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January 06, 2015

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How We Developed Our Sustainability Standards

PHOTO (RIGHT) OF SHANNON WHITEHEAD OF FACTORY45

In a world filled with fast, cheaply produced fashion, parents are beginning to ask questions: Where did this baby clothing come from? What is it made of? Where was it made? Demanding better, they find that most manufacturers lack transparency about their products’ standards. That’s where we come in. Noble Carriage was born as a platform to introduce the world to the best and most sustainable baby clothing that exists. And we hired Shannon Whitehead of Factory45, a leading sustainable apparel consultant, to work with us to develop our Noble Standards for Sustainability.

What did Shannon teach us about sustainability? Well, the first thing she told us was, “There’s no such thing as 100% ‘sustainable’… yet.” The world is working towards it, and we’re getting closer every day, but every new garment that is created has some sort of environmental impact. The Noble Standards we created with Shannon are tools to help us get closer -- as the rest of the industry gets closer, too. We insist that every item we sell meets at least three of the following five standards, and we believe these 5 standards are the future of fashion:

#1. 100% GOTS Certified Organic: 

GOTS is the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers. Although companies may claim they are “organic,” unless they are certified under GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) we can’t trust that the product is chemical free. We could research every single supplier to find out if it is truly organic and safe for baby, but we’d rather leave it up to the trusted global standard that both manufacturers and consumers can use to see how the clothing measures up.

#2. Fair Trade and Fair Labor:

Workers here at home or abroad should be paid fair wages, and farmers should receive fair compensation. This seems like a basic human right, and it would be nice if we could just assume it was so. But we can’t. So we look for suppliers with a firm commitment to fair labor standards. Ultimately we hope we’ll be able to insist that all of the suppliers or their partner factories have one of the formal fair trade certifications. We want to be absolutely sure when it comes to humans and their rights.  

#3. Made In the USA:

We are always on the lookout for brands manufacturing in the USA with organic US-grown cotton. That is one of the most sustainable and transparent ways to manufacture. Unfortunately, the global chase for cheap labor has made it difficult to manufacture organic baby clothing. As people and brand-name suppliers pay more attention to the economic and environmental impact of their decisions, we can turn that trend around. Eventually, even the bigger brands will jump on board. But we are not yet at a point yet where producing entirely in the USA is feasible for most brands, and that is why our next standard is so important.

#4. Locally Made:

As much as possible, the entire production process from farm to factory should be in the same country to save energy. This generally means adding less to our energy crisis, habitat loss and pollution. This standard is very important and we look for the rare manufacturers who agree with that. Most manufacturers do not take into account that their cotton may be grown in India, shipped back to the US for milling, and shipped back to India to be sewn, and then shipped back to the US for sale. Our “locally made” standard ensures that transportation is taken into account with the making of the baby clothes. Saving energy will benefit all of us in the long run; it will also help strengthen local economies.

#5. Handmade:

Human hands were used to finish this product. This standard helps us guarantee that our baby clothes and toys are produced in small batches, which minimizes waste of materials, supports local makers, and also contributes to local employment. Supporting handmade is essential to sustaining the value of skilled craftsmanship.

Our sustainability standards, taken together, mean that resource use meet human needs without undermining the environment. Was an item shipped back and forth around the world, or did its production remain localized? Did its production emit chemicals harmful to humans and ruinous to the land? Did its maker produce tons of waste or expend a lot of non-renewable energy in creating it? Did the farmers and workers who contributed to its creation get a fair return for their work? These are the types of questions our standards answer and we encourage you to consider them the next time you shop with us or anyone else.

The world of sustainability is vast and we are constantly working to be more sustainable for you and for our future. To learn more about sustainability and Shannon Whitehead visit Factory45 or Shannon’s blog.


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