Repreve Recycled Fabrics

We’re big fans of recycling – cutting old jeans into new styles, repurposing household objects, and recycling our polybags into dog poop bags (yeah, we’re committed). And clothing made out of recycled materials tops that list. One of our longtime supply chain partners, REPREVE®, is one of the main reasons we love recycling.

Established in 2008, REPREVE is an American company committed to turning upcycling “trashed” materials into fibers (Quick textile lesson: Fabrics are made out of fibers – some fabrics can be all of the same fibers, like 100% cotton, or a blend of fibers like 50% cotton/25% polyester/25% Tencel®. Different fibers have different performance benefits that cause fabrics to perform in different ways. Lesson over).

REPREVE makes fibers like nylon and polyester out of recycled materials, then we blend those fibers into many different fabrics across many different styles. And using recycled fibers is all part of our commitment to sustainability.

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So how is REPREVE recycled polyester made?

It all starts with some uncomfortable truths about plastic bottles. About 80% of used plastic bottles end up in landfills every year – that’s 35 billion plastic bottles that get thrown away every year.

So REPREVE starts by accumulating lots of recycled PET plastic bottle at its recycling facility in North Carolina. (Another quick lesson: PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate — a form of polyester that’s derived from oil that’s molded into all sorts of consumer products). The used bottles are sorted, washed and shredded into flakes that look like fish food. The clean flakes are blended, melted, and turned into chips that are loaded in big silos. Just like a grain silo, each REPREVE silo holds the equivalent of 27 million plastic bottles.The chips enter the extrusion and texturing process, which transforms the chips into fibers with distinct performance benefits like wicking, thermal reg, odor control, and conditioning.

Okay, so how many bottles has REPREVE recycled?

Since 2008, they’ve recycled more than 20 billion (yes BILLION with a “B”) plastic bottles! Just for context: What does a billion bottles look like? If you place 8-inch plastic bottles end to end, they would circle the Earth five times. So multiply that by 20. WHOA.

When you go to the REPREVE website there’s an updated ticker counting the number of bottles that have been recycled. It’s a constant reminder that recycling your plastic bottles may seem like a small step, but that small act has become a global force. Just by recycling we can reduce plastic pollution and help to preserve natural resources by requiring less petroleum, energy and water to produce.

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Speaking of other resources, what else makes REPREVE sustainable?

This process isn’t just about finding new life for recycled materials – it’s also about reducing the amount of resources used to produce new fibers. Compared to making new fibers (or virgin fibers),  making REPREVE fibers offsets using new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and conserving water and energy throughout the production process (so if you’re wondering, “is recycled polyester safe?”, yep, it is). To give you an idea of the amount of resources using 20 billon recycled plastic bottles saves…

  • Enough energy to power 189,249 homes for 1 year
  • Enough drinking water to sustain 2.3 million people daily for 1 year
  • 517 million kilograms of C02 emissions

That makes a big difference for our future.

This sounds great, but is REPREVE certified recycled?

You betcha! It’s always good to confirm that recycled materials come from reputable sources that don’t rely on child or forced labor to collect recycled materials. REPREVE is certified by the U-Trust Verification system to certify recycled content claims.

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So what’s the difference between recycled fabrics made with REPREVE vs. virgin fabrics?

Well, nothing. Recycled fibers still have the same stretch, recovery, and performance as virgin fabrics – just with a sustainability factor. We guarantee that you, our customer, won’t be able to tell the difference in the hand feel and the care instructions. It’s exactly the same. The recycled nature doesn’t inhibit the fabric or performance in any way.

Great – where can I buy recycled clothing made with REPREVE?

Lots of places! Many major retailers and companies have incorporated recycled REPREVE fibers into their product lines – Toad&Co included! Shop our men’s styles and women’s styles made with recycled fibers – we swear it feels twice as nice.

How To: Natural Tie Dye

As optimists to the core, we are always trying to find the bright spots and silver linings in every situation—no matter how tough. We recently asked our customers what their bright spots were during this global pandemic, and here’s a common thread we kept hearing: Having more time to slow down.

Slowing down comes in many forms, but a lot of you mentioned having extra time for projects, hobbies, family, and making more sustainable choices. So we thought this would be a great time to talk about one of our favorite slow-down, sustainable activities: How to make natural dyes from food scraps (aka tie dye your clothes in the most eco-friendly way).

Using natural dyes to spruce up old clothes is a double win for sustainability: It’s an awesome way to breathe new life into old threads to save them from the landfills—and using food scraps to make the dye is an awesome (and fun) way to make use of your waste in the kitchen. You can use all types of food scraps like avocado pits, walnut shells, and beet tops, but for these instructions, we’re going with two of our favorite natural dye ingredients: onion skins and used coffee grounds.

And a big thanks and shout out to our friend Emma for sharing this step by step guide with us—she’s a textile artist launching her own upcycled clothing line, so yeah, she’s an expert (more on her below).

What you’ll need

  • •Cotton T-Shirt (organic cotton or bust)
  • •Yellow onion skins and/or coffee grounds (two of the best natural dyes)
  • •Rubber bands
  • •A non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel work well)
  • •Iron mordant (optional) **

 

What is a mordant?

When dyeing clothes naturally, a mordant is needed to fix your dye to your fabric—otherwise the colors will quickly wash out and fade. Iron (ferrous sulfate) is a a commonly used mordant that “fixes” and “saddens” your colors. It’s one of my favorites and can turn golds to olives and browns right before your eyes! If you’re wondering about natural dyes that don’t need mordant, onions are a great choice. Some plants (like onions) are very high in tannins (a naturally occurring mordant), and do not need additional mordanting with iron or other metallic salts. For this project, you’ll only need a mordant (and some extra lead time) if you choose to dye your clothes with coffee grounds.

To make a mordant at home:

  1. 1. Put a handful of rusty nails in a jar.
  2. 2. Fill jar with 2 parts water + 1 part white vinegar.
  3. 3. Cover and set aside until the solution turns orangey (1-2 weeks).

 

To dye your clothes:

  1. 1. Throw your tees in the wash with a pH neutral detergent (most “sensitive skin” detergents fit the bill). When they’re nice and clean, soak them in a pot of water for at least an hour, but ideally overnight.

 

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  1. 2. Meanwhile, put your dye supplies (coffee grounds or onion skins) in a non-reactive pot, adding just enough water to cover your shirts. Bring the water to a boil and simmer (for at least an hour, but overnight if you can). For this project, I used about 10 onions worth of skin for one shirt and a half gallon bag of used coffee grounds for a second shirt (1 shirt per dye pot). It’s possible to continue dyeing with the dye pots until the color is “exhausted” (aka producing really, really light colors). You can also adjust the amount of natural ingredients to get your colors darker or lighter.

 

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  1. 3. After your shirts have soaked, you can bind them into tie dye patterns.

 

For a bullseye pattern, pinch the center of the shirt and wrap rubber bands at regular intervals all the way down. 

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For a spiral pattern, pinch the center of your shirt and twist. Once it’s fully twisted, rubber band it in “slices.” 

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  1. 4. Strain the dye materials out of your pot, drop in your shirts, and simmer for an hour. Let cool and rinse.

 

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  1. 5. If you’re using an iron mordant, now’s the time. Simmer 1 cup of your iron solution with water for 30 minutes (make sure you use enough water so that your shirts will be fully covered once you submerge them). Remove the solution from heat and dip or submerge your shirts – iron works quickly so this may only take a few minutes. Rinse out.

 

  1. 6. Hang to dry in a shady spot, then wash your shirts with a pH neutral detergent again.

 

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  1. 7. Get excited to wear your new naturally dyed tees!

 

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**A few safety notes: As a general rule, it’s best not to use any pots or utensils for food after they’ve been used for dyeing. If using an iron mordant, keep solution out of reach of children and pets; avoid breathing steam from an iron bath and simmer in a well-ventilated area. Iron mordant can be safely disposed of down the drain in municipal areas. 

 

Once you’ve gotten this technique down, it’s easy to learn how to make natural dyes from plants and other food scraps—and the world is your oyster when it comes to things to dye. Think pillowcases, dish towels, cloth for wrapping gifts (a favorite sustainable trick—get instructions here). When sustainability meets creativity, everyone wins.

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Emma Fern is a textile artist living in Burlington, Vermont. Inspired by the stories and traditions of her Appalachian ancestors, she calls upon the sustainability of age-old techniques like natural dyeing to create contemporary textiles. She’s launching her upcycled clothing line, CNTR, this summer. Follow along on Instagram @cntrcntr

Factories Spotlight

We’re often asked about where our clothes are made, and what the working conditions are like in our factories. We’re incredibly proud of the longstanding partnerships we have with our vendors, and of the progressive initiatives that they are constantly pushing forward.

When it comes to our relationships with our factories, it’s all about working with the best possible partners who adhere to our high standards for protecting people and the planet. We require that all of our partners follow our strict Code of Conduct, ensuring fair wages and proper working conditions. We also choose partners based on their sustainability practices, not just in the manufacturing process, but throughout the entire supply chain – sourcing, transportation, and production (About 75% of our garments are made with fabrics produced in the same country, which helps reduce environmental impact). And because making quality garments is crucial to sustainability (the longer your clothes last, the less you have to buy), we only work with partners who we know produce the highest quality clothing.

Here’s a spotlight on two of our biggest partners:

Egedeniz Textile

We’ve worked with Egedeniz – the first certified organic textile company of Turkey – for 20 years. They’ve been long standing leaders within Textile Exchange, and have progressive initiatives regarding solar energy, job training for women trying to get into the workforce, and they plant 1,000 trees annually to offset their carbon emissions. When it comes to organic cotton, Egedeniz is known for managing the whole process – from growing it to manufacturing it – all within the same country. Not only does this ensure that their cotton is not grown with pesticides or other harmful substances, but it also means reduced fuel usage for transport. Double win for sustainability.

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Photos from the Toad team’s most recent trip to Egedeniz. That’s Our Head of Production Joanna (center), our Head of Product and Design Kyle (right), and Egedeniz partners Yener, Aysemin, and Ozgu (left to right). 

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Hemp Fortex

We work with Hemp Fortex in China to produce our hemp clothing, and (you guessed it), most of the hemp they use is grown in China too. Their main facilities (knitting, cutting, and dye house) all run on 100% solar power, and they have only used sustainable fabrics in their manufacturing process since day one. While sustainability is a definite highlight of this partnership, they also have progressive social initiatives. Hemp Fortex was the first member of the Fair Wear Foundation – an independent non-profit organization that works with factories to improve labor conditions for garment workers. Hemp Fortex also provides assistance to employees to help motivate home purchases, and in 2013, founded Hemp Fortex Foundation, which aims to help those with physical disabilities be able to afford their medical bills and day-to-day living expenses. So if you weren’t already a hemp clothing superfan, all the more reason to love it.

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And just like not all factories are created equal, the fabrics and fibers we choose to work with make a world of difference too. Learn more about our eco materials and certifications.

 

Clothes are Holes: How To Fix Different Types of Holes in Clothing

We’ve all felt the sting of a fresh rupture in one our most beloved garments. As Stanley Yelnats learns in Holes (a Toad favorite), “the first hole is the hardest.” But no matter how big or small, a hole doesn’t mean that your favorite wardrobe piece is forever relegated to laundry day and late night frozen yogurt runs (or worse – the landfill). If there was anything to learn from the wisdom of Sachar’s coming to age masterpiece, it’s to live in the moment and take each hole as it comes. 

That’s why we’ve assembled this quick and easy video guide on how to repair a tear in fabric of all types:

How to fix a hole in a sweater elbow:

How to fix a hole in the inner thigh of jeans:

How to fix a big hole in a shirt:

How to fix a hole in leggings:

How to fix an iron burn hole:

How to fix a hole in a down jacket:

How to fix a hole in a sock:

Because when you really think about it, “clothes are actually just holes.”

 

And if you’re looking for repairs that go well beyond holes, check out our how-to guide on sewing buttons, hemming pants by hand, and more. 

We’re all about whatever it takes to keep clothing out of the landfills. And if that means sending your clothes to someone else to repair, we’re OK with that too. Learn more about how this works through our partnership with Renewal Workshop

8 Ways to Save Water

March 22 is World Water Day, which aims to bring light to the water effects of climate change—and how everyone has a role to play in using it more efficiently. With that, here are our top Toad tips for saving that precious H20.

1. Do less laundry. We’ve always said “Dirty is the new clean” (seriously, just check out the hang tag on our new clothes). But when it does come time to freshen up, run full loads and make sure to skip the extra rinse cycle.

2. Reuse. Water that you’ve boiled pasta or veggies in is a great option for hydrating your indoor and outdoor plants! You can also make a big difference by capturing water while you wait for it to heat.

3. Grow native plants. If you’re looking to start a garden, we always recommend going native. Native plants are already perfectly accustomed to their environment, so they require less water than bringing in more traditional landscapes and lawns. They’re low maintenance, attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife, and promote local biodiversity.

4. Take shorter showers. Easy peasy (you can also install shower heads that are designed to conserve water).

5. Run full loads only. Same tip from your washing machine applies to your dishwasher. And if you don’t have a dishwasher, double check that that faucet’s turned off as you rinse (bonus: if you have a dual sink, fill one side with hot soapy water for washing, and one with cold, clear water for rinsing).

6. Check for leaks. A slow drip from a leaking faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day. And a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day (Pro tip: put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, you’ve got a leak)!

7. Cover your pool. It reduces evaporation and can cut the amount of replacement water needed by 30 – 50%.

8. Wear organic cotton. Organic cotton uses far less water than conventional cotton to grow—and it often uses “green water” (which comes from rainwater) versus “blue water” (which is pumped in from lakes, glaciers, and snow). Shop Men’s and Women’s organic cotton clothes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fix Your Clothes

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: clothes don’t belong in landfills. Wear it out, or pass it on. We’re big fans of using what you’ve got and mending your clothes when they’re a little worse for the wear.

A good rule of  thumb is to buy durable, well crafted clothes that won’t fall apart after a few wears and washings. Next, follow the wash instructions – most things last longer when washed in cold water and air dried. When you come across something that needs mending or altering, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Here’s how to fix your clothes, so no excuses! 

How to Sew a Button

 

How to Hem Pants By Hand

How to Cut a Raw Hem

How to Mend a Seam

How to Fix a Broken Zipper

How to Repair a Hole in a Sweater

How to Repair Your Jeans

How to Fix a Hole in a T-Shirt

How to Hem on a Sewing Machine

Polybags Suck

Polybags suck. Something we can all agree on, right?

We hate plastic as much as you do. But the prevalence of the notorious polybag is a reality we face in the clothing industry. That little bag your clothes showed up in is key to keeping them safe from damage during transit, warehousing, and shipping. Without them, much of the product would arrive damaged and then comes the big, bad L word (aka it ends up in a landfill).

We are always working to make the best decisions for the environment and for our customers, and – real talk – the polybag that each garment is wrapped in is currently our biggest challenge.

Here’s what we’re doing to address it.

  • •Since the beginning, we’ve made our polybags from recycled plastic.
  • •A few years ago, we audited our bags to reduce the amount of plastic used. We made the bags as thin as we possibly could and reduced the overall average size.
  • •We removed the individual polybags completely from all shipments of samples sent to HQ – and are working with other key partners to ship their products without polybags.
  • •We’re currently in the middle of another audit that will lead to less, and even smaller, polybags in future seasons.
  • •We’re constantly thinking creatively about how to get a second or third life from the bags. We moved the little ventilation holes up to the top of the bag so that it can be reused as a doggy pick-up bag or for your dirty clothes on a weekend getaway (keep reading for more on that).

 

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But what about alternatives?

The short answer: The current alternative options just don’t match up to our sustainability requirements. And there isn’t enough research yet to prove that alternative options are actually better.

Here’s the long answer: Believe it or not, alternative materials (like compostable plastic) are often not as awesome as they sound. Most compostable plastics (this goes for cups and silverware too) can only be composted in industrial compost facilities, which are rare in the U.S. And even if they make it as far as an industrial composter, they take much longer to break down than the true organic waste. What does this mean?

  • •This can end up causing issues like slowing down the turnover of the facility by causing employees to pull out the compostable plastics to put them back in with the next load of organic waste. Sometimes this takes 5-6 cycles before the plastic is fully broken down!
  • •Often the compostable plastics are thrown into the recycle stream where they can ruin processing machines, so in most places the presence of compostable plastics often cause the whole batch of recycling to be sent to the landfill.
  • •Even when the compostable plastics do fully break down, their presence can degrade the rest of the compost in the batch because they break down into a sticky, resin-y mess. This creates poor compost that’s not rich or nutritious for plants (like compost from truly organic materials is).

 

We promise to keep an eye on alternatives and are constantly evaluating how they stack up to what we’re currently doing. And while we’re always working to REDUCE the amount of plastic, here are some ideas for how you can REUSE the bags in the meantime.

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  • 1) Dog poop bag. Done and done.
  • 2) Store your phone, wallet, and keys when hiking in the rain. Keep bags on hand to cover your muddy shoes before you get back into your car.
  • 3) A simple starter pot for plants: Fold down the bag until it’s as tall as you want the soil to be, poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with soil, and plant your seeds.
  • 4) Scoop cat litter with leftover bags or use one to line the litter box.
  • 5) Hang a cedar closet bag (fill a bag with cedar chips, tie it closed, then poke several small holes in the bottom with a safety pin) to repel moths. Or fill the bag with flower petals, crushed fragrant leaves, and a couple of drops of aromatic oil for an easy DIY sachet to freshen up musty drawers.
  • 6) Fill a bag with distilled white vinegar (a couple of inches below the vent holes), then tie it around your showerhead to remove soap scum and mildew.
  • 7) Cover fragile plants with plastic bags if you detect frost on the way. Same goes for outdoor padlocks in the winter to keep them from freezing.
  • 8) Replace bubble wrap with plastic bags when mailing packages. You can use the same trick when packing away breakable holiday decorations.
  • 9) Use the plastic to stuff winter boots or bags you don’t use in the summer to help them keep their shape.
  • 10) Put plastic bags under furniture you’re painting. They also work great for protecting tables and counters when kiddos are doing craft projects.

 

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And of course, we’re always looking for other ways to cut back on waste, like by making clothes from recycled plastic and offering reusable shippers. Because just like you, every step we take counts!

 

How to Throw an Eco-Friendly Party

There’s a little football game coming up (we’re not legally allowed to use the name, but it rhymes with “Duper Bowl”) and we’re gearing up for snack central. Since we’re on a mission to find a greener way to do just about everything (see BBQs, holidays, coffee, summer), here are our tips for throwing an eco-friendly tailgate party. 

Checkbox LESS “TAILGATES”

Carpool, public transit, bike or walk… the days of everyone driving their own trucks are over. We’re not here to kill the vibe, just make it a little more carbon neutral.

Checkbox GROWLERS OVER CANS  

Have everyone go to their local brewery of choice and fill up some reusable growlers. OR have everyone pitch in for a pony keg. Sure, beer cans and bottles are recyclable, but reusable containers are where you can make a huge impact. 

Checkbox  GO MEATLESS 

We get it – we love chicken wings too. But maybe, just this once you can try a buffalo cauliflower recipe or mushroom burgers. Who knows, you might actually like it better.

Checkbox REAL UTENSILS  

Hear us out: you can get a zillion utensils for next to nothing at thrift stores (because who needs mismatched forks? YOU DO). Yes, the compostable utensils are better than plastic ones, but they still end up in landfills and take many years to break down. That’s why we’ll always preach the benefits of reusable items. Get a mess of utensils and keep them as your “party set.” You’ll use them more than you think! 

Checkbox RECYCLED DECORATIONS    

Real talk: Those 99¢ streamers we can get online have a lot of hidden costs to the environment (packaging, jet fuel, questionable manufacturing). Get creative and make streamers out of old ribbon or fabric you find at thrift stores, or make a big flower arrangement with the colors of your team. Encourage guests to wear team colors – it will feel festive in no time. 

Checkbox DONATE THE WINNINGS   

There’s a $5 buy in and the winner gets to donate to the winning to the non-profit of their choice! Win, win. Gotta love football! 

Holiday Recycling Tips & Ideas

We know a thing or two about leftovers. From fabric scraps to dye water to using every part of a plant, we’re always looking for ways to capture our leftovers and reuse them (wine bottle bowling, anyone?). If you’re having an eco friendly holiday, keep it going and stretch those leftovers into 2020. 

Checkbox USED WRAPPING PAPER

Unless it’s plain ol’ brown paper, wrapping paper isn’t recyclable. Wrap fragile things like ornaments or glassware in used wrapping or tissue paper  to keep it safe until next holiday. 

Checkbox CARDBOARD BOXES 

Ah the ubiquitous cardboard box. Instead of clogging the recycling plant, stick in your yard + cover with mulch = no weeds in the spring. 

Checkbox  POLY BAGS 

Most things ship in plastic in order to protect them from any transit snafus. Get in the habit of reusing these plastic bags for doggy doodoo bags (a Toad office trick), or save and use as packing materials next time you ship a package to another time zone. 

Checkbox FOOD SCRAPS  

Nearly all food scraps can be reused. Toss bones and veggie peels into a pot for broth or soup. Take literally anything, mix it with eggs, toss in a pie crust and you have a quiche (or do the same thing but with cheese and bread and voila, you have a grilled cheese). Stale bread becomes croutons, wilted greens become pesto, and less than perfect veggies love a quick pickle. Waste not, want not. 

Checkbox OPENED WINE   

Opened wine will keep in the fridge for 2 months, so now’s the time to make all those fancy recipes that call for a cup of wine – piccata, coq au vin, braised short ribs, scallops… cooking with leftovers doesn’t sound half bad… 

Checkbox CHRISTMAS TREE  

First, check to see if your local waste management recycles Christmas trees into wood chips (that’s a great option if you have it!). If not, get an axe and get to work – turn your tree into firewood and use the needles for much. Live near a lake or pond? Wash your tree with the hose (get any glitter, plastic, and hooks of of it) and toss the tree into the lake. The tree is a natural incubator for algae and great habitat for fish. 

Checkbox GIFTS 

Got stuff you don’t need? Instead of throwing it all in a box and sending to the thrift store, think about who could use it and donate to specialized organizations that will get it to people in need. Transition houses, homeless shelters, animal shelters, disaster relief organizations, children’s programs, family assistance leagues… what you donate now will be used throughout the year.  

Happy 2020 – let’s make it the most sustainable year yet!