Sustainable Fashion Barcelona - Course Key Learnings

Learnings from the Sustainable Fashion Barcelona course ( part 1)

At Redpanti we seek to improve menstruation for people and for the planet - reducing the environmental impact of disposable products (which can contain up to 90% plastic).

With this objective in mind our platform promotes the use of reusable period products: menstrual cup, menstrual underwear and cloth pads. These products are long-lasting, unlike single-use ones, tampons and pads that we use for a few hours and then become waste. Therefore the change we achieve (together) slows consumption and reduces the generation of non recyclable waste. 

At Redpanti we also seek to promote awareness, greater understanding and greater transparency. The first element involves publicizing the negative impact of the period with the use of single-use products and how to improve it with reusable products. The second part to drive greater understanding and transparency leads to also understanding the impact of reusable products. If we do not clearly explain advantages, disadvantages and areas for improvement of reusable products, menstruators will not have the necessary elements to make a decision to improve.

As a simplified summary, in Redpanti we propose replacing:

  • Tampons (cotton, plastics, duration of hours) ---> Menstrual cup (silicone, duration 10 years) 

  • Pads and panty liners (paper and plastic, duration of hours) ---> Menstrual underwear, cloth pads (textiles: cotton, polyester, dyes, duration> 2 years)

This change assumes that the production and use of the textile products has a lower environmental impact than the production and use of disposable products. 

We would like to understand this better and consider ways to further enhance the positive impact of reusable products.

The Barcelona Sustainable Fashion course has been very useful to understand the principles of sustainability in fashion. Below are our key learnings:

  1. Sustainability means reducing the use of consumables, reusing and recycling in that order of importance. Hence, the durability of a piece of clothing is very important.
  2. The sustainability of a fashion product encompasses not only the finished product but the complete life cycle of the product from its design, the origin of its materials, its manufacture, its distribution and also its use and maintenance until it finally becomes waste.
  3. There is no 100% sustainable textile. Choosing better will depend on which natural fiber grows in which location and the required characteristics of the final product. For example, in Spain, flax and hemp grow naturally without the need for water nor pesticides and is most sustainable. Other factors such as the low maintenance of clothing and durability, for example in polyester, would lead us to look for sources of this fabric of reused or recycled origin.
  4. Broadly speaking the important factors are:
  5. Better natural fiber than synthetic ones. Reused better than new.
  6. Greater proximity to the origin of the fiber and manufacturing. From natural sources that take care of the optimal maintenance of the environment.
  7. Less use of water, pesticides and chemicals for the manufacture of the fiber. Including the least use of dyes.
  8. The traceability of the product and its materials is key only in this way it can be determined that the origin and manufacture of the product effectively has a lower impact on the environment.

Which are the different types of fibers and how do they compare?

70% of all clothing in the world is of synthetic origin and its components come from oil. The most common fiber is polyester, essentially a type of plastic. We try to reduce the use of plastics due to the high impact throughout the life cycle of this material. A better variation of this material is polyester from plants such as sugar cane or recycled polyester.

There are also fibers of vegetable origin that are usually better but their sourcing is very important. For example: viscose is made from cellulose from trees/wood, however it mostly comes from unsustainable bamboo forests in Indonesia / Amazonia and with processes of synthesis of fiber extremely toxic to people and highly polluting. Viscose in general is not recommended at all and sustainable alternatives are Biocel or Tencel.

Another common plant-based fiber, "normal" cotton, requires excessive consumption of water and pesticides to grow the plant. There are initiatives with BCI or Fair trade where these aspects are improved, also organic cotton that is grown without pesticides.

There are fibers of animal origin such as silk or cashmere with various sourcing and varying degrees of sustainability. A very important conclusion is that "Any excess demand destroys ecosystems"

As we have seen there is no perfect fiber. We leave you with 3 recommendations:

  1. Use well and reuse as much possible - the less garments we "consume", the less impact we have on limited planet resources. "The most sustainable garment has already been created'' Paying attention to the care of these garments is therefore very important.
  2. Seek maximum transparency and traceability of the product - as we have seen in examples there are better and worse sources of the same fiber, example: Viscose or Tencel. The more information about the product, the easier it is to choose the better and avoid those that do not facilitate the decision.
  3.  Give preference to natural fibers, with less treatments and locally sourced whenever possible this will significantly reduce the negative environmental impact that all garment manufacturing entails.