Industry Interconnection . Part 1: Food, Fibre and Fashion

This is the first in a series about interconnection. Sometimes our decisions are complicated, creating a domino effect when things go wrong. At the same time, the positive impact of making a responsible choice can also cause a chain reaction.

This is because our businesses are not made of solitary fragments. We are all dependent on one another. Even our industry is not independent; we rely on other industries to operate. If we step back to examine the bigger picture, spotting opportunities for improvement are simple. And those improvements will affect everyone within our web.

What does food have to do with fashion? The same Earth that grows our food also grows our fibre. In fact, many fibres come from food and many food ingredients are byproducts of fibre.

For instance, cottonseed oil, a byproduct of the cotton industry, is used in many processed foods. Another byproduct, cottonseed, is used in feed for livestock. So, how we grow our cotton doesn’t just impact the clothing we wear, it impacts the food we eat. If we choose to grow conventional, pesticide-treated cotton, we are choosing to wear and ingest those pesticides as well. Additionally, farmer health and soil fertility suffer and nearby water supplies are contaminated by runoff toxins.

Again, the same ripple effect applies to healthy choices. So, for instance, if an organic, fair trade banana farmer grows his crop without chemicals, the fibre harvested from the banana tree and spun into yarn is also free of chemicals.

The farmer and his workers are not exposed to toxic pesticides. It is less expensive and less time-consuming to operate the business. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farms are 35% more profitable than the average farm. Everyone in the web wins.

What’s more, consumers are buying more organic food, which means that there is more organic fibre available. By choosing organic fibre in our assortments, we help organic farmers grow their business, creating a snowball effect. Over time, the organic market will take business from the conventional market, revitalizing our land, our bodies, and our thinking about how we do business in the first place. With this awareness, we can make choices that are bigger and more impactful, harnessing the positive power of interconnection.


Image credit: Gretchen Roehrs illustrator-extraordinaire!
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