Sustainability

The clothing industry is one of the dirtiest in the world, especially fast fashion. My These Isles handweaving business was designed to complement what I deem the most sustainable lifestyle in the world: smallholding. It will probably never earn me a smallholding in any country I know well, but the fundamental principle of providing sustainable clothing still very much applies.

What follows could legitimately be labelled as ‘micro-consumerist bollocks‘, as I try to frame my local craft within a metric more appropriate for industrial-scale production which, in my world view, is simply not sustainable in any true sense. The matters of true sustainability are woven in all the threads of all my work and all my other writing. But since I’m running a business producing a product for you to consume, here is the micro-consumerist bollocks, for what it’s worth:

As of August 2021, all new These Isles garments have a star rating (maximum five stars) for sustainability. This will be a form of self-certification according to my own strict environmental and social standards as detailed in the table below.

My terms are stringent: you can see, on the left in dark green, that a five star rating would only be achieved with a zero-carbon footprint and a post-capitalist monetary system. In other words, true sustainability requires very small, clean, closed loops in a local, artisan economy that’s free from the downward pressure of hyper-tense capitalism to act on its own conscience. Since my business is a travelling one (by necessity at present), and since few or no businesses in the world have yet outwitted the tentacles of capitalism, I only achieve my own five star rating in isolated cases of local barter (which I am compelled to declare for taxation purposes, so I’ve still one foot in the capitalist logic there, at my expense).

You will see, in the yellow columns, that I’m phasing out my use of less ecological yarn sources – which are typically the softest. And then there are various degrees of sustainability in between. Note that, if you’re a British buyer, you can add an extra quarter star to the given overall rating for buying more locally.

Take a look at the detail in the table here, as you’ll begin to see how sustainable production is usually more labour-intensive and therefore almost always more expensive. Though they don’t feel it to most of us, my prices are actually still modest! The most expensive soft AND sustainable yarns will be introduced as and when I think you and I both can stand the cost increase.

Clearly the damning indictment I make of commercial clothing companies on the right here in orange and red is broad brush and there are, increasingly, exceptions: economies of scale don’t always entail economies of ethics – just usually. Whilst the once and future village of perfect sustainability should ideally constitute sole-trading craftspeople and teency cottage industries, sometimes a *slightly* larger but super-conscientious cottage industry can perform even better, for instance on efficiency of water use – though beware chemical use (formaldehyde, chlorine, to name but two). Avoid sweatshops, obviously. Check with every brand you buy. Or, for peace of mind, just support a highly principled artisan here.