early on the f&f blog, i started a mini-series called "shopping for..." which documents the eco-criteria of some suppliers and contractors i was sourcing. the series was short-lived, or rather, forgotten when we got into the real work of designing and producing the clothing.
chatting with vanessa of next door style about eco-friendly screen printing today, reminded me of the little series, and i decided to pick up where i left off.
first off, here's my checklist when looking for a contractor or supplier, screen printing or otherwise...
1. public transit accessible, and not too far from my studio (the less carbon, the better)
2. committed to maintaining environmentally responsible practices: using recycled paper, must have recycling program, etc.
3. happy employees: this is very important to me. even if employees are paid well, but treated like sh*t, it's not worth it. chat with the employees, do they get vacation time? are they overworked? do you get emails from them at 2am?
4. happy work environment, and general good vibe: here i trust my instinct - it's hard to miss if a place feels sketchy. sometimes i'll look for signs - i know a workplace is more relax and lenient towards it's employees when there is lots of little personal effects around: music playing, maybe a guitar laying around, or some photos and artwork, and neat cultural stuff around?
5. owner involvement: i like to see that the owner is still very much involved in the business, driven to succeed, and passionate in their craft. god knows that few people work in the fashion industry to become wealthy - so it takes someone who LOVES their job to do it, and do it well.
6. it's a special bonus when they love animals. (my screenprinter has an office rescue dog! sure it means an occasional dog hair on the garments, but they also take super extra precautions to vacuum and clean to keep it minimal - so far i have honestly only found ONE dog hair, and it was likely my fault for playing with the dog and then looking through my garments).
7. pricing is also important - if they seem cheap, it's probably because they are cutting corners - which almost always mean all of the above criteria are not met. (though high prices does not mean they are using the best practices either - do your research!!)
8. size of the business: the size of their business should be a good match for yours. are they willing to accept a small order from a small designer like me? is there room to grow together as my business grows? (personally, i like to support local indie businesses, so i'll shy away from bigger chains whenever possible.)
9. a reference: if you know anyone who is using the same contractor/supplier, ask them what they think. they can often give you insights on the quality of work/products the contractor/supplier provides.
10. an open mind and healthy attitude towards sustainability.
as for screenprinting specifics, i look for the below...
1. lead free inks
2. phthalate free inks
3. recycled inks and solvents
4. eco-friendly cleaners and filters
love to hear any feedback and suggestions!!