In My View: Most Sustainable, Really?

They say “three’s the charm,” but in the newsroom “three’s the trend.” At least that’s what I was taught from a top editor in my early days of reporting and a rule of thumb that continues to hold true. So when I heard Annie Agle of Cotopaxi describe a recent collection done in partnership with Teva as “the most sustainable collab in the industry” not only was I intrigued, it was the hat trick of trendspotting.

My first encounter with “most sustainable” was earlier this summer.  I came across an OR generated update that highlighted the “most sustainable research project” taking shape at Bergan’s Future Labs based on ongoing R&D with Spinnova. Tagged the Collection of Tomorrow, it was to be made with the “most sustainable fiber.”

Fast forward to the fascinating email that landed in my inbox a few weeks ago from a respected veteran outdoor industry apparel designer. She shared that a new client was interested in producing waterproof / breathable garments with “the most sustainable resources available on the market.” Educating herself on the latest ecological/sustainable developments and technologies for fabric, construction and trim, she asked my thoughts. She raised key questions; Concerns that I, too, puzzle over. Such as, is it too early in the game to claim what is the “most” sustainable?  How does one wade through the sea of claims for “most sustainable” validity? And of course the kicker: Isn’t the “most sustainable” thing not to make more stuff?

The Cotopaxi x Teva collection is crafted from remnant fabric destined for landfill. It is a terrific offering – so terrific that it sold out in a flash. Agle’s “most sustainable” eco messaging resonates deeply with the outdoor community and throughout the textile supply chain with sustainability serving as a main driver of marketplace innovation, investment and storytelling. In my view, however, also significant is that the common thread of environmental stewardship has united the textile industry to a degree I’ve not seen before in my career. That’s why this emerging “most sustainable” trend gives me pause. Let’s be wary of turning a successful collective effort into individual competitive endeavors.