American Apparel Finally Comes Clean(er)
American Apparel, a company well known for sexual harassment suits, scandalous barely legal marketing imagery, and de rigeur retro basics, is quietly known among environmentalists for something different”¦setting the bar for fair wages in manufacturing and incorporating solid steps towards environmental sustainability.
Now clearly, a manufacturing behemoth is going to have a tough time calling itself “sustainable,”¯ but American Apparel doesn’t even try. They do. Since 2006, 20% of their electricity for their factory in downtown LA is produced by solar energy, there’s recycled content in their shopping bags, and a majority of their manufacturing scraps get reclaimed for the making of their smaller items, like thongs and such. They launched their 100% organic Sustainable Edition in 2003 and now they’re trying to get the rest of their line in check. American Apparel recently announced its purchase of 30,000 lbs. of Cleaner Cotton to incorporate into their non-organic line. “Cleaner Cotton”¯ also called B.A.S.I.C., uses approximately one-third the amount of pesticides of conventional cotton.
The Cleaner Cotton Campaign was started by Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP), which is a farmer-based, non-profit organization that reeducates farmers on how to reduce their toxic chemical usage without genetically-modified seeds, while maintaining profitability. An ongoing partnership with American Apparel is certainly a great way to do just that.
American Apparel is the largest clothing manufacturer in the US. Between their organic and non-organic lines, American Apparel uses 10 million pounds of cotton every year. Now .3% (about 75.000 T’s worth) of their entire cotton use may not seem significant, but this is only the beginning, as they are “continually looking to increase our Cleaner Cotton consumption.”¯ According to Erika Martinez, Head Of Organic Programs, “We were drawn to the Sustainable Cotton project because they work with conventional farmers who normally use several different varieties of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides which are harmful to the environment. These farmers are being introduced for the first time to biological systems of controlling pest outbreaks. They often go on to apply these methods to other crops and some go on to grow 100% organic. They can also reduce chemical use without the use of GM seed, unlike other programs. We feel this program to be truly sustainable because the chemical reduction takes place immediately and often spreads to the growing methods of their other crops.”¯
This project will provide funds for significant expansion of the BASIC program in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, which will reduce the need for American clothing manufacturers to import organic cotton from distant locales like India, Turkey, and Pakistan. Less petroleum, more clothes”¦yes!