Please tell us a little more about your role at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute™

I am President of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute™. Our mission is to guide product manufacturers and designers in making safe and healthy things for our world.

Red Carpet Green Dress believe that “a shift is needed to limit and eliminate the fashion industry’s negative impact on the environment.” We would like to help see a shift that maximizes the industry’s positive impact on health and the environment. At the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, we help companies move from doing “less bad” to doing “more good” by publicly scaling up a process that has been used privately by hundreds of companies over the years.

How are sustainable fabrics defined by Cradle to Cradle®?

An ideal Cradle to Cradle® fabric would be one with all its ingredients identified and known to be safe and healthy for people and the environment. The fabric would be designed so that these ingredients — chemicals, fibers, etc. — are either returned to enrich the soil or reused as a valuable technical resource. This fabric’s manufacturing processes would use clean, renewable power. The processes would use water wisely or — again, ideally — produce clean water. Finally, all the people involved in making the fabric would work in safe and healthy environments and earn living wages so their families can flourish.

Why is sourcing sustainable fabrics so difficult? What are the main challenges some designers face?

In the past, the focus of fabric makers has been on the end product — its beauty, feel, flow, color, durability — but not on the larger context of how this fabric’s creation, use and disposal impact humans and planet. All the trends are in this direction. This kind of design adds key questions to ask as you bring an idea to reality. Asking if and how their fabric might be C2C certified TM is a good starting question.

How will this get better in the future?

At the Institute, we’re asking industries to post safe and healthy ingredients, like dyes, on our website so we can create an easy platform for designers who want to make something beautiful that doesn’t destroy the planet. And events like “Red Carpet, Green Dress” help raise the fashion industry’s awareness about eco-effective designs and their impact on our world. Manufacturers are quickly seeing the need and opportunity to get away from regulations and to partner with organizations like the Institute and NRDC to co-develop solutions to some of their negative impacts.

Not every emerging designer can afford the greener but more costly alternative when it comes to some fabrics – what is your advice?

First, we have to ask ourselves what “costly” means. If the fabric touches the skin and contains hazardous materials — and many do — then what good is lower cost to look good. Next, designers need to work with other designers — and with the Institute — to aggregate demand to increase availability and reduce cost. Together, we can get the attention of some of the bigger suppliers and retailers so they see the business case for change. Customers have to be educated as well, and not just the early adopters, but across the board. Once enough people start asking “what’s in it?”, “how’s it made?” everything will change. There are some retailers, like GAP, Patagonia and Levis, who are leading the way so we know it can be done.

About Bridgett Luther

President, board of directors Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute™
Bridgett Luther has a long history of involvement in environmental protection and efforts to protect natural resources for future generations. Most recently, she spent five years as Director of the California Department of Conservation, overseeing a budget of $1.4 billion and 700 employees in 14 offices around California. As Director, she was responsible for a wide variety of programs, including the California beverage container recycling program. California recycles more than 42 billion beverage containers a year, the world’s largest such program.

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