The Edge of Nighty presents our "Sustainability Story". Sit back, pour yourself a cup of Nighty Night tea and read on...
“Beautify your life, and you beautify the life of everyone around you.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on Earth, just behind the energy sector. There are hundreds of thousands of elements in the supply chain needed to make every imaginable component in an item of clothing before it arrives to you… and, unfortunately, this industry has not put a lot of thought into the environmental impacts until very recently.
Branding I Love My Nighty as 'environmentally conscious' is an effort that has both rewards and challenges. Everything we do uses resources and has an impact on the environment. So deciding to be eco-friendly to us means:
We are taking into consideration every aspect of the business and manufacturing of apparel and reducing the environmental impact as much as is possible – in this moment.
What “in this moment” means is there may not be a way to produce it with less impact at this time due to availability of resources or other obstacles. For example, there’s no eco-friendly substitute for spandex/elastane that exists right now. Although we will design many beautiful garments that won’t have spandex, certain styles require it because it improves the performance of the fabric, helps a garment to keep its shape, or allows stretch so it’s easier to put on and take off. A greener option for stretch technology is something many designers want and textile engineers and scientists are currently trying to develop.
Spandex is just one element of fabric to take into consideration. There are so many ways to look at the impacts of fabric manufacturing. It starts with the fiber – is it natural or synthetic? If it’s natural, what are the land impacts and how much water, fertilizers or pesticides does it need to grow? How much energy is used in harvesting techniques? How much distance does it then travel to be processed? Even natural fibers need a chemical compound to break it down into pulp – what are those chemicals, how much water is needed, what happens to the waste? It makes your head spin, and as soon as you settle on a choice you feel good about, you hear about that one bad impact and suddenly you’re feeling like a fraud!
Another factor in fabric selection is the country of origin. Ideally we look for fabrics made in the USA, but we are aware that the fibers are most likely imported. The only natural eco-fiber produced in the USA is organic cotton and we don’t have a very large industry here. Fortunately, there are many amazing fabrics that go through rigorous certification processes to ensure high standards, even if not made in the USA, so as long as we feel comfortable that it’s meeting our goals to be the best available at this moment for our garments, then we will use it.
The reason to consider where the fabric is made is so you can determine how many miles all those rolls will travel to get to your factory. Is there a way to find a supplier that’s close to the factory and reduce fossil fuel emissions? There sure is! States like New York, California and North Carolina have an amazing network of mills and factories. Many states have one or the other which makes the opportunities for proximity that much more possible. We are based in Somerville, MA and found both a factory and supplier 50 miles from each other in New York. This is satisfactory for us, considering the emissions used for both our team and our products to travel between the three locations. We have other suppliers not as close but are working to reduce those travel miles as we grow.
Are you feeling the frustrations yet? We’re only halfway there, so get ready to tackle trim! Trim is the zippers, buttons, snaps, elastics, labels and any other little add-on you can think of: gemstones, fur, lace, patches, appliqués, velcro, cords and anything else added to the fabric. The most eco-friendly trim is… no trim at all! That’s been our main guiding design principle, but again, is not always possible.
We needed a bit of elastic for our signature design, Evelina Lu. We searched for made in USA and got a sample, but it wasn’t as soft as we needed. So what’s more important – a soft elastic or locally made? Because we must make clothes that are comfortable, we need the softest option. For our cozy hoodie, Julie Lu, we came up with the idea to add a bit of fur trim. This time we knew eco-friendly was the only option because this is not a necessary element to the clothing. Almost 100% of faux fur is made from polyester. Luckily there are a handful of lovely options made from hemp, recycled-polyester, and even pineapple!
Ready for more? Let’s pick apart packaging! Less is best but there’s an expectation that your purchase is going to come in a presentable package. It would be great if we could just stuff our nighties in a box, put a stamp on it and send it off… but this would be met with skepticism by our customers about the quality of the product and that would be hard to overcome, no matter how great the product is. So we researched every possible way to eco-package our lovely loungewear. Fortunately our goods are lightweight and not fragile so we have several quality options. A recycled cardboard box is great but costs more in shipping because of the weight of the package itself. It’s also hard to get the right size and you may end up adding some kind of filler in the box. The next option is a mailer. Most mailers are made of plastic but we discovered mailers made from 100% recycled paper or plastic which can also be re-used. There are even 100% compostable eco-plastic mailers!
Now onto marketing madness! This means any printing or swag to get customers’ attention. Finding recycled or FSC certified paper and non-toxic inks is a priority. Looking at ways to combine marketing materials with something useful so people don’t just throw it away is a challenge we are trying to overcome. Again, less is best but figuring how to balance a beautiful presentation and building brand recognition without investing too much money or creating waste is always the goal.
Lastly, we come to YOU, our lovely customers! What you do with your purchase when you receive it matters to us. Please recycle or reuse all shipping materials, from the envelope to the tiniest of tags. That piece of string on the hangtag is made from hemp and is compostable! Wash your garments in cold water and air dry to reduce your carbon footprint. Use natural detergents that are not scented with harmful chemicals. Read our size information carefully to get the right size from the start to reduce emissions and packaging needs associated with returns. Recycle your garment if it reaches its end of life. Handle it with care and you may even be able to pass it on to the next generation as "vintage" clothing!