Eco Travel Destinations: Leaders of the Pack

In the late 1970’s, “ecotourism” entered the travel lexicon, and an emerging number of resorts have embraced environmental and educational attractions ever since. In fact, ecotourism is the fastest growing sector in the travel industry since the early 1990’s.

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Photo credit: Cesiak.org

As with any growing trend, some companies/entities will drive the trend, setting the highest examples, and others will follow.

Ecotourism has in many ways morphed into rather broad and unclassified meaning in the marketplace. As a value-added buzzword, some companies adopt the term when beneficial, without full demonstration of environmental commitment.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people.” While this definition sounds terrific, an increasing number of travel entities use ‘eco’ simply to benefit their business.

The travel destinations that are leading the pack however, should be given due attention for their pioneering efforts. This past week, The Guardian highlights a few eco-leaders in their top five (5) green destinations post. MSNBC also reviewed Forbes’ top 10 Best Eco Luxury Resorts this year, highlighting what they viewed as destinations with genuine commitment to the environment.

One such place, which was highlighted by MSNBC is Sian Ka’an, Cesiak eco resort in Mexico. As a fully sustainable, 100% energy efficient destination, CeSiak offers pristine, comfortable accommodations situated in one of the most beautiful bioreserves of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Run completely on sun and wind, the power is generated in 24 volts DC and stored in a large battery bank. CESiaK also uses a rainwater collection system for all guest water needs, other than drinking and maintains a wetland waste treatment systems to recycles greywater and treat all blackwater.

Beyond energy conservation, CeSiak, and other resorts like this one, approach every aspect of the business from the ecological conservation standpoint. Wind, rain, water, land are at the forefront of not only managing the destination, but also providing the educational and enjoyment capital for the eco-minded tourist. As such, restoration, preservation and education are front and center to the resorts mission, vision, and attractions.

Movement toward Accreditation:

One response to the increasing use and value of ‘eco’ in the travel industry, the International Ecotourism Society, in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, plans to introduce a global accreditation system, the Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council, to certify individual programs within the next two years that meet certain criteria. While this accreditation may certainly help consumers make more informed choices, we must continue to remain educated and up-to-date on the latest innovations and models for the industry.

Guardian’s top five eco travel picks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007/sep/19/green.travelwebsites

MSNBC’s Top Ten Luxury Resorts: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18057687/
Also on Forbes Traveler: http://www.forbestraveler.com/2006/ft400-slide-200.html?thisSpeed=20000

Cesiak: http://www.cesiak.org/accommodation.htm

What similarities can be drawn from the trends in eco-tourism and eco-fashion? For one, they are both on the rise and two of the fastest growing categories in their respective fields. In the case of eco-tourism, the trend has been increasing longer, faster and steadier, but both harness the eco-conscious consumer paradigm. As such, there is much to be learned from the eco-tourism industry. For example, we can expect a fair number of companies to embrace the ‘green fashion’ paradigm, whether there is genuine commitment behind the ‘green-washing’ or not. In addition, green fabrics, organic fabrics and socially conscious production process will need to monitored, with perhaps one or more accreditation systems in place, coupled with continuous information sharing with consumers. Finally, there may be a viable opportunity here for eco-friendly fashion companies to capitalize on this travel market and formalize some b2b partnerships.

Greening of the Planet: The Crux between Market and Policy

Gore is on a roll. In fact, he is on fire. As noted in this quote of the day on TreeHugger, Al rightly puts the fuel in the fire, by strongly urging environmental political action to tackle our planetary crisis. His argument is that we need market driven change to be supported and reinforced by policy, otherwise we will not move fast enough.

I could not agree more. We need improvements in both arenas if we are to successfully overcome the natural resource and human health crises that we face, and the green cotton/fashion industry is a good example. When it comes to fashion, consumers have tremendous pull in terms of buying choices that ultimately drive markets markets. On the other hand, companies make choices in terms of production, souring, marketing and transportation. They have choices and can choose to move in one direction or another for example on pesticide use, resource management, manufacturing, labor choices, transportation options, and product sourcing. Retailers can also move markets based on the decisions they make on a daily basis. Finally, governments play an important role as well by the creation and enforcement of business laws and regulations. By imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions, land-use rules, and pesticide use and labor, they can have a tremendous impact on the kinds of choices that companies are allowed to make.

As such, it becomes clear that the greening of the planet is manifested in a constant triangulation of three important constituencies:

  • Consumers
  • Companies
  • Governments

Each constituency plays a crucial role to play in moving toward sustainability and preservation of critical natural infrastructure. As we embark upon the 21st Century, we need to be most cautious of our choices in everything that we do. If we do not, unfortunately there may not be a 22nd Century for our great grandchildren to enjoy. Thank you, Al for your inspirational words.

clipped from www.treehugger.com

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We face a genuine planetary emergency, we cannot just talk about it, we have to act on it, we have to solve it, urgently. … Last week the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of a great success story. A hole in the ozone layer was discovered in 1985. And then, in the following year and a half, action took place.
All of the market initiatives are incredibly important. The market allocates more money in one hour than all of the governments allocate over a year’s time. But governments set the rules of the road and determine how markets allocate capital and make decisions. And there should be no mistake that this crisis, the climate crisis, is not going to be solved only by personal action and business action. We need changes in laws; we need changes in policies; we need new leadership and we need a new treaty. We need a mandate at Bali during the first 14 days of December this year to complete a treaty not by 2012 but by 2009,

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White Gold: The True Costs of Cotton Production

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The Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan happens to be the second largest exporter of cotton in the world. One third (1/3) of its population works in the billion dollar industry, and a large majority of those individuals are children. In addition to concern over children’s rights, the situation presents an emerging environmental crisis tied to irrigation and natural resource management. With an over-reliance on dangerous pesticides and economic dependence on cotton, the country is in a difficult position. Yet, Uzbekistan is not solely at fault. Western companies are also complicit by negotiating business with industry officials and consistently purchasing product. Similarly, Western consumers (e.g. Americans and Europeans) reinforce the situation by continuing to purchase Uzbek-grown cotton and demanding price-quality paradigms at such a high human and environmental cost.

How do we navigate ourselves out of such complex socio-eco-nomic mess?

Here are some three simple steps that we as consumers can do to make a difference:

1) Ask your retailer where your cotton has been sourced. If they don’t know, chances are some or all came from Uzbekistan, or some other country where human rights or environmental abuses are part of the production equation. There are plenty of fair trade, organic options out there, seek them out, buy them and promote them to others.

2) Be wary of inexpensive product. If something is cheap, it is probably too good to be true. Cotton is one of the most expensive, labor, pesticide and water intensive crops to grow in the world. It is associated with huge environmental and human costs. If the end product is very inexpensive, chances are someone or something (e.g. natural resources) is paying the real price. Think before you shop. You can start to change the world through your purchases.

3) Buy green, buy organic and buy fair trade. When laborers and craftsmen are given a fair, living wages, the end product will reflect this cost. In addition, when fabrics are organically grown without harmful pesticides, they can be more expensive to maintain and grow. As conscientious consumers, we need to be willing to assume some of this cost. It’s the best way to drive the market toward greater sustainability and equitability. If enough demand existed, even Uzbekistan would move toward organic crops and higher wage production. The market is more powerful than one might think.

Finally, I encourage you to watch this short video directed, produced and supported by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF):

White Gold: The True Cost of Cotton. It is truly enlightening.

www.ejfoundation.org/page85.html

Credits: the Title of this blog was inspired by the above video. Thank you, EJF!

Photo source: The Environmental Justice Foundation

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About Green Cotton

Green Cotton is a website to gather, review, analyze and publish information on the eco-apparel industry. Not limited to green or organic cotton, the site includes posts on all emerging eco-friendly fabrics, products, stores and individuals. Green Cotton includes information on bamboo, soy, jute, hemp, ramie, and recycled fabrics in addition to organic cotton. Factors that contribute to successful companies including the pioneering individuals are also featured.

Please send your comments and questions to: Greencottonblog@gmail.com

Bamboo: wonder fiber of the day.

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Indeed, bamboo appears to be emerging as the 21st century miracle plant. With uses as diversified as wood paneling (for floors, fences, landscaping, you name it) to paper, clothing, and food (bamboo shoots, or seeds as grains), coupled with zero pesticide dependence, and minimal water or other requirements, it is no wonder that the plant is highly esteemed. In taking a closer look at the plant, two core characteristics emerge as top-rate:

  1. It is naturally anti-bacterial and antifungal, lending itself to not require pesticides for effective growth; and,
  2. Fast proliferation with minimal water or maintenance requirement. In fact, bamboo is known to be one of the fastest growing plants on earth, making it highly renewable. It is also biodegradable. In the regions of the world where bamboo gows indigenously, one can observe bamboo stalks literally within a 24-hour period.

From an apparel point of view, bamboo has additional advantages. Bamboo is twice as absorptive as cotton and can wick moisture and odor away from one’s body at twice the rate of conventional cotton. Depending on how it is manufactured, bamboo can be effectively used in a variety of products.

Furthermore, bamboo fibers produce some of the softest, most compelling fabrics today, not unlike cashmere or silk. In fact, ‘ecoKashmere’ coined by jonano and derived from bamboo is highly akin to cashmere or silk. Bamboo literlly is the ecocashmere.

Retailers who have discovered this miracle fiber are brilliantly incorporating it into babywear and undergarments. With is natural anti-microbial characteristics, it is a perfect match for germ-prone babies and undergarment wear, especially for women. The fact that the plant requires much less water, no pesticides and less time to grow provide the icing on the cake, for this A-list fabric.
Some companies to look out for that have saavily bamboozled the fiber into their business models:

Jonano (with ecokashmere) retailer in bamboo clothing & organic clothing, jonano is one of the more stylish companies out there, combining solid 100% organic materials with contemporary, comfortable and earthy designs. Nothing too obvious or outrageous, the jonano style is simple, elegant and down to earth. No pretention—exactly how the ecobrand wants to be. (Photosource: Jonano)

Bamboosa – another cutting edge, high quality company that sources and manufactures all product entirely in the US (South Carolina). Founded and run by retailing gurus, this company definitely has some of the nicest baby clothes I have seen and an extremely well designed website (easy to navigate).

Butta is an urban clothing line that partners with Africa to produce high quality products. While they are not 100% organic, they do offer one collection- the bamboo collection- all made from bamboo fibers. Definitely worth checking this company out!

More information on bamboo (source wikipedia):
Bamboo is a group of woody perennial evergreen plants in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Some of its members are giants, forming by far the largest members of the grass family. New shoots of some of the larger species can grow over 1 meter per day. They are of high cultural significance in East Asia where they are used extensively in gardens, as a building material as well as a food source.

There are 91 genera and about 1,000 species of bamboo. They are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. They occur across East Asia, from 50°N latitude in Sakhalin through to northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalaya.[1] They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Americas from the southeast of the United States[2] south to Chile, there reaching their furthest south anywhere, at 47°S latitude. Major areas with no native bamboos include Europe, north Africa, western Asia, Canada, most of Australia, and Antarctica.

Photosource: Jonano.com

Do you want to start an apparel line?

If the answer to that question is yes, that’s great! There is a lot to consider in starting a business. When it comes to the apparel industry, the market is increasingly competitive and crowded, so it can be useful to consider industry-specific recommendations when starting out. As someone who is considering my own eco-fashion line, I found these gems from Jenny Fulbright from her article on ‘Starting a Clothing Line Business’ particularly useful. I have adapted them slightly with my own reflections into the following four bullets (note: there are many more than 4 things to consider, but here are four good ones):

1) Know your market. Who exactly do you want to cater to? The clothing industry is very diversified and stratified. There are a thousand ways to cut the pie, so figuring out your ideal demographic is an important first step. According to the American Apparel & Footware Association, in 2000, there were $315 billion dollars in sales in US apparel. What piece of that do you envision?

2) Determine what kind of clothes you want to offer. Will you be athletic, yoga-esque, professional/career, casual/sporty? There are so many possibilities, but it is crucial to focus. Where would you potentially have a competitive edge? Consider price here as well: do you want be high end, middle of the road, low cost?

3) Consider your supply chain and end point. Who will you sell to? Suppliers/distributors ? Or will you have your own store? Will you sell online only? Mail order or will you build your own store? How much capital you have to start out with will dictate in part what options you have in terms of selling the product.

4) Know the competition. Even if you think you are selling a totally novel product, you will have competition and it will likely come from the least expected place. Do your research. See what is out there. What advantage do you potentially have compared to what is already out there. Can you source more inexpensively? Can you provide a higher quality product? Can you guarantee fair trade? Can you guarantee organic? What do customers want?

Answer these questions thoroughly and you are on your way to creating a more viable business.

clipped from www.powerhomebiz.com
Apparel manufacturing remains one of the most in-demand businesses today.
According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (http://www.americanapparel.org), apparel sales for 2000 reached $315 billion, representing a 90% growth from its 1990 levels.
 
 

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Product and Price over Green-ness

Indigenous Designs adopted the strategy of high quality product and price over promoting their ‘organic-ness’, and they appear to have succeeded in gaining market share. Even though their products are fully organic and adopt fair trade practices, they choose not to harp on this message in sales and marketing. Organic materials and fair trade business practices are essential components of the business; however they have found that those qualities do not yet drive consumer choices. As such it is more strategic to provide and sell on a great product and price, than on green-ness. By gaining market share, one is then in a better position to sell consumers on the green-ness factor. When it serves their benefit, ID mentions that the products are full organic and produced through fair trade practices, and this can be a terrific final selling point.

Some day maybe our marketplace will be driven by green-ness, but in the meantime, until that happens, it appears that strategic marketing approach of companies like Indigenous Designs is the way to go. Once a buyer has the product, they may be more likely to embrace the eco paradigm, but data suggests that consumers still largely purchase clothing on look, feel, style and price.

clipped from online.wsj.com
Indigenous Designs Corp. prides itself as a truly green supplier. Its women’s clothing is made from all-natural, sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, silk and alpaca. It adheres to strict fair-trade manufacturing practices overseas, runs its U.S. corporate office on solar power and encourages employees to bike to work.
It’s all about the product, but P.S., there is this story behind it,” says Scott Leonard, Indigenous Designs’ chief executive and co-founder.
These tactics and endurance highlight a sometimes overlooked truth in the fast-growing, much-ballyhooed green market: As much as consumers say they crave ecofriendly products, if those products don’t look good, don’t fit right, aren’t durable or aren’t priced competitively, then customers probably aren’t going to buy them in droves.

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Stewart + Brown: Fall Fashion Preview

Stewart + Brown’s 2007 collection may take us back to early 20th Century romantic locomotive attire, but it also looks like we are going to the lingerie and summer lines… I thought white was out for fall? Or is that not white featured in the photos?Nonetheless, I really like the overall approach- the design sketches juxtaposed to actual clothes and their use of fabrics: Mongolian cashmere, organic cotton, merino wool and surplus fabrics. Very nice, balanced fiber-mix from which to design the green collection.

My favorite is Pointelle Ruffle Cardi– a subtle yet stunning ensemble. As a ‘layerer’ myself, the collection offers a wide range of options for different orderings and combinations.

clipped from www.treehugger.com
While putting together its Fall 2007 collection, Stewart + Brown revisited the sepia-toned romance of early 20th century locomotive travel—trains careening noisily down the rails past lush, picturesque scenery, while elegantly dressed passengers sipped from delicate bone-china teacups.
Mongolian cashmere, organic cotton, merino wool, and surplus fabrics are cut into soft, feminine sweaters and loose, diaphanous dresses. Endless layering and matching options await for adventure seekers. More designs below the fold. ::Stewart + Brown

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Edun and the Economics of Green Fashion

In scanning the current green fashion landscape, a handful of companies provide 100% organic products (e.g. bamboo, coconut fiber, organic cotton, ramie and hemp) coupled with fully organic processes. Yet, far fewer companies factor in the importance of the global economy and its impact on the environment.

Africa is a perpetually under-represented trade region of the world contributing just 2% to global trade (2005), yet constituting a significant 12% of the world’s population. Meanwhile, poverty, drought, political unrest and high morbidity and mortality rates continue to ravage the region, simultaneously escalating environmental damage on a range of issues.

Edun is one company that has considered the crucial intersection between global trade and environmental sustainability – and provided a brilliant solution.

Placing fair trade at the forefront of their business model, Edun sources all their fabrics in Africa and uses African entities to produce/manufacture the clothing. Even though they are not 100% organic yet, they are working towards that goal.

While it is necessary and wonderful to provide fully organic fabrics coupled with low carbon footprint production processes, it is equally essential to create opportunities for under-represented regions of the world to enter into the global market.

If we do not do this, we will find ourselves tackling an increasing portfolio of insurmountable environmental problems worldwide. On the other hand, if we create “green” market solutions (such as Edun) that not only provide essential jobs, but also minimize environmental footprints, then we truly can have a lasting impact. Edun was founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and Bono with NY clothing designer Rogan Gregory.

clipped from www.edunonline.com

EDUN is a for-profit business founded on the premise of trade, not aid as a means of building sustainable communities. The company works on a micro-level to help build the skill sets of the factories where the clothes are produced. EDUN is currently produced in India, Peru, Tunisia, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Mauritius and Madagascar.

In addition, EDUN acts as a voice encouraging the fashion community to do business in Africa and thereby help bring the continent out of extreme poverty. In 1980, Africa had 6% share of the world trade. By 2002, this had dropped to just 2% despite the fact that Africa has 12% of the world’s population. If Africa could regain jut an additional 1% share of global trade, it would earn $70 million more in exports each year. This is several times more than what the region currently receives in international assistance.

Bono, Ali, Rogan

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“Eco” Fashion Week in London

Here’s to a powerful showing of ethical and green fashionistas in London this week. For the first time, eco and “people” friendly fashion acquired its own rightful place at the week-long event. ‘Esthetica’, the eco exhibition, featured designers from Ciel and Enamore to Davina Hawthorne and Samant Chauhan, some of the hottest, most talented designers in the field. Notably, many of these young artists not only demonstrate their uncanny ability to source creative eco products and materials for designs – all with low carbon footprints, but more than a few explicitly embrace fair and ethical trade practices.

We are entering a new generation in which it is not only possible to create and sell sexy, hip, environmentally conscious clothing, but it increasingly is a necessity. The very definition of hip, I believe, has transformed to include socially and environmentally conscious design practices.

Interestingly, Esthetica reveals a huge range in product, design, materials and approaches. Hetty Rose for example takes used high end Kimonos and integrates them into stunning, individually crafted shoes for women. While not inexpensive, these shoes are a work of art: contemporary, fun, elegant and hip. The best part too is knowing that the material, as re-used, is not contributing to additional carbonization of the planet.Also worth noting is Noir– which appears to be the sexiest, most striking line of the week. Proving that green can be hot and hip, Noir took an impirial, dark and almost militaristic approach to their sexy designs this year. Catchy indeed- the clothes are powerful and hot, serving to drive home even deeper that green-ing is achievable, one baby step at a time. Noir is not 100% organic, but they are working toward that goal, one thread at a time.

Finally, I’d like to make note of Samant Chauhan, a new designer from India, whose knitware work is obvious in its ingenuity. This man is clearly a visionary and one step ahead of the crowd in terms of his designs. While some may say, the designs appear too odd, off-beat or strange at times, I would argue that Samant may be onto something. Inspired by the Asian pulse of fashion, he bridges the gap between East and West: fusing two typically opposing paradigms to create one very unique look. Furthermore, given that Asia constitutes the fastest growing consumer market in the world, and houses close to 3 billion consumers — I can only guess that the work of designers like Samant will be increasingly influential.

clipped from www.londonfashionweek.co.uk
Another new initiative at the Exhibition @ London Fashion Week is Estethica,
it will be the hotspot for ethical fashion, designers will show collections founded
on ecological and organic principles. Maintaining the highest standards in design
and craftsmanship, all the labels here including Katharine Hamnett and From Somewhere
are creating high end fashion without compromise.

ECO SUSTAINABLE FASHION

Estethica

enamore

hetty rose

noir

samant

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