When it comes to sustainability, cotton production has a complex history. When we wear our garments, we often have no idea where they come from and what carbon footprint they carry. Different from the early part of the 20th century, the United States is no longer the leading cotton producer. China and India are currently fighting for dominance of the market– between them, 10,000 metrics tons of cotton are produced.
China and India’s ascendancy in the garment industry has profoundly affected the carbon footprint of cotton worldwide. In addition to production factories and the industrial application of pesticides and fertilizers (in a fight to stay economically relevant), shipping cotton internationally is a costly and environmentally damaging operation.
In The United States…
In the United States, we harvest cotton through more technologically advanced and modern processes. Due to the U.S. mechanized processes, the farming of cotton is fairly well regulated by both environmental concerns and the federal regulators.
However, no matter where in the world agricultural fiber production takes place it comes at an environmental cost. Field maintenance and harvesting such as weed control, pest control and industrialized irrigation systems have a deteriorating touch on the land.
In addition, synthetic fertilizer is the leading contributor to environmental damage: one metric ton of nitrogen enriched fertilizer contributing up to seven tons of greenhouse gases. Over time, you can see how exceedingly hazardous synthetic fertilizers are.
Compared to cotton, the manufacturing of synthetic fibers is exceedingly more environmentally contentious. Most t-shirts are made of a combination of synthetic additives such as nylon, rayon, and polyester. The production of these synthetic fibers are rooted in chemically altered fossil fuels. The energy needed to make a ton of spun, synthetic fiber is considerably higher than that required to produce the same ton of spun cotton or other cotton alternatives such as hemp fiber.
The impact fashion has on the environment has not gone unnoticed by us at Spectra. As a garment company, we are acutely aware of every aspect our business has on the environment. All of Spectra’s fabrics, yarns, and specialized, proprietary fibers are created on the North American continent. Our sewing and production factory (in Baja, Ensenada) is in close proximity to our warehouse facility in Chino, California. The controlled distance between our factory and warehouse creates a smaller carbon footprint on all our products because they have fewer miles to travel. Similarly, our headquarters in Chino, California acts as a central distribution point which allows Spectra to easily warehouse some six million garments at any one time, and efficiently distribute and deliver them across our great nation.
Fashion is competitive and one of the most cut-throat industries in the world. Global competitors are outsourcing their materials from China and India in order to stay profitable and relevant. Additionally, they assemble their products in Bangladeshi, or Pakistani sweatshops to keep their labor costs as low as possible and then import them into the US for resale and leverage their maximum profit margin. Companies are choosing greed over environmental consciousness. These choices are racking up immense carbon footprints.
The carbon-footprint, or as we call it at Spectra, ”The Carbon Karma” for these items is immense and, quite frankly, not sustainable in any way. Where today’s consumers may save a few dollars on a ”bargain” item from these manufacturers, it is a price we see being paid by our children and grandchildren and something which Spectra USA is firmly against.
Spectra’s products are never cheap: we ensure that our apparel is made with the smallest carbon footprint possible. We refused to use quick-buck sweatshop slavery: our team is a full-time staff that work out of two designated production sites. We do better, we create cleaner, and we design smarter. These are the kind of elements we think belong in a world-beating t-shirt, made with love, great care, integrity and good karma, the Spectra way. When you use ingredients as great as ours, the result always smacks of success.