Making clothes comes with an ecological and social footprint. We are committed to using more responsible materials that cause less pollution to water, air, soil and life. Our goal is to find the right balance between sustainability, functionality, and purpose. For us, responsible materials are made from recycled content, grown using organic practices, or have a proven lower environmental and social impact than conventional ones.
Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber worldwide. It’s produced starting from the soft, white fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of the cotton plant. It is predominantly grown in hot climates and often requires large quantities of water and synthetic chemicals.
We have introduced organic and recycled cotton in our collections to reduce our use of pesticide-heavy cotton. In 2021, 65% of our cotton range consisted of organic materials and that mix is set to grow to 93% in 2022.
WOOL & CASHEMIRE
Wool and cashmere are lightweight natural fibers made from the fleece of sheep and cashmere goats, and have unique characteristics such as comfort, versatility, and great thermal performance. As it is a natural fiber, wool is also biodegradable and fully recyclable in its pure form.
We source, as much as possible, virgin wool from certified responsible sources that respect the highest standards of animal welfare and land stewardship. We also encourage our suppliers to align with animal health and welfare standards as part of our Code of Conduct. Plus, we have introduced in our collections recycled pre- and post-consumer wool and cashmere that has been recovered from existing materials and regenerated into new yarns. In 2022, 49% of our wool range will be made of recycled materials.
POLYESTER & NYLON
Polyester and nylon are strong synthetic fibers which are long lasting, weather-resistant, and that dry quickly.
We know the fashion industry is largely dependent on non-renewable and finite resources, such as synthetic fibers made from petroleum. Synthetics also release microplastic pollution that enters the wider environment, which can cause negative effects on ecosystems and human health.
As a sportswear and activewear business, we rely on synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon for their comfort and technical performance. We are working on replacing synthetic materials with natural materials, without compromising performance. Where this is not still possible, we are working to reduce our use of virgin polyester and nylon: indeed, in 2022 96% of polyester and nylon we use will be made of recycled material.
Seawool is a functional fiber whose structure shares 99% of wool’s traits. It is made through a process that uses patented technology to create yarn made from recycled polyester - from plastic bottles and upcycled oyster shells -.
Thanks to the recycled PET used, the fiber is fast drying, anti-wrinkle and easy care, while the oyster shell makes the fiber anti-bacterial, anti-static, insulating and wool-like handle.
Bamboo is a natural fiber, soft to the touch, strong and breathable. It is one of the fastest-growing crops on earth and due to its robust rooting network, it doesn’t need to be replanted. Additionally, it does not need pesticides, insecticides, seeds, chemicals, or fertilizers. From a performance point of view, it absorbs moisture, is anti-odor, and has antibacterial properties.
Despite the environmental benefits posed by bamboo, its challenge lies in the environmental impact of the chemicals used in the viscose process necessary to turn the cellulose material into a textile fiber. In fact, substances like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, which are commonly used for this kind of process, can be harmful to aquatic life. At North Sails we are looking for technologies that can minimize these impacts.
Our commitment towards responsible materials also extends to packaging; for this reason, we are adopting solutions to limit the amount of unnecessary plastic in our retail packaging (goods we send directly to you, the customer), as well as in our purchased goods and wholesale packaging. Not only is packaging the dominant application of plastic globally (at 26% of total volume), but its small size also makes it especially prone to leakage into the ocean.
We use organic cotton bags and paper-based products from certified, responsible sources in our retail packaging, and we are piloting water-activated paper tape to replace plastic tape that can contaminate cardboard packaging. In transport packaging, we use recycled plastic polybags and cardboard from certified, responsible sources.
Finding ecologically responsible materials is just one part of our sustainability work. We know producing and finishing garments can also have a high environmental impact. We are committed to finding effective solutions to improve these processes.
The dyeing process is particularly water and chemically intensive. In addition to the high volume of water needed, water can also return to the environment contaminated with hazardous substances, such as toxic chemicals, heavy metals, mordants and microfibres which are a threat to local communities and animal life.
We use mineral dyes as the best solution to overcome the issue presented by the current energy-intense and wasteful processes involving synthetic dyes. The use of mineral dyes ensures the reduction of chemicals with a high environmental impact. However, the current process is not suitable for all the fibers, limiting its adoption.
The current process for waterproofing garments uses the durable water repellent (DWR) technology. This ensures the garment protects the wearer from the harshest conditions and prolongs the life of a garment. Once all stitches are sealed from water penetration through seam-taping, the garment is coated with the solution. Such a process also gives the garment a good durability.
The current challenge of this process is presented by the use of PFCs, chemicals potentially harmful to human health that, due to their composition, are highly resistant to biological degradation. At North Sails we are continuously looking for technologies that have lower impact on people and planet and that at the same time can guarantee the level of performance for which our garments are famous.
We care about the health and safety of our customers, and for this reason we introduced the Polygiene® Stays Fresh Technology in our collections. Polygiene® keeps clothing fresher for longer by stopping the growth of odor-causing bacteria with a biocide made of silver chloride. This salt inhibits and guards against the growth of bacteria and fungi. Polygiene® stays effective through many more washes than any other anti-bacterial treatment. The treatment is applied to the fabric at the finishing stage of production and does not require additional resources such as water and energy.
The longer a product lasts, the smallest its annual environmental footprint will be. That’s why we design functional products that can be used many times and over different seasons. As a customer, you can also help reduce the ecological footprint of the clothes you own.
Wash less, air more
With proper care, washing your clothing less will ensure they have a longer, more useful life. It will also maintain the breathability of jackets, especially, and reduce the water and energy needed for running a wash cycle. Our products that feature polygiene treatment reduce microbes and help you cut down on your need to clean with water. Instead of washing after every use, try airing out your clothes. Wash only when garments are soiled by dirt and body oils.
With fewer than 1% of garments being recycled into new clothing each year, repairing slightly damaged garments and reselling quality clothing that you are no longer wearing will keep textile waste out of landfills and the ocean. For GORE-TEX® jackets, such as our Southern Ocean Jacket, you can take advantage of Gore approved fabric repair kits and repair centers to extend the jacket’s lifetime.
Reducing microfiber pollution
When washed, textiles shed tiny particles known as microfibres. In the case of synthetic clothing, microfibres are made of plastic, which is why they are commonly referred to as microplastics. These tiny particles easily enter waterways, posing a significant threat to marine ecosystems and human health.
For this reason, North Sails is committed to using natural fibers whenever possible — we have increased the cotton share in our Spring-Summer collections from 66% in 2020 to 75% in 2022. We are also piloting manufacturing technologies and fibers that shed less during use and washing.
GUPPYFRIEND™ Washing Bag
Customers too, play a part in minimizing microplastic pollution. Every time you wash synthetic clothes, the garments shed small plastic pieces. In fact, the majority of microplastics from textiles are released during the first few washes.
North Sails is aware of the importance of garment care and wants to help you minimize the impact of laundering. You can now purchase the GUPPYFRIEND™ Washing Bag online and in all North Sails stores worldwide.
The GUPPYFRIEND™ Washing Bag reduces fiber shedding and protects your clothes during laundering. How? First, put all your synthetic clothing in the Bag before washing. Once the washing cycle is complete, open the Bag and remove all microfibres—no worries, you can throw them away in the trash.