The world is moving toward sustainable options for food, energy, and transportation. No longer are we concerned with the fastest and/or easiest way to get from A to B; rather, we are now taking into account the impact our efforts will have on Earth. What was once standard is now frowned upon in many instances. Our focus is on reversing the damage we have caused and mitigating any future disruptions to our climate.
Work apparel is no exception to this Earth-friendly movement, a.k.a., “going green.” From the collars on our shirts to the stitching on our pants, companies are seeking green options to both ensure their employees have the best apparel available and to give our climate a wink and a nod to let it know we care.
Cleaning Up Messes
Clean Rental, a uniform supply company, believes in seeking out technology rather than running away from it. “Technology is extremely important, no matter what business you are in – you have to run to technology, not avoid it. In the uniform rental industry, I would like to think … we may be best known for is our technology. Regardless of your business or market, investigate how the latest technologies available to your business may boost productivity, improve customer service and leverage your business for the long haul. The business that fears technology is the business that gets overtaken by change.”
Washing machines are now more efficient in terms of how much detergent is needed, and they use much less water than in years past. It is possible to go green and stay clean.
Green technology is now allowing us to use items over and over again, reducing waste and increasing functionality. In the restaurant industry, this may seem impossible, given the type of work and the work conditions (handling food, almost constant moving around, cleaning, etc.) but it is very much happening more and more often. Many restaurants are using recycled fabrics and fabrics that do not require dry cleaning.
According to Aaron Allen and Associates: “In 2012, McDonald’s U.K. launched a new uniform program with designer Wayne Hemingway to create some new concepts for their old uniforms. These concepts adopt the ‘closed loop’ system, which means that old fabrics are rehabbed and reused for making new uniforms.”
In addition, Asian restaurant chain Big Bowl researched a sustainable design for their employees’ uniforms. Big Bowl President Dan McGowan’s team tried many combinations, including bamboo and organic cotton. They finally found the perfect combination: recycled plastic bottles and polyester. Not only is Big Bowl helping to alleviate its impact on Earth’s climate, it is saving money, too, since no dry cleaning or ironing is required to keep the uniforms clean and in working order.
"The outcome is much bigger and results in Big Bowl contributing to the global objective of sustainability in today's economy—people want to be employed by and spend their money with companies that are doing their part to create a cleaner environment," added McGowan.
But, before you say, “Recycled clothing limits my business’ design options,” consider this. Businessnewsdaily.com reports: “Organic cotton, reused fabric scraps, and even plastic bottles can all be starting points for a green fashion line. You can create silk screen artwork … and accessories made of recycled materials.” Going with green uniforms doesn’t mean having to sacrifice a quality uniform that employees will be proud to wear.
Earth is changing. It is warming up, cooling down, and looking for ways to alleviate the effects of both. We, as Earth’s stewards, must find ways to keep our lives going forward without sending our planet backward. The fine line between progress and regression is very apparent in the business world, with companies finding new ways to perform old duties but without the risk to our climate. When it comes to outfitting employees, companies are presented with a unique challenge: Provide comfortable but functional attire that helps the environment at the same time.
Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland who focuses on consumer studies, says, “The uncomfortable truth is that overconsumption is a major factor in climate change.”
“We buy much more clothing today than we did a generation ago, and too much of it is … disposable fashion. If we define ‘sustainable fashion’ as made of particular [eco-friendly] fibers but still ready for Goodwill in a few months, we are deluding ourselves,” she says.
There is no doubt that Earth is changing, both in terms of what it offers us and what we are doing to it. Some argue that humans’ effect on these changes is minimal, while others argue that we are the primary culprit. Why not split the difference and just change how much we take from Earth and how much we put out chemicals into the air so as to make everyone happy—especially Mother Earth?
There is a burgeoning industry concerned with providing solutions to this dilemma, ensuring employees have the clothes they need while Earth has the care it deserves. Clothes with comparable quality and function to less Earth-friendly materials and manufacturing processes are becoming more and more common, making being nice to Mother Nature easier and more rewarding than ever before. Going green with your company’s uniforms will keep Earth from seeing red. And it may just save you some green, too.