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.

DEET vs. Insect Shield

Nothing says summer quite like the bloodsucking buzz of the mosquito. And it’s not just the mosquitos — the ticks, midges, no-see-ums, ants and other creepy crawlers are just as relentless. Luckily, we humans have developed various bug repellent tactics to combat Mother Nature’s most annoying pests: lighting citronella candles, burning sage, dousing ourselves in DEET, rubbing picardin lotion all over, and our favorite,  Insect Shield Technology woven right into our clothing. Before we get into why we love Insect Sheild protected clothing, let’s dive into the alternatives.

What is DEET?  

 DEET (or diethyltoluamide), is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It was actually developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 to protect soldiers in insect-infested areas, and a few years later it hit consumer shelves.

DEET works by basically taking you off of a bug’s radar. Insects can sense people and animals by detecting the air that we breathe out. DEET masks the smell and thus makes it harder for insects to find you. Sounds harmless enough, but the issue with DEET lies in the chemistry.

The compounds that make up DEET are toxic when absorbed or ingested into the human body – it’s a pesticide, after all. And if you’re rubbing or spraying DEET onto your skin, the chances to absorb are high. Though it’s not been proven by the FDA to cause cancer, DEET has been linked to skin irritation, redness, rashes, and swelling. And DEET actually stays in the body for a long time. DEET absorbed through your skin can be found in the blood up to 12 hours after it is applied. Once it’s in your body, DEET travels through the liver where it’s broken down into smaller chemicals, and finally exits through the urine. Most DEET has left your body within 24-hours of application.Because DEET is so widely used, it has been found in wastewater — and in places where waste water becomes part of the environment.

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So let’s talk about the effects of DEET on the environment. First of all, DEET does not dissolve or mix with dater very well, so it needs. To be broken down by other chemical processes – even natural ones. When DEET gets into the soil it will stick to the soil unless it can be broken down by microbes, like bacteria and fungi. Like the human kidney, these microbes just break the chemicals down into smaller compounds without actually “removing” it. Like most pesticides, once it’s out in the world, it stays there. Think of it like plastic. The same thing happend when DEET is sprayed or evaporates: it will be in the air as a vapor and then begin to break down slowly in the atmosphere.

The producers of DEET have spent a lot of money trying to say that it’s not toxic, or that it’s safe for kids. But as parents and environmentalists ourselves, we don’t buy it. To be on the safe side, we avoid DEET sprays and DEET mosquito repellents and look for alternatives that do not absorb into the skin or the environment.

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What is Insect Shield Technology?

The DEET alternative that we like is Insect Shield Technology that utilizes permethrin (per-meth-er-in). Permethrin has been successfully used in the United States as an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered product since 1977, with an excellent safety record. It is used in lice shampoos for children, flea dips for dogs, and various other products, some of which are regulated by the FDA. The Insect Shield process binds a permethrin formula tightly to fabric fibers which result in effective, odorless, permethrin-treated clothingfor insect protection that lasts the expected lifetime of apparel.

And best of all, it does NOT absorb into the skin. Insect Shield Repellent Apparel puts insect repellency near your skin, instead of on it, and the protection is invisible. Also, the repellency is long lasting, so no re-application is needed.

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Permethrin treated Insect Shield® Repellent clothing has been proven and registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers, and midges (no-see-ums). Insect Shield® Repellent Gear has been proven and registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and flies. The EPA requires extensive effectiveness data to prove a product’s ability to repel insects. Many species and varieties of these insects have been tested, including those that can carry dangerous diseases.

Permethrin treated clothing is not toxic to dogs or cats, and is safe for kids and toddlers – though we recommend monitoring your kids closely when you use any new products. Insect Shield Technology has been deemed safe by the EPA and has actually been used in millions of uniforms for US Military as well as in millions of permethrin-treated bed nets that are distributed globally via malaria control programs. 

Check out more on Insect Shield Technologyand shop our Debug Collections for safe, permethrin clothing for men and women.

 

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!

 

The Art of Indigo

There’s nothing more vintage than indigo. Going on 6,000 years, indigo dye has been used in everything from royal robes to ancient currency to the original American flag. It ages like a champ and promises to keep its cool… forever. It’s an ancient art form that traces it’s cultural roots to India and its actual roots to the Indigofera plant. Over the course of a few millennia, indigo dyeing spread from India to the rest of Asia, across the Middle East to West Africa and Europe, then finally onto North America and the Caribbean. Across the globe, you can pretty much find an iteration of indigo in every culture.

With infinite cases of indigo comes near-infinte dyeing practices. In parts of Africa and Japan, traditional communal indigo dye pits are still going strong. But more often that not, “organic commercial indigo” is made in poor, unregulated facilities that dump blue wastewater into local waterways. So as much as we love plant-based dyes, we stick to a modern synthetic blend because of it’s environmental upsides.

Our indigo dye is a synthetic dye from India and we use it to dye 100% organic cotton yarns (side note: organic cotton promotes soil health, water conservation, and forbids the use of chemical pesticides). Our indigo styles are single-dyed (which uses less water that traditional methods) and wastewater is captured and treated. No scary blue rivers here! If you’re the proud owner of indigo clothing, you know that it ages gracefully and changes slightly with every wash – so be sure to wash with like colors. And hey, if you’re into the traditional methods, grab a white shirt and try your hand at indigo-dying yourself. Like we say, indigo-for-it.