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If you’re like a growing number of people, sustainability plays a role in your purchasing choices. In a 2021 study, the most common way people changed their habits to be more sustainable was to reduce single-use plastic; around 61% of consumers said they’d cut back.
Plastic is trickier to recycle than many people realize, and only about 9% of the plastic we toss into the recycling bin ends up being recycled. But, thanks to recent innovations, it can sometimes end up in ingenious places — like medical scrubs!
That’s just one example of how companies like Barco Uniforms can innovate to meet the demand for sustainable products and do their part to reduce the negative environmental impacts of apparel manufacturing.
“According to some assessments, the apparel industry contributes to more than 10% of greenhouse emissions. It is a water-hungry industry and chemical-intensive industry,” said Julie Gimber, Director of Materials R&D at Barco Uniforms. “I think sustainability is an obligation of apparel companies to reduce waste, reduce carbon footprint, and educate customers on how their buying habits can affect global warming.”
So, what makes some clothing more sustainable than others? Let’s look at some of the factors and what we’re doing at Barco.
When most people think about sustainability, they’re thinking of environmental sustainability. Preserving resources and reducing waste are essential tenets of ecological sustainability, and by incorporating recycled plastic into our medical scrubs, Barco is practicing both.
When Barco One first came on the scene, it was the first scrub brand to incorporate Arctech fabric. Besides its remarkable performance, this fabric had a surprising benefit. Each Barco One scrub set incorporates ten recycled bottles! This not only keeps plastic waste out of landfills, but actually enhances the scrubs’ durability and fade resistance. That means more used scrubs stay out of the dump, too.
“The good news about the scrub industry is that most wearers keep their scrubs until they wear out, only replacing as necessary, reducing landfill waste,” Julie added.
And Barco is continuing to source new environmentally-responsible fabrics. Julie said the company is currently exploring medical scrub designs made from Tencel, a sustainable (and remarkably comfortable) cloth made from bamboo fibers.
“You can create the most environmentally responsible products in the world, but that won’t matter if you can’t produce it at a cost people can afford,” Julie explained. Indeed, many shoppers who would otherwise purchase sustainable clothing are turned off by the thought of higher price tags.
Fortunately, that isn’t the case with Barco’s two sustainable scrub brands. Barco One and Skechers™ by Barco are among the most budget-friendly AND eco-friendly scrubs on the market. But you wouldn’t know it based on their fashion-forward designs.
“Design matters,” says Julie. “A responsible product still won’t sell if it’s ugly.”
Another major tenet of sustainable business, social sustainability refers to societal equity and fairness. Julie explains, “We want to avoid practices that are inherently exploitative, or which are beneficial to some communities at the detriment to others.”
Besides working hand-in-hand with mills to ensure they’re using responsible practices, Barco Uniforms is taking extra steps to provide for underserved communities and those disproportionately impacted by climate change.
Barco’s Nightingales Foundation has provided more than 30,000 people with clean water by sponsoring solar wells in drought-stricken Haiti. The Foundation is also helping to combat poverty and inequality in several other ways, partnering with charitable organizations like Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, Hispaniola Mountain Ministries, The Lighthouse Foundation, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and ReSurge International.