Monday, August 10, 2009

Other Than You, What Goes Into Your Shoes?

Ever wonder what it actually takes to make that T-shirt you’re wearing? Or how about the energy that goes into those shiny new sneakers you just picked up? Probably a lot more than you think! Have you every given thought to how you, as a consumer, or you, as a professional, can reduce the amount of energy required for making these products? Remember, not only does unnecessary energy usage cost you money, but it also sucks for the environment.

The guys over at Pentland (those crazy Brits responsible for brands like Speedo, Red or Dead and Lacoste) gave these questions some considerable thought and came up with a 40 some page brief on the true energy costs of some of our most common apparel purchases. Furthermore, they looked at some of the ways that both manufactures and consumers can reduce the energy usage over the lifetime of the product. Here’s a quick glance at what they came up with.

A product’s energy usage occurs over its entire lifetime. By breaking the products life up into four different stages, Raw Materials, Production, Use and End of Life, we are able to identify where big improvement in energy savings can be made.

Take a disposable camera for example. Not much energy is needed during the production and usage stage. Also, because of the camera’s limited size, the end of life impact (when it gets thrown away) is limited. However, because of the incredibly short life span of the camera, its raw material usage is sky high! An automobile on the other hand will have moderate production and end of life costs, very low resource costs, but giant usage costs because of the fuel needed to keep it running over the car’s lifetime.

Therefore, the easiest and most effective ways to save energy are going to be in the areas where energy usage is the highest. Disposable cameras are going to need to cut back on raw materials and autos are going to have to find ways to cut back at the pump.

When we consider that T-shirt of yours, what stage do you think requires the most energy? Shockingly, it is the use stage. All that washing and drying adds up you know. Your sneakers use a tone of raw materials, require a heavy amounts of energy for production, and because the life span of our shoes is not that long, the end of life cost is quite large. So what to do about it?

Pentland offers energy conservation recommendations for T-shirts, shoes, fleece jackets, flip-flops and swim wear, and not just for the usage stage, but for the entire product life cycle.

Manufacturers of materials for T-shirts are urged to explore alternative materials such as hemp, bamboo or organic cotton (cotton without the use of chemicals or toxins). Consumers of T-shirts are advised to lower the temperature of the wash, avoid using biological powders and hang dry clothing if possible.

To take a look at the whole brief, have a look at the pdf file, which can be downloaded here. If you have any friends that are involved in the manufacturing or production of products, have them take a look at it. Many of the recommended changes are easy and not difficult to implement.

And remember guys; education and knowledge are the catalysts of positive change. If we don’t know something is wrong, or that something can be done a better way, we are in a bad place to fix it. Become informed, become the change you wish to see in the world.


  1. I agree with you except the fact that Lacoste is brit.
    It's a french brand created by René Lacoste, a famous tennis player at his time, which was the first one to put a brand name (or logo) outside the clothes.
    I could not leave that one ;)

    Keep on informing us. I like it even if it makes me feel guilty every line I read, it has to be like that I guess..

  2. You're kinda right. Pentland is the worldwide licensee for Lacoste footwear. So technically they still 'bring you' Lacoste.

    Don't let me fool you. I am just as guilty. I am hoping by filling myself with as much knowledge as possible that the next big choice I make is the right one.


  3. my mistake... I should have clicked on your link.

  4. Check out Patagonia on line. They make environmentally responsible clothes and even have a program to recycle clothes. In their stores they have bins to drop off used clothes and they then use these clothes to make new clothes and other products. Also check out Preserve. This company also manufactures environmentally responsible products.-Liz