Design for Lower Energy Consumption

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Design for Lower Energy Consumption

Do you know the amount of energy used to create your pair of jeans?
As part of the Fashion Designers Do Good series, we look at how designer choices can influence energy consumption.

Energy Consumption Along the Supply Chain
There are a lot of points along the supply chain where we can make a difference, ranging from the fabric choice to the factory where we choose to manufacture the garments.
Let's look at a pair of jeans....

Source: Energy Consumption in the UK Jeans Supply Chain
University of Westminister

The University of Westminster conducted a Life Cycle Analysis of a pair of jeans manufactured for and distributed in the UK. This study was based on cotton jeans, but I'm sure the energy consumption would rise if the jeans were a blend of cotton and polyester or other synthetic material.

" product manufacture is the most energy intensive procedure in the jeans supply chain studied (approximately 60% of total energy use in the supply chain), followed by cotton fibre production (20%) and finished product stockholding and retailing (i.e. the energy used to run the warehouses and shops in which jeans are stored and displayed) which is responsible for 18% of energy use. The transport activities (i.e. commercial freight transport from field to shop, and consumer transport to home) can be seen to account for 3% of the total energy used per kg of jeans supplied."

Reducing Manufacture Energy Consumption
The manufacture process is so mechanised that it is hard to produce textiles without energy. I read (I can't remember where, sorry) that to reduce energy consumption at the cotton fibre production stage, it would be best to leave out the machinery and allow manual labour to take over. Personally I feel that would be a painstakingly slow and unhealthy process.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, suggests best practises to monitor and reduce energy consumption in textile mills.  These include insulating pipes, heat recovery and optimising compressed air systems.

Image: Hazel Harper

Reducing Transport Energy Consumption
Want to transport your goods by air? Think again. The Natural Resources Defense Council, suggests: 
  • Avoiding air transport whenever possibleContinental Clothing reduced greenhouse gas-emissions by 90 percent by switching to ocean-going ships for some of their products. French shoe line, Veja, also ships their products by freight from Brazil.
  • Picking the type of ship wisely - Look for Grade A ships. According to shippingefficiency.org, choose a more fuel-efficient ship to potentially reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 53 percent. Shippingefficiency is a database of ship rankings maintained by the nonprofit organization Carbon War Room. 
  • Considering the shipping route - OOCL has a carbon calculator for its shipping routes, while for trucking there is the option of joining the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association Empty Miles program. It is a collaborative network that enables businesses to reduce empty miles. This means trucks are not empty on the return leg of a journey.

Container ship in Hong KongImage: Karen Winton

Educating the Consumer 

Levi Strauss looked at not only these stages of the jeans' lifecycle but at the consumer stages as well.

They found that consumer care is one of the main contributers to energy consumption (ie climate change impact) in the life cycle of Levi's 501 jeans. This included laundering (warm vs cold wash), frequency of washing, ironing and line dry vs dryer.

Levis Strauss realised that a little marketing muscle was needed to educate consumers on laundering in a more environmentally friendly manner.

How will you reduce your energy impact?

Mega Kampung Balik - Want some fun next weekend?

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Are you and your family free next weekend (1 - 2 August)? 

Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) is having a 2 day carnival in celebration of Singapore's 50 years as a nation! I'll be there too, so drop by and say "hi", or pop by and learn some repair. Sign up details are below. 

Expect a series of programmes that promote community building and sustainable living, and give you and your family and friends a chance to get your hands dirty. There will be food, entertainment, a flea and farmers' market, DIY workshops (pre-registration required) and activities in the Craft, Play, Farming and Family zones to enjoy.

Be a part of Mega Balik Kampung! 
Register for exciting workshops here!  http://goo.gl/forms/BIV2WG2OaH

Help as a volunteer for Mega Balik Kampung! 

Fix It Friday - Fix Your Haversack!

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Do you have a haversack that needs fixing?
Torn? Big gaping hole? Straps torn from the main body?
Pop by our Fix It Friday on 31 July, 7pm-930pm

Cost: $8    Sign up here 
Location: Prototyping Lab, Level 1, National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road (nearest MRT: Bugis or Bras Basah)

The Stories Behind My Picnic Mat

The Stories Behind My Picnic Mat

"We need more colour!"
And so I made a picnic mat.
I made a call for scraps, and they came!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the mat for the Maker Faire; no matter how big or small, I really appreciate it. 
As I was making the mat, I realised that each scrap has a story behind it. I thought it would be interesting to find out more, and so I interviewed the contributors.

#1  "These were curtains. We had ordered some for the spa and then found they were too long. We ended up cutting them shorter!"
#2  "I think my mum used to sew it into bolster cover"
#3  Uniform from Marina Bay Sands. It was going to be thrown out but the fabric from the waist coats was too pretty.
#4  "I think I bought that (top) when I was 15, with little I have, it only cost me $2 at a reject shop. I think it's vibrant and cute. Then I gave it to my sister. We both grew out of it"
#5  "My dad used to have a factory making garments for overseas export, but the textiles industry was moving to cheaper places like Bangladesh so his business went bust. All these fabrics used to be samples that he got from his suppliers."
#6  From the maternity dress that I made in 2005! It was baby pink and sweet - not sure what I was thinking of though.
#7  Cut offs from I bought from Fictive Fingers.
#8  "Clothing for a soft toy that I made for a swap!"
#9  Another maternity dress, the one that was converted into a skirt!
#10  "These were my daughters' (yes, all 3) pyjamas"
#11 Scraps left over from making my own sanitary liners (more details later!)
#12  Scraps from an old lady who passed away recently (story here) She was the lady who gave me the lace for my refashioned lace top.

For me, the story that touched me the most was #5, the one about his dad's garment factory closing down. It's a reminder that things don't always go as planned, no matter how hard you try. But then, the happy thing is that things turned out alright for them in the end.

Do you own something that has an interesting story/stories behind it?
Linking up to:
TwoUses Tuesday

Design for Lower Chemical Impacts

Design for Lower Chemical Impacts

Let's Talk Chemical Impacts.
Have you ever looked at the label on your clothes? Have you questioned what the garment is made of?
As designers, the choice of fabric and processes involved in textile production influence the environmental impact of the garment from the production of the textile, to garment production and eventually driving consumer care requirements. We are talking about chemical impacts, energy and water usage.  How can we design to minimise these?  This week we are talking about chemical impacts.

#1 Material Selection
I'll Wear Natural, I'll Wear Organic
Most consumers believe that by wearing natural or organic they will be chemical-free. Unfortunately, this is not the case; all textiles/garments are harmful to the environment in their own way and chemicals make their way into the life-cycle of a garment be it at the fiber production (e.g pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, sodium hydroxide), or during textile production / garment manufacture (e.g. dyes, formaldehyde etc to achieve certain finishes). Let's go into a few textiles:
Cotton - Organic vs Conventional
"Conventional (non-organic) cotton is grown and harvested using heavy quantities of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in production to maximize efficiency and output.
Conventional cotton is one of the most chemically dependent crops, using 16 percent of all insecticides used for global food and fiber production n It takes 1/3 of a pound of chemicals to produce enough cotton for a t-shirt, and 3/4 of a pound for a pair of jeans.
Three of the 10 most acutely hazardous insecticides are commonly used chemicals to grow cotton"  Natural Resources Defense Council


If you are choosing organic, bear in mind that it is not chemical-free. Read up on the standards your chosen organic textile is certified under. Remember, most standards state which chemicals are allowed/approved for use.   An example is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which clearly defines what is allowed for use or prohibited. 

Bamboo - Mechanical Vs Chemical Processing
One of  my friends swears by bamboo as the crop does not require pesticides or insecticides; she also loves it because it is soft and silky and more breathable than cotton. 
However, when sourcing for bamboo textiles, always do your research; not all of them are created equal.
Bamboo textiles can be created either mechanical or chemical processing.  The mechanical process is very eco-friendly and only relies on the bamboo's natural enzymes to break down the bamboo into a mush before fibers are combed out and spun. The chemical process, however requires carbon disulfide to turn the cellulose into a gel. Sodium hydroxide is then added to "spin" fibers.  This process, known as hydrolysis alkalisation, is less time-consuming than the mechanical process, but it is also highly toxic.  According to Patagonia:    

"The solvent used for this process is carbon disulfide, a toxic chemical that is a known human reproductive hazard. It can endanger factory workers and pollute the environment via air emissions and wastewater. The recovery of this solvent in most viscose factories is around 50%, which means that the other half goes into the environment. Other potentially hazardous chemicals are also used in the viscose process, including sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid."
GOTS also has this to say about bamboo:

"For almost all bamboo fibre used in industrial textile production not the natural bamboo is used but it is melted and regenerated in a viscose / rayon process and can therefore not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was originally certified organic on the field. In consequence in GOTS certified textiles bamboo fibres can only be used for the tolerated remaining balance of conventional fibers. If the rayon is made from organically grown bamboo up to 30% may be used for the label grade ‘made with organic materials’. These rules apply to regenerated fibres derived from any other raw material source (e.g. wood, cotton lints, soybean, milk) as well. Users of bamboo (and other regenerated) fibres should also be aware about the legal labelling requirements in their sales markets. In the US, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has clarified that if bamboo is produced through rayon process these fibers must be called rayon and not bamboo"

Fashion Incubator  is a good reference if you want to avoid trouble when using bamboo fabrics.

Polyester is the most popular synthetic textile and is made from crude oil. Oh, and don't forget, it is CHEAP! If you recall your science class at school, the formation of polyester involves catalytically transforming monomers to a polymer. The whole process involves a lot of energy and chemicals as shown below, and releases Volatile Organic Compounds into the environment. A good read up about it can be found here.  Unfortunately, these chemicals (including catalysts, such as antimony, which is toxic) can persist in textiles and come in contact with the skin of people using the finished textiles. It is without a doubt, the process is an environmental and public health burden.

What choices are there? Again, it pays to do your research! There are polyester textiles that are manufactured using antimony-free catalysts. According to the Eco Forum, " EU Eco-label system requires limitations on the use of polyester catalysts – however does not exclude them. The maximum content of antimony in polyester fibres is limited to 260ppm with the EU Eco-labelling criteria, while the Oeko-Tex standard limit is 30ppm."

#2 Cleaner Processes

Does your fabric supplier have water treatment facilities in place? 
I think this is a very important question to ask when sourcing for fabrics. Before any waste water effluent is discharged, it must be treated. Not treating it would be detrimental to the environment and to public health.

No Dyes?
Why not opt for undyed or colour-grown fabrics? Others ask why not use natural dyes instead of synthetic ones? Well, natural is not synonymous with healthy or green. And it definitely does not mean that it was organically grown or sustainable. In fact, the use of natural dyes requires toxic mordants to fix them into the fibers.

Are there technologies that can reduce the need for chemicals in the garment industry? The Guardian recently wrote and article about technology that reduces water consumption in the dying process. I think these reduce the amount of polluting dyes used too as traditional dyeing methods are inefficient. Other advances include ozone technology instead of conventional bleaching methods (e.g. for denim textiles), using heating methods as a dyeing technique and laser technology for adhesives.

Dry Jeans

Are there any other ways to lower the chemical impacts in the industry?

This post is part of the Fashion Designers Do Good series.

Fix It Friday - Repair@Schools

After the textile repair session

A stitch in time saves nine

Last month, I was part of the Repair@Schools 4-day workshop at Madrasah Aljunied.  The programme, Repair4Ramadhan was organised by FiTree, in collaboration with Sustainable Living Lab and the school. Students of the Madrasah were trained to become Repair Ambassadors, learning basic repair skills in electrical appliances, furniture (home improvement) and textile repair. 

The programme culminated in a free repair event where the students guided the public in repairing their household items. The objective of the programme is to encourage a repair culture in Singapore, and to empower Muslim students to contribute back to the community as Stewards of the Earth. Repair4Ramadhan was supported by SG50Kita, Rahmatan lil Alamin Foundation, PUB Friends of Water and Warees Investments.

An Enjoyable Experience
As one of the instructors, it was wonderful seeing the students pick up not only repair skills, but grow in confidence to speak in public, teach others, and lead a repair station. For the textile repairs, I noticed that 
  1. the boys loved the sewing machine (and wanted to make a small pouch immediately!); and
  2. they were all very patient when it came to hand sewing and they appreciated the need for it.
It was truely an enjoyable experience.
For more pictures, please go to this link.
For enquiries about having the Repair@School run at your school, please contact info@sl2square.org

All images are courtesy of Sustainable Living Lab