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New Zealand Merino-Possum Knitwear

& Merino Baselayer


Why settle for less than the best?

New Zealand Merino Knitwear and Baselayer chocolate fish merino baselayers and midlayers

CHOCOLATE FISH MERINO™, Prop. A. McCaig, 26 Regent Avenue, Leeds LS18 4NJ, West Yorkshire, UK.

Tel: +44 (0)113 228 9591 Email: merino@chocolatefish.co.uk


Legal Notices Chocolate Fish Merino all rights reserved

Choices for a Better Life - a guide to choosing sustainably produced, ethically made clothing

To quote Australian journalist Dan Hanks:

“Even the most innovative or seemingly innocent products can have a murky origin.  Your IPad/IPhone apps and games may lose their fun when you consider the Apple workers committing suicide in China.   And Valentine’s Day becomes ever so slightly more nauseating when you learn that those chocolates you bought the parent of your children may have furthered the slave trade of other children in Africa.  

Human actions always seem to have an impact somewhere in the world.  All we can do is try to mitigate or fix the problem once we are made aware and move on better for it.   One of the most significant and relatively easy changes we can make is with our clothing.  For almost everything we buy there is an ethically and more environmentally-friendly produced choice”

Anyone who has any pretensions of caring for the environment and/or the welfare of their fellow human-beings should not be ignoring how and where their clothing is produced.    We MUST learn that “cheap” clothing carries an unacceptably high environmental and human cost.

Country of Origin


In the UK it is not mandatory for garments to carry country of origin labels.  Even if it was, there are companies in China and elsewhere who will put any Country of Origin label on that the buyer wants!


In some countries, only a small part of the garment manufacture needs to be carried out in that country to legally carry that country’s label and that can be as little as  a label, button, or logo.


So how can anyone be sure of where any garment is made?  Ask.  If the company won’t say exactly where their garments are made, and who by, be wary.  What are they hiding?  


There is also the question of fabric.  Garments need fabric; where is this made?  Again, ask.  If you don’t get a clear, unambiguous answer then take your custom and money elsewhere. It is only by buying responsibly will any improvements be made.

LABOUR

Over three out of every four garments sold now come from China, a country renowned for its low production costs—and low wages, long hours and ineffective labour laws. China’s competitiveness depends on being able to supply clothes at extremely short notice, at an extremely low cost.

Due  to the current financial climate, retailers are putting even more pressure on manufacturers demanding ever-cheaper prices to protect their own margins. For Chinese factory workers, that means longer hours and less pay. There is now a backlash in China from the workers who are now demanding high wages and better conditions.  Few are getting them.

Whilst not all Chinese manufacturers exploit their workers they  will often out-source work to smaller, cheaper production units, where there is little or no control.  

Even where factories claim “environmental accreditation” it is impossible for them to avoid the fact that over 70% of China’s power comes from coal-fired power stations (many of them illegal), which use high-sulphur (dirty) coal that causes massiv environmental pollution, and is mined in the most dangerous coal mines in the world.

China’s low wage economy is also impacting on third-world producer such as Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh where wages and conditions are utterly appalling.

A year ago, the It Sportswear factory in Bangladesh burned down, causing the deaths of 29 workers and injuring many more.  The factory, belonging to the Hameem group, supplied US brands and retailers, including VF corporation who now own Smartwool/Timberland.


Recently two more workers perished and over fifty were injured in a stampede triggered by panic after a boiler explosion at Eurotex. This brings the list of workers killed in unsafe garment factories since 2000 to at least 339. Most of the victims were producing clothes for well-known international brands when they died.


Most companies here in the west have chosen to ignore the serious social and environmental consequences of fabric production, dyeing and clothing manufacture. Chocolate Fish Merino is almost alone in using exclusively New Zealand-made merino fabric, and having its garments made in New Zealand (it is simply not possible to have them made here in the UK ).


Links: Labour behind the Label, Environmental Justice Foundation,     Clean Clothes Campaign


FABRICS


These are some of the environmental facts and figures behind textiles and clothing production:


Cotton

According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, a single, non-organic cotton t-shirt uses roughly 1.5 kilograms of chemicals (pesticides and fertilisers)  to grow the cotton and dyeing it uses 16 to 20 litres of water. By some calculations, purchasing one cotton t-shirt means purchasing 1.7 kilograms of fossil fuel, depositing 450 grams of waste in a landfill and emitting four kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere.


Switching to organic cotton may not help much either. Unfortunately cotton garments with ‘100% organic’ labels could still be dyed with polluting chemicals and made in sweatshops.


According to the International Labour Organisation:


Cotton farming uses 25% of the world’s pesticides. Those pesticides kill cotton farmers.


The International Labour Organization estimates that every year, 40,000 agricultural workers die and up to five million are poisoned by pesticides. A single drop of aldicarb, the biggest-selling cotton pesticide, can kill an adult when absorbed through the skin.


Worse, farmers are paying to be poisoned. Pesticides account for half the cost of producing cotton, with prices set by multibillion-dollar corporations, while subsidies for US cotton growers depress the global price paid for cotton. Cotton farmers in the developing world are frequently in debt and suicide by pesticide is common, killing a further 200,000 farmers a year.


In China alone, the effects of cotton growing on the environment and population of countries are staggering. The cotton crop requires seven times more fertilizer than insecticides, and the runoff from all these chemicals pollutes the rivers and lakes, leeches into the groundwater, and leads to China’s abnormally high water pollution. Farmers in China are using more than six times the amount of pesticides and fertilizers than growers in sub-Saharan Africa.


Cotton also is a remarkably water-intensive crop. Eco Fashion World estimates that to grow enough cotton for a single t-shirt requires 2,700 liters of water. The expansion of cotton farming is leading to increased desertification in areas of the world. The Aral Sea in Uzbekistan is an example of how cotton farming can turn lakes into deserts. In China, cotton farming is increasing the size of the Taklamakan Desert because an unsustainable amount of water is being diverted to grow the crop.


There are however moves to “sustainable cotton”.  The Insiders Guide to Cotton and Sustainability, written by Simon Ferrigno and edited by John Mowbray, is now available. Published by MCL Global, producers of Ecotextile News and Knitting Trade Journal, the 136 page booklet covers the ecological impact of cotton production and the environmental challenges that this presents.


Synthetics

Nylon, acrylic and polyester. These synthetic fabrics are made from oil-derived, non-sustainable, non-renewable plastic pellets, and they never break down. This season’s polyester top will still be around more than 800 seasons from now.  Ten new polyester plants have been built in China in the past few years!


Nano-silver

Silver nano-particles have been used for some time now to try to stop the build-up of stink associated with synthetic clothing.  This process is neither very effective or environmentally friendly. The US Natural Resources Defense Council has launched lawsuits in the US to s top the use of products containing nanosilver as a growing number of questions associated with assessing the hazard of and exposure to nanosilver and other nano-scale metal-based pesticides and treatments have not been properly assessed.  A summary of silver toxicity and regulation: need for stirngent registration review of nanosilver.


The argument rumbles on with both sides denying the others opinions.  The facts however are that nano particles can enter the human body - that’s what “nano” implies, and the effect of nano-silver treatment of textiles is short-lived.


Cellulose-based Rayons

Tencel, Modal - all man-made fabrics with some of the useful properties of synthetics - but spun from wood or bamboo* pulp.  Unlike synthetics these fabrics will eventually biodegrade.  However they are still made from chemicals, and whilst some may be made with a closed-loop system, not all are and the consumer has no way of knowing the truth.  


*US Federal Trade Commission


In addition, as these fabrics do not start with a yarn, as does wool and cotton, much more energy is used to create the yarn from the raw materials, creating an even larger carbon-footprint.


Hemp

This is a fibre we should be using a lot more. It has half the ecological footprint of cotton.  It can be grown in cool climates like New Zealand, the UK, Europe etc., and with barely any irrigation or pesticide. Hemp fibre can produce wonderful fabrics that are a perfect replacement for cotton and linen.


Traceable Merino.

Buy a Chocolate Fish garment and you are guaranteed that it is made from New Zealand Merino from a small group of Sheep Stations contracted to Zque.   The fabric we use is MAPP - Merino Performance Programme - from Designer Textiles, Auckland.  


Zque accreditation is an independently audited certification scheme that guarantees traceable New Zealand merino and ensures animal welfare.


Dyes

Over 700,000 tonnes of dyes are used to colour 40 million tonnes of fabric every year. About 45,000 tonnes of that dye is discharged into rivers and streams. Salt water, used to set the colour, is discharged too—often into freshwater streams, making it impossible to grow anything in the surrounding soil.


Chlorine is also used, combined with a polymer coating, in countries like China to treat wool to make it smooth and machine washable.  Chlorine and polymer treatments lead to huge problems of ground-water pollution, in particular with dioxins. Legislation in New Zealand prevents this.  In addition, Designer Textiles International is committed to exceeding minimum standards and using best practices throughout their supply chain to meet these responsibilities.  Their waste water is neutralised on site before being collected by the Local Water Treatment Authority.  Even air discharge from the mills is in compliance with NZ's strict legislation.


Natural dyes, made with ingredients like onion skins and beetroot, are biodegradable and non-toxic. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive, labour intensive, and don’t always last well, fading badly in sunlight. Worse, some mordants used to fix natural dyes contain heavy metals, making them not much better than synthetic alternatives. For now, completely natural dyes just aren’t viable on a large commercial scale.


MAPP Merino has compliance with conditions set by ETAD, The Ecological & Toxicological Association of Dyes and Organic Pigments Manufacturers.  The dyestuffs and chemicals are supported by certificate of compliance ISO 9001.  Their handling of chemicals is certified with requirements of the Regulations under the Hazardous Substances Act 1996. The product is not exposed to formaldehyde. Their energy efficiency is constantly monitored and machinery maintained regularly to minimise energy use