With businesses across the United States beginning to require face masks for entry, the garment has gone from a temporary necessity to a “must-have” fashion accessory. But for those who care about the environment (and what they’re putting over their mouth and nose), an equally important question is this: “How eco-friendly are these face masks?”
Unfortunately for eco-minded consumers, the fashion industry does not have the best track record when it comes to environmentally friendly business practices. As Morgan McFall-Johnson explains in an article for Business Insider, “The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.”
In short — everything from the production methods to the fabric choices have an impact on the planet. So before putting hard-earned money toward a product that is bad for the environment, forward-thinking shoppers are deleting those cheap disposable masks from their shopping carts and looking at high-fashion, eco-friendly alternatives.
Leader of the Pack
Los Angeles based designer Jillian Ann, who has been on the forefront of what she calls “ethical eco-luxury fashion” for the better part of the last decade, has produced a new face mask line called ALTA-RED. It features a variety of fashionable face covering options made from eco-friendly fabrics like silk and modal.
“It is so important to me that people realize the impact their fashion choices have on the planet,” the designer says. “Even cotton garments can be made from crops that are fertilized with toxic chemicals. Those chemicals go into the soil and the run-off water, too.”
Most of the masks in the ALTA-RED collection are made from a special type of fabric called Lenzing Modal. This cotton alternative is manufactured using the more sustainable beech tree (a plant that is similar to bamboo) in a process where 95% of the chemicals used are able to be recycled.
“The Lenzing Modal fabric makes the masks so much more comfortable,” says Ann, “and, most importantly, breathable.”
The fabric is also known for its ability to retain its quality after multiple washes, unlike alternatives made from cotton or polyester which (besides being harsher on the environment) are known to fade and fray.
Going beyond the fabric itself is also the manufacturing of the garments. Big brands like Walmart, J.C. Penney, and H&M have come under fire in recent years for running alleged “sweatshops” where workers are treated poorly and environmental regulations are practically non-existent.
In an exposé for The Guardian, investigative journalist Tansy Hoskins writes, “Investigators for the Changing Markets Foundation visited 10 manufacturing sites in China, India, and Indonesia, and found severe environmental damage including water pollution from untreated contaminated waste, and air pollution.”
At ALTA-RED, tailors are paid above the industry standard rates and the company practices eco-friendly manufacturing.
“We are always looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and optimize our best practices,” says Clayton Beck, the on-site Production Supervisor for the company. “We love the planet and we love our people.”
See all of the ALTA-RED mask options at www.ALTA-RED.com
Eco-friendly face masks — Sources
H&M, Zara and Marks & Spencer linked to polluting viscose factories in Asia by Tansy Hoskins
The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet. by Morgan McFall-Johnsen
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