This series by Cardiff Capital Region, has shown that our transformation to a decarbonised economy built on a sustainable way of living will touch every part of our lives: from the way we produce heat, energy, fuel and power, to the type of buildings we live and work in, the modes of transport we use, the agricultural methods we employ to feed our nation – and even the way we make clothes that respect the environment and help safeguard the planet for future generations.
Micro and SME companies are at the heart of this revolution, delivering low carbon sustainable services that, together, will drive the green economy and a new way of life. And you’ll find a shining example of this in the Rhondda Valley, where Emma Easter has established the family-run Blaenrhondda-based Easterkins business, pioneering the design and production of sustainable, organic, ‘climate positive’ children’s clothing.
Manufacturing garments that customers can adore and cherish – made lovingly by hand in a solar powered studio, Easterkins, uses organic fibre and eco-friendly packaging, doing everything possible to offset any carbon footprint. With the brand already enjoying a glowing reputation, we talked to Emma about her approach – and a business philosophy based on the belief that building a successful business needn’t cost the Earth.
Fun & Funky garments that are climate positive
“When I started Easterkins I was well aware of how fast fashion was negatively impacting the environment” says Emma “and I really wanted to do my bit to help reduce the harm done to our planet in the name of fashion. Hugh and Anita’s War on Plastic shown on the BBC got me thinking seriously about making some fundamental changes and, knowing that I wanted to be a sustainable brand, I started to research and better educate myself and look at ways in which I could make it happen.”
“I set myself a mission to create fun and funky garments that our customers will adore and cherish regardless of their gender; and address the fact that so many items come wrapped in plastic and shipped from countries where working conditions are often poor and dangerous – and where that child’s t-shirt you were eying up may have been made by a child in the first place. I’m convinced that sustainable fashion is the way forward, which means your little ones can wear quality clothes with good conscience, knowing that they are made ethically with organic materials and no harm to the environment.”
We’re a zero waste business using sustainable and recycled fabrics sourced from ethical companies
“As a zero waste business, we pride ourselves on using sustainable and recycled fabrics sourced from ethical companies. We know the fashion and textile industry is one of the most polluting sectors on the planet, so we’ve worked really hard to ensure that the choices we make don’t harm the environment – repurposing and reusing as much of the fabric as humanly possible, or recycling any fabric that’s simply too small to be reused.”
“It’s been a journey of discovery and continual improvement. When I first started Easterkins it was really hard to find organic custom printed fabrics that weren’t exceptionally expensive, so we initially used OEKO-TEX, which tests for harmful substances within the fabric or print, but doesn’t factor in the wider range of environmental or social factors. Now we have recently partnered with a UK fabric printer who sources their organic cotton jersey fabric from UK mills and, thanks to that, we’re now moving towards using organic-only fabrics wherever possible and sourcing more fabrics that are milled, knitted and printed within the UK.
“This reduces each garment’s carbon footprint significantly as the fabrics printed in China for example use reactive inks which require massive amounts of power and water to create the final print. In the UK. pigment inks are far more popular and whilst some vibrancy is lost in comparison to reactive ink, it’s far more sustainable and eco-friendly. ”
All of our packaging is sustainable and completely plastic free
“All our packaging is sustainable. There’s absolutely no plastic in our packaging and I’m really proud of that. Our ‘no issue’ tissue paper is FSC approved, acid free, made using soy inks – and is completely recyclable. Our boxes and mailer bags are recyclable or reusable too – and the protective packaging that every order is placed into is also compostable. We even deliver the orders or take them to the post office in a hybrid car – so we really do everything we can to reduce the carbon footprint. We’re not quite a carbon zero business yet – and I’ve always wanted us to become a climate positive workforce – so we’ve partnered with Ecologi, paying them a monthly fee to plant trees and support the funding of climate-responsible projects around the world, including here in Wales.”
Paying a Fair Wage plays a massive part in helping others make sustainable choices
“I also think paying fair wages plays a massive part in helping others make sustainable choices. After all, if you’re paid a small amount, the sum of money you have left over at the end of every month is significantly less. This doesn’t always allow individuals to make sustainable choices – when finances are tight people will buy what they can afford and there’s no shame in that!
“I’m hopeful that the Easterkins business will grow and enable me to become a real living wage employer in the Rhondda Valleys. We’re located in an old mining community and an industrial zone that’s suffered. Jobs have been lost for decades, poverty levels here are high, so I’m keenly aware of the financial struggles faced by low paid workers. I strongly believe that if everyone was paid a fair living wage, then it’s possible that they will have more disposable income to make the decision between fast fashion and sustainable fashion. Becoming a ‘climate positive workforce’ is at the heart of what we’re doing and one of the reasons why we partnered with Ecologi, making sure a tree is planted for every garment we make.”
We’re a work in progress, improving all the time.
“We’re not perfect and we’re still a work in progress. So whilst we don’t make the t-shirts and sweatshirts in our “Birthday t-shirts” range at the moment, they are sourced from an ethical and eco-friendly supplier outside the UK – and we’re looking to work with a local manufacturer for our t-shirt and sweatshirt needs in the future. My mission at Easterkins is to raise awareness around sustainability, break down the stereotypes and harmful practices within the children’s clothing industry – and create both an industry and a world that does the right thing for everyone.”