Sustainable Stash

Thinking about your Stash Sustainably 

The Problem  

Exeter’s student societies produce lots of pieces of stash every year, tending to choose the options that provide you with “more for less”. While this is financially beneficial for us, the price is paid in many other ways: similar to fast fashion companies, cheap stash suppliers seek to cut corners where possible in order to make profit, and this price is paid by garment workers and by the environment.  

What can you do? 

These are the two main things you should be aiming for with stash:  

  1. Reassess your current level of stash output and your attitudes towards it, weighing up your own needs against the impact we are making. 

  2. Dive deeper into the stash production process, thinking critically about each supplier/printing company and what they offer in order to choose the most sustainable options.  

Designing stash 

  1. Generally, less is more. Simpler designs with fewer colours will have a cleaner effect, as well as requiring fewer resources and producing less waste.

Choosing a printing method 

  1. Screen printing is a common method of printing however the process does create ink and equipment waste. Two of the most common inks used are plastisol and water-based inks. 

  • Plastisol inks are the most used, but are also the least sustainable.  

  • Water-based inks are an eco-friendly printing method 

  1. Digital printing is another common technique, and is said to be more eco-friendly than other options as it produces very little waste.  

  • Digital printing inks tend to be aqueous (water-based) or solvents.  

  1. Embroidery can be a sustainable choice, which is largely dependent on thread type. 

  2. Custom-made patches are a very sustainable option, and can be provided to members for them to add onto their own clothing, cutting out the need to buy new garments. 

CHOOSE: Ideally custom patches to be added onto existing garments. Embroidery using eco-friendly/biodegradable threads. Low-waste printing using water-based or “eco” inks 

AVOID: Embroidery using synthetic threads. Wasteful printing methods using plastic-based or toxic oil-based inks. 

Choosing garment material 

  1. Organic is generally better than conventional cotton, but be cautious. Organic cotton is produced without the use of artificial chemicals, using much less water and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton, among other benefits. While this is a positive initiative, be aware that its real environmental impact is dependent on farm efficiency, technologies, and location. 

  2. Avoid synthetic/non-biodegradable fibres. These include nylon, polyester and acrylic. These materials emit large amounts of CO2 during production, gradually release microplastics into the atmosphere when worn, and do not biodegrade in landfill. 

  3. Recycled material is a very sustainable option but be aware of the different types. Textile recycling reduces the amount that goes to landfill and promotes a more circular economy. Look for 100% recycled clothing. 

CHOOSE: Recycled and/or biodegradable fibres. If choosing cotton, be aware of the type of manufacturing process and opt for organic or recycled where possible. 

AVOID: Non-biodegradable fibres such as polyester, even if blended with plant-based fibres, unless there’s a good reason for it (e.g. sport kit). 

Investigating garment suppliers 

  1. Second-hand sourcing is the most sustainable option.  

    1. Some companies will print/embroider onto clothing we supply, which cuts out the need to buy new garments.  

  2. Think critically about companies you buy new from, even if they claim to operate ethically.  

    1. Look past performative statements and vague “eco”, “sustainable”, “organic” labels. Search for reports from unbiased sources.  

  3. All ethical suppliers are certified, but not all certified suppliers are ethical.  

    1. Certification programs externally assess suppliers’ production processes based on certain criteria. These are a good initial indicator, but still look into suppliers individually as some certifiers such as WRAP have been criticised for not being rigorous enough. 

  4. Consider WHY prices are cheap.  

    1. We often choose brands such as Fruit of the Loom and Gildan because they are the most cost-effective for us. But how does the company make profit? Who pays the price? 

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