Q&A's on Going Green with Recycled Fabric from Perfection Uniforms
Fortune magazine: "There is no business to be done on a dead planet."
Q: Why am I suddenly hearing about all of these companies "going green" or becoming "eco-responsible"?
A: It's true that there is now a surprising amount of recycled products on the market, from cleaners to clothing. Adidas, which joined Perfection Uniforms on Apparel magazine's list of “Top Innovators of 2008,” is manufacturing a range of footwear from recycled fabrics and natural materials. Philips is manufacturing energy efficient lighting, and Proctor and Gamble have reformulated dishwashing detergents to perform better at lower temperatures, thus reducing carbon emissions. And recently, S.C. Johnson eliminated millions of pounds of pollutants in their products. There is a demand for these products because the consumer conscience has been heightened, and because of this demand, companies are rising to the challenge to produce QUALITY eco-responsible products. They are changing the way they conduct business, even at the production level. This is because we have become more aware, as consumers and a society, that our consumption patterns in recent years have put added stress on the earth's ecosystems. Our consumer habits have also affected the supply of material resources required for industrial growth, as well as human social systems and well-being. In addition, we have been putting more emissions into the air with production methods. These CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution have directly and indirectly affected the world’s climate. The effects of pollution in our environment include:
• serious adverse reactions on human health
• less reliable water supplies
• change in rainfall patterns
• extinction of species (plants and animals)
• disruption of agriculture and forestry
Q: So what does this have to do with your production methods?
A: As you know, production of goods requires the use of energy, primary raw resources, and water. Our goal is to produce quality uniforms with fibers made from recycled materials, like Unifi’s REPREVE®. The production of goods made from recycled materials, like REPREVE, uses less energy which in turn puts less CO2 emissions into the air; furthermore, this type of production does not rely upon the usage of other precious resources such as crude oil. Think back to the fluctuating gas prices of 2008. Our production of uniforms will not depend on fresh oil, which in turn lessens some of our nation's dependency on foreign oil. And by recycling, less waste goes into landfills, which decreases air, land, and water pollution. It's a choice that we, as a company, and you, as a consumer, can feel good about.
Q: Aren't recycled products inferior to 'new' products?
A: While companies can become good corporate citizens by producing eco-friendly items, there remain many misconceptions about these types of goods. Any good consumer will have skepticism. And it's true, many of the early products designed to be environmentally responsible did not meet consumer expectations. But due to new technologies, eco-responsible fibers are now indistinguishable from their non-sustainable counterparts. For instance, improved dye processes enable eco-responsible fabrics to be vibrant and color-retentive. In addition, to address any concerns about quality or performance, Perfection Uniforms is glad to offer complimentary agency wear testing. We have told you about our products, but we really want you to see for yourself. Our uniforms are constructed with you, the consumer, in mind; they are designed according to your feedback.
Q: Don't recycled products cost more than 'new' products? Why should I spend money on a recycled product, specifically a uniform?
A: The idea that sustainable products are more expensive to purchase is another common consumer deterrent. Surprisingly, because there is an increasing demand for eco-responsible products, the price of recycled goods is within reason; as demand increases, the price steadily declines over time. Also, even though the price point may be higher, government agencies often give preference to recycled products. Consider this: What is the difference between a purchase and an investment? A purchase is something that you use for the duration of its life; an investment is something that you hope will give you a return. You can purchase a non-recycled uniform, wear it, and never think about what has been sacrificed to produce that garment. Or you can invest in a sustainable uniform. Your investment means less trash in a landfill, which translates to less water and land pollution. It also means less energy expended in production, which lessens CO2 emissions (less air pollution). This is an excellent ROI, which will have impact for years to come.
Q: So what agencies thus far are supporting eco-responsible products?
A: The following is a list of states and agencies which are making the move into the future by supporting eco-responsible products:
• Governor Schwarzenegger and the state of California are leading the country with preference of eco-friendly products (Cities of Elk Grove and San Diego, specifically).
• Muncie, Indiana's Sanitary District recently received a $5,000 grant to sport uniforms made from recycled fibers.
• New York State Governor Paterson signed into effect a "Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program" which requires that State Agencies purchase environmentally-friendly products.
• Maryland has a list of acceptable recycled products that ARE currently under a state contract; this includes everything from janitorial supplies and office supplies to textiles. Maryland Fleet Management purchased hybrid vehicles recently.
• A Wisconsin police department purchased Toyota Prius (hybrid) cars, and a New Bedford police department purchased electric scooters.
• City of Franklin, TN, has begun a composting program which saved $55,000. They have saved $300,000 building a new police department headquarters by "going green": geothermal heating/cooling system, "green" roof, and a 45,000 gallon cistern that reclaims water.
Interestingly, businesses performing federal contracts are REQUIRED to use recycled paper when writing bids, even. Here is a list of states that give bid preference for recycled products and the percentage (if provided):
Alaska: 5% on recycled products
Arizona: 5% on recycled products
California: Preference for recycled products
Connecticut: Preference for recycled products
Hawaii: Preference for recycled products and bio-fuels
Idaho: Preference for recycled paper
Illinois: Preference for recycled products (10%)
Kansas: Preference for recycled paper
Maine: Preference for recycled products (10%)
Maryland: Preference for recycled products (5%)
Minnesota: Preference for recycled materials (10%)
Missouri: Preference for recycled products
Nebraska: Preference for recycled or biodegradable materials
Nevada: Preference for recycled products
New Mexico: Preference for recycled products
North Dakota: Preference for recycled paper
Ohio: Preference for recycled products
Oklahoma: Preference for recycled products
Oregon: Preference for recycled materials
Pennsylvania: Preference for recycled materials
South Dakota: Preference for recycled or starch-based materials (10%)
Texas: Preference for recycled and energy efficient products
Utah: Preference for recycled paper
Virginia: Preference for recycled products
Q: I'm still not entirely convinced. Why should I wear a uniform made from recycled fibers?
A: If you must purchase a uniform anyway, why not invest in something that will serve a greater good? Also, with recent scrutiny placed upon government agencies due to recent bailouts, the general public is watching to see how taxpayer dollars are being spent. Taxpayers want their government agencies to show some accountability in their spending. If your agency is the first to start wearing eco-responsible uniforms, it would be excellent PR because you would be INVESTING those taxpayers' dollars instead of SPENDING them. Given the above list of preferences toward recycled products, this is clearly the wave of the future. In order for progress to occur, it will take some effort, but it will be well worth it. It's likely that agencies will eventually mandate "going green," so now is an excellent time to make the change.
For more information about REPREVE®, please visit www.repreve.com
REPREVE is a trademark of Unifi, Inc. and is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and with others.