Magazine Post: Sustainable Apparel

Sustainable Apparel

By Greg Jacoski, Executive Director, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

Photos by George C. Schellenger

Like a lot of manufacturing industries, apparel has rarely been a bastion of environmental sustainability. Producing garments like T-shirts requires a significant amount of energy to run heavy machinery. Fabrics are often shipped around the world during the production process, which increases the carbon footprint. Dyes and chemicals used to treat the fabrics are often discharged into the environment as wastewater. In some countries, human rights might be sacrificed in order to deliver a cheaper product.

So when a man who has built his life around sustainability — both personally and professionally — is looking to develop the latest generation of his clothing line, minimizing the impact on the natural environment, while still delivering a comfortable, durable, quality product, is first and foremost. 

More than 50,000 solar panels power the Guy Harvey apparel facility.

Guy Harvey has been focused on sustainability long before the first Guy Harvey T-shirt hit the shelves in 1986. Growing up on the island of Jamaica, his mother was a naturalist who raised him and his siblings to observe the balance and harmony in the world around them. This focus inspired Guy to draw and paint the plants and animals he observed and led him to pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology.

As Guy’s career path shifted from marine biology to that of a commercial artist, it was only natural that sustainability became a cornerstone of his business. 

From that first Guy Harvey T-shirt, the apparel collection expanded to cover a wide selection of beach and casual wear for the entire family. There are also resorts, jewelry, home goods, gift items, this magazine, a line of Ford pickup trucks and even a cruise ship, just to name a few items that feature Guy’s authentic artwork.

Yet no matter the product, Guy keeps the focus on sustainability by requiring a portion of the proceeds from the sale of any Guy Harvey product to benefit the marine conservation work of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF). These funds have helped enact significant conservation measures on some of the ocean’s most ecologically and economically important species, such as marlin, sharks and reef fish.

As proud as Guy is of his conservation efforts, the latest generation of Guy Harvey apparel is taking the focus on sustainability even further by ensuring that all Guy Harvey clothing is developed and produced using some of the most environmentally friendly processes available.

The new Guy Harvey apparel manufacturing facility is on the cutting-edge of sustainable industrial processes. From start to finish, the goal is to reduce the negative impacts on the environment as much as possible. The facility is powered through an array of more than 54,907 solar panels that harness the sun’s energy to power the machines inside. This renewable energy source prevents more than 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s the equivalent savings of consuming 1.35 million gallons of gas! 

Also, 100% of water and steam for dyeing comes from these power-generating units, meaning no extra fuel oil is consumed for any textile purposes.

Taking this focus on renewable energy even further, the Guy Harvey apparel manufacturing facility continually explores the science behind biofuels and utilizing carbon neutral energy from natural sources, such as coconut husks, wood and elephant grass. By continuing to invest in biofuel, we will be able to further reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that directly impact climate change. Additional energy-efficient solutions used in this manufacturing facility include upgrades to the lighting system, sensors and power strips, plus intelligent programmable electronic thermostats.

The fabrics generated by this sustainable power include the latest in sustainably sourced materials. The locally sourced materials can be traced directly to its origin. Local sourcing reduces the fuels necessary to transport the materials to the manufacturing facility and allows Guy Harvey apparel to deliver the softest, most comfortable fibers available.

The Guy Harvey apparel manufacturing company also reached a pivotal milestone in 2018 in its goal to support sustainable manufacturing practices by receiving REPREVE’s Champions of Sustainability Award. This award recognizes sustainability strategies and efforts geared toward protecting the environment. Billions of plastic bottles go into landfills and oceans every year. REPREVE is made from 100% recycled materials and is integrated into apparel, footwear and in many other products where virgin polyester is replaced, helping keep some of those plastic bottles out of the landfill and oceans. Since the launch of REPREVE, more than 12 billion plastic bottles have been recycled with the aim to recycle 30 billion plastic bottles by 2022.

Once the fibers are sourced and the fabric is produced, the dying process has historically been a black-eye on the apparel industry. In some operations, as much as 200 tons of water can be used to dye one ton of fabric. The majority of this water is returned to nature as toxic waste, containing residual dyes and hazardous chemicals. 

However, the Guy Harvey apparel-manufacturing facility maintains an on-site wastewater treatment facility to clean the water used in the production process. Residues from the wastewater are removed and are repurposed for fertilizers and used in yarns for sock and towel production. Any water released from the facility and put back into the environment is so clean, it is safe enough to drink.

Even beyond the green energy and eco-friendly fabrics, Guy Harvey maintains a social responsibility to provide employees in the manufacturing facility a safe and clean place to work. This commitment to its employees has led Guy Harvey apparel to be certified as a “Great Place to Work” since 2016.

From the machines that are powered using solar energy to the scientific research that is funded through the sale of the apparel, sustainability is a cornerstone of Guy Harvey — the man and the apparel.  


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