That means MetaWear produces men’s and women’s organic cotton T-shirts that meet Cradle to Cradle’s vision of circularity: safe materials, perpetually cycled, produced with clean water, renewable energy and social fairness.
The brand’s proprietary seaweed inks, jail-work release programs and solar and geothermal green energy systems have served as the platform to support the optimization of chemicals, energy, water and social progress.
“We are proud and thrilled to offer the nation’s first Fashion Positive Cradle to Cradle-certified T-shirts, demonstrating that style and quality are not mutually exclusive with social and environmental responsibility,” said Marci Zaroff, the brand’s co-founder and president and an eco-advocate.
But that’s not to say that MetaWear is about to rest on its laurels. Now, it’s gunning for gold.
“It’s really important that Cradle to Cradle is a continuous improvement, so you figure out what’s going on currently, doing the best that you can with what you have, you get that benchmark and then you optimize over time,” said Howie Fendley, director of projects and senior chemist at McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) and the accredited assessor who worked with MetaWear on its journey to silver certification, speaking last week at Cradle to Cradle’s Product Symposium at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in New York City.
One issue the brand is looking to remedy involves its dyes.
“The really cool thing about our T-shirts is we print with dye instead of ink, so in traditional screen-printing you generally use a plastic- or water-based ink to glue pigment on fabric, but with our process you actually use dye to bond the pigment on a molecular level, so it makes the T-shirt recyclable. And it actually has a great water stewardship impact because the excess water that goes back to the system has such a high PH that it actually helps neutralize other sewage,” explained Tara Cappel, MetaWear’s director of operations.
The problem rests with its orange dye which, as Fendley explained, has a carbon atom attached to a halogen. He clarified, “The good news is that in this particular situation, it’s not a hazard or a risk for the use phase but it’s something that we’ll be talking about in terms of optimization moving forward… Any time something gets incinerated that has a halogen compound, there is a potential for production of dioxin or other toxic things.”
“So we’re looking into other options and also trying to form a combination of the red dye and the yellow dye that creates a standard orange so that can be a substitute for it,” Cappel continued.