Updated: Nov 23, 2022
From the beginning, our mission has been to create connected high-quality products in the most conscious and responsible way. We therefore integrate sustainability into everything we do, making intentional decisions about who we work with, how we work and what materials we use.
Designing our own merchandise was always part of the plan and ensuring we could do that in the most sustainable way meant we had to discover sustainable suppliers with ethical standards that met our own.
HOW IT BEGAN…..
It comes as no surprise to most of you that I'm also the co-founder of ebb & flo living, a connected lifestyle brand based around our passion for being on, in and around the water, nature and out thirst for wild adventures. (www.ebbandfloliving.co.uk)
The very first ebb & flo T-shirts were 100% organic cotton. We sought a supplier who ticked all the sustainability and ethical boxes, and we had the garments printed locally. At that time, we hadn’t heard of water based, plastic free printing and the original T-shirts were printed with a vinyl transfer (plastic based). This was back in 2018. It was only by continuous Googling and online research that we discovered the technology to created water based, plastic free printing existed and that a supplier did too.
BUT this meant switching supplier from a local business to a Cornwall based operation. Do we stick local and support local business? OR do we switch supplier and reduce our impact on the ocean and environment?
It was a tough decision because we are huge advocates for supporting local businesses, but they couldn’t help with our sustainable needs (we did ask), and there were no other local business’s that could supply eco-friendly garment printing (we shopped around). So, we made the decision to have a lesser impact on our planet.
Top tip – always look for a sustainable alternative for your materials.
And, we haven’t looked back!
We have been on quite the journey as we’ve navigated through the garment and printing supply chains. All of which has been a huge learning curve.
OUR T’S - ORGANIC COTTON
The T-shirts we stock, and sell are made from 100% organic cotton. Organic cotton comes from seeds that have not been genetically modified (non-GMO) and is grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Organic cotton farming uses natural methods, such as crop rotation, which benefit not only the soil, fauna, and the environment, but create biodiversity and promote good health and quality of life for farmers and their communities. A cotton plant needs roughly 180-200 days from planting to be ready for harvest.
Cultivating organic cotton ensures that no chemical insecticides, fertilisers, or pesticides flow into the soil or into adjoining rivers, lakes, or seas. This also means that the water used for organic farming is not considered lost water, as it can be used again and can return to the soil and other water sources without causing any harm. The overall positive effect on water, animals and biodiversity means that the well-being and livelihood of cotton farmers and their communities are respected and protected.
Organic cotton represents only 0.9% of the 26 million tonnes of cotton produced annually. Conventional cotton represents 16% of the world’s insecticides/herbicides and is mainly grown from genetically modified (GMO) seeds, with the assistance of agricultural chemicals.
A lot to take in there, right? But we would rather acknowledge, understand, and share the information so we can support you and ourselves in making more informed decisions when it comes to clothing.
THE REGENERATIVE MOVEMENT
The regenerative movement refers to a sustainability trend that complements sustainable practices and/or incorporates them. Essentially regenerative practices are intended to restore our environment rather than just sustain it.
Sustainability aims to conserve our environment and planet without causing damage or destruction to the ecosystems. Regenerative practices seek to restore the environment and ecosystems to improve them, in other words applying practices to restore and regenerate nature instead of reducing damage.
That isn’t to say that sustainability isn’t good! Instead, the regeneration of nature is the next step for sustainability.
So why is this important and what does this mean for you as a ghost fin advocate? Well, we touched on regenerative practices above e.g. crop rotation. Crop rotation helps to improve soil structure, and reduce soil erosion, greenhouse gases and water pollution, to name a few! Thus... Better for the planet.
Crop rotation is part of the process that our garment supplier uses to produce the organic cotton for the t-shirts you buy and love. And what is organic cotton? A regenerative material, meaning it re-grows, it regenerates. It’s not a raw material that gets excavated from the earth. It’s a material that’s consciously cultivated and sustainably harvested.
RECYCLE TO REDUCE WASTE
It’s a concept we are all familiar with these days, I’m sure most of us do our recycling at home (at least we hope so). Paper in the blue bins, plastic, and tins in the grey, or whatever colour coding you have in your local area. The idea is, these materials are taken away, broken down, and reused, to help to reduce waste and to avoid using virgin raw materials.
In turn, this creates a cyclic economy e.g. plastic bottles melted down, plastic is reformed, resold, re-recycled and so it begins again, plastic bottles melted down, plastic is reformed etc you get the gist. This is known as a circular economy; we continue to reuse the resources already at our disposal. This reduces excavating the earth for new aka virgin or raw materials.
DID YOU KNOW THAT PLASTIC BOTTLES CAN BE TURNED INTO CLOTHING?
Recycled polyester is produced from post-consumer PET bottles, the same plastic bottles used for bottled water which would otherwise go to landfill or end up in our oceans. Once cleaned, melted, and purified, the plastic from the bottles is blown into yarn. This is used to create clothing fabrics which are soft, durable, and breathable.
Recycled polyester adds stability to clothing garments and sustainability to our ghost fin merch. Recycling polyester allows for considerable energy savings in the manufacturing process. Tackling plastic waste has become one of the major environmental challenges of our time - globally, about 9.5 million tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually, most of it single-use.
Before water-based inks were developed, plastisol ink has been used in mass for clothing printing for decades. Plastisol inks are made from polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), which is composed of a plasticizer liquid and PVC resin (in other words harmful chemicals). The production of PVC results in the release of chemicals polychlorinated biphenyl (or PCB) and dioxin. Both chemicals are considered highly toxic, and, in some cases, carcinogenic (World Health Organization).
In addition, most plastisol contains something called phthalates. Phthalates are added to plastisol inks to transform a naturally hard plastic into a soft, malleable one. However, like PCB and dioxin, phthalates have also been shown to be carcinogenic. In addition to the toxicity of plastisol’s chemical base and its added phthalates, the specialised chemicals screen printing shops need to use to clean up plastisol inks can also be extremely toxic if not disposed of properly.
So, it’s a good job we avoid plastisol inks like the plague! We discovered an incredible print supplier; Blackwater Studios, based in Cornwall and have been working with the Blackwater team since 2018 with EBB & FLO and 2022 with ghost fin. The Team at Blackwater offer quality eco solutions ensuring their inks contain no phthalates or plasticizers which allows them to use Eco Friendly cleaning solutions.
A WORD ON ETHICAL STANDARDS
As we have come to understand it’s not just about what goes into the garment that makes the product sustainable, more significantly it’s who. We are proud to say that our garment supplier is certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) the most respected and rigorous certification with the most demanding ecological and social criteria. Crucially, GOTS certification covers not only raw materials and production but also covers social aspects related to the health and well-being of people in the supply chain.
A WORD ON SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL + SUSTAINABLE STANDARDS
Even more incredible news, our garment supplier is The Global Recycle Standard (GRS), PETA, OEKO-TEX®, The Organic Content Standard (OCS) and Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) certified.
Feel free to take a deeper dive into these certifications (details below), what this means in humble terms for the ghost fin advocate is, when you buy an item of clothing from us, you can do so with a clear conscience, knowing that you are supporting ghost fin's conscious decision making, the conservation of our planet and the wellness of others. That’s something to feel pretty awesome about.
COLLABORATING WITH BUSINESSES WHO SHARE OUR VISION
To put sustainability at the forefront of our operations, we are very careful when choosing whom to work with. New partnerships MUST align with our core values and are sourced, explored, and validated by the ghost fin team. We pay particular attention to company missions and mindset, environmental policies and practices, openness to investing in long-term sustainability and regenerative practices and genuine collaboration.
PATH TO SUSTAINABILITY
At ghost fine we recognise there is no magic spell for achieving sustainability - it is about continuous imprevement, based on ever-changing innovation and improvements. However, what we can do is make deliberate and considered choices in whom we work with, how we work and what materials we use, to ensure respect for the people we work with and the planet we live on. Being engaged in our supply chain keeps us on track, as well as having a sustainable and innovative company culture that pushes us to make a difference. With all our projects and initiatives, we are aiming to encourage what conscious business, growth and development need to be.
The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) is the world’s leading standard for recycled textiles and certifies recycled materials based on environmental and social practices.
PETA-Approved Vegan. No conduct or commissions of any animal testing on ingredients, formulations, or finished products. None of the products contain any animal derived
OEKO-TEX® is a safety standard for the assessment of harmful substances in fabrics. Its aim is to ensure products are free from harmful substances and follow REACH, the EU regulation which restricts the toxicity of chemicals and heavy metals in all consumer products.
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) verifies the presence and amount of organic material in a final product. It also tracks the flow of the raw material from its source to the final product, but does not consider social criteria, such as working conditions.
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an independent organisation that works with apparel brands, garment workers and textile industry influencers to improve labour conditions in garment factories. FWF are active in Bangladesh where they audit factories and support trade unions to lobby European governments and other organisations to increase wages and
improve working conditions. FWF also runs an independent helpline number which ensures complaints are heard and taken care of, should the factory’s internal grievance-handling mechanism fail.