. government and other governments worldwide decide concerning regulations, business leaders have been taking, and continue to take initiative on their own to move their companies into a more sustainable future—many of them going beyond imposed rules or guidelines.
These are not radical tree huggers (although they might be legit tree huggers). They are smart, forward-thinking industry participants who not only see the direction manufacturing is headed, but they are doing their part to influence a more environmentally healthy world for all.