Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Zero Waste Goal

The October 23, 2011 LA Times business section ran one of their occasional "Made in California" series--this time, about jeans maker Adriano Goldschmied. Don't miss Premium denim maker AG Adriano Goldschmied has a leg up on rivals. One of the things that struck me about this operation is the quote:
With carefully designed cuts, all but 3% to 5% of the fabric is used.
Look at how little is left after they cut the jeans parts! But is that really 3-5% waste? I like to think that I use efficient layout. What is my waste percentage? That weekend, I was making baby sweats from 1 yard of pre-consumer waste navy fleece. (You can see it, and other examples in Preconsumer waste fashion.) It was too late to weigh the total piece, but I weighed the cut pieces and the scraps leftover:
  • 301 g used for the sweatshirt and two pairs of pants
  • 158 g scraps
  • This doesn't count the scrap of gray rayon/lycra at the neck, leftover from another project.
This means my frugal cutting still generates 10 times as much waste as the AG factory. Additionally, at the factory, they can bag up all their scraps and send it to a textile recycler to be turned into household insulation, upholstery and such. I just toss mine in the trash.

I do toss my larger scraps into a large bin in the sewing room. Iris makes art projects and I sometimes piece together scraps to create larger pieces of fabric and make stuff from that. I will show examples in a later post. Improvisational quilt is an example.

I'd used scraps from the same fabric for one of my tops, too.

Do read the article and see the slide show. I found the photos of how they lay the fabric out on a long table under tension and then suck the fabric down to the table with a vacuum fascinating. That explains the little short ends of premium denim that I can buy for $1.50/pound a few miles from their factory. I don't know which jean factory they came from, but they are very good quality--not the stuff you see offered at Joann.

The NY Times also recently ran a story, Stone-Washed Blue Jeans (Minus the Washed). Note that lasers are used to "distress" jeans in both stories. Lasers can use quite a lot of energy, too. This is also done under an industrial-sized fume hood because the fabric outgasses quite a bit of nasty stuff.
Why are lasers and fume hoods eco? Because the alternative, sandblasting, can give the workers silicosis. In this case, workers' deaths could be directly attributed. I suspect that many more are sickened until they are too weak to work. Their deaths may be attributed to malnutrition or tuberculosis at a later time. But they were weakened by producing our jeans.

Do you remember a time when we saved up, bought one pair of jeans a year (stiff as a board) and spent the summer weathering them ourselves until they were ready for the first day of school? Wasn't that fun? Did it kill us like the workers in the factories today?

Zero waste applies to not just fabric, but to people as well.


  1. This is really interesting. I must confess that I have never given much thought to how my clothes are cut out- at least not since I used to sew, back in junior high.

  2. Great article. I just discovered your blog through Shams'.
    Learning how to generate less waste of all types is a huge challenge. Just getting all the garbage in the right recycle bin takes a lot of energy! Some of us are at least moving in the right direction but it's going to take another generation anything close to zero waste to become second nature. It's a worthy goal.

  3. It's important to become more conscious of using, reusing, recycling... keep up the consciousness promotion! So many people don't even Think before they toss "stuff"... much less about how the stuff even gets to us in the first place.
    Our ancestors were often less wealthy and more conservation-minded. I have two wonderful quilts made by my great grandmother from bits salvaged from winter coats after they became too worn to use... and the stuffing is the parts that were too worn to use on the outside!
    I too wore out my own jeans - and the result look much more natural, too! I grew into, and wore, "hand-me-downs" too.
    Perhaps our descendants will be less prone to prejudice against "used" clothing, and seduced by the false lure of the shiniest, newest, (most untested) other products! My kids are off to a Great start!

  4. Once upon a time we had lots of sewing factories here in central Alabama. I used to raid the dumpster bins of a factory that make quilted bedspreads. They had trimmings separate from other trash (food and drinks and garbage). My mother and I would make a trip about once a week to see what was in the bins. It was easy to separate the batting sandwich which we used to make doll quilts, doll clothes and small stuffed animals. The factory allowed folks to take the stuff because it cut down on their cost (less trash weight to pay to have hauled away) and folks were polite and didn't abuse the place. A win win for both sides. Some of their outlet stores sold the same trimmings in huge plastic bags real cheap which was also fine with me. Unfortunately the factories have now moved out of the country and EVERYONE loses. The jobs are gone forever!!
    It looks like no one wins anymore, no matter where they are or what they are doing.


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