As stewards of our coastal and marine environments, we are intentional about the products in our gift store. It is a matter of integrity for us. We offer sustainable goods and exercise ethical practices, and we count on our members to share in these efforts as often as possible.
What is the difference between an ethical and sustainable gift store for us?
Both labels refer to the sourcing, manufacturing, and development of clothing that has positive effects on both the manufacturing industry and wider society without contributing to environmental damage. The words go hand in hand for coastal stewards.
Sustainability is linked to the environment and the impact of practices that cause damage, like using good-quality fabrics that are made to last. Ethics focuses on the way a business is run as far as purchasing, sales, and relationships with local vendors, and in addition, it speaks to how the people within that business are treated. For Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards, both concepts have become inherent operational concepts, and there is plenty of crossover between the two.
When we talk about ethical practices in our gift store, that is linked to the moral principles of right and wrong in our operations. For example, the leadership practices, working conditions, and the conduct of everyone on the team. Sustainable shopping is the practice that can last a long time. The factors that assist sustainability, such as viable infrastructures, renewable energy, or a focus on reuse, can vary greatly.
Taking the time to consider the impact of our actions informs the sustainable thought that communities can return to more localized, smaller-scale economic models. Staying local is the key to sustainable shopping for Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards. We want to support small businesses in our own community. We are intentional in becoming less reliant on export economies and we incentivize artisans and creators through our purchasing choices to take care of our local environment.
Simply put, it is packaging that, over time, reduces its environmental footprint.
This can happen in several ways:
- Ingredients: Using raw 100% recycled or raw materials
- Production process: By minimizing the production process, supply chain and carbon footprint
- Reusability: Creating a circular economy around the packaging, extending its life cycle and usability.
It’s simple to say that eco packaging is entirely about the environment. It also should take into consideration economic and social factors.
For example, plant-based packaging may seem like a viable option. But quite often that means clearing endangered rainforests to grow crops.
Eco packaging needs to consider the economic factor. It needs to be priced competitively over traditional oil-based/single-use packaging options.
We have learned that the definitions can get a bit messy at times!
A fancy label that says ‘eco-friendly’ doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable. Similarly, labeling something as sustainable doesn’t mean that it’s ethical.
Fibers are what the threads that go into a piece of fabric are made up of: silk, cotton, linen, hemp, wool, polyester, viscose. Our Retail Manager looks for silks, cottons, linen, hemp, or recycled materials. These fibers last longest in your closet. Did you know that according to the manufacturing industry, silk was found to be the longest-lasting fabric in terms of how long it remained in use, with wool in second place. These fabrics can go the longest in between washes, which helps keep them in good condition. When they do wear out, natural fabrics are biodegradable and recyclable (By comparison, polyester will last the longest on our planet). We also prioritize fibers that are sourced from regenerative crops, like hemp and jute.
Fabrics are the way the fibers are woven together. Satin, rayon, fleece, and organza are all fabrics, not fibers. They can be made up of natural fibers or synthetics, so they don’t tell you anything about how biodegradable a piece of clothing is, just what the texture is going to feel like.
The details of how a fiber was produced matter — there are more and less sustainable ways to produce natural fibers like cotton and silk, and the same is true for biodegradable semi-synthetics. For example, silk production can be harmful in terms of both emissions and the killing of silkworms, but you can look for Ahimsa silk, which preserves the worm. And there are certifications for ethical and sustainable production processes that you can keep an eye out for. When in doubt, we look for the GOTS, or global organic textile standard and certification, which has the most stringent environmental requirements.
Buying a piece of clothing comes with the responsibility of that item’s life cycle — which means that once we’ve all gone through the effort to shop sustainably, we should take good care of it. For synthetic fabrics specifically, the laundry process is complicated. It’s a good idea to invest in a filter bag – filter bags help catch the microplastics released while washing synthetic clothing and stop them from escaping into the environment. If you can, avoid the dryer entirely. “If in doubt, wash it on delicate, and air dry. It’s the best thing you can do,” says Beatty. Our team also recommends reading the care labels inside the garments. Once you familiarize yourself with the symbols and the materials, you’ll start to know what must be dry-cleaned, and what will be fine with a hand-wash/line-dry situation.