October 9, 2020

Talking scraps and sustainability with HEMPEA

A few weeks ago we released our first collection in collaboration with finnish home textile brand HEMPEA. Their products are made with ethically produced hemp fabrics - a material too precious to waste a single scrap of. In this article, we will dive deeper, together with Marja-Maija from HEMPEA, into the reasons for our collaboration and our shared passion for sustainability.

A box full of scraps and full of potential

Photo on the right (rolls of fabric) by Juha Kauppinen

Our project started with a big box full of the smallest scraps that were created and collected during the past 2,5 years - all the way since HEMPEA started. They already have ways to reuse bigger scraps, for example to produce fabric napkins or offer packs to customers to sew and craft with. Other pieces are donated to charity or given to organisations for upcycling.

This makes HEMPEAs production process already very low waste and for HEMPEA this is really the only way to run. As Marja-Maija, the founder of HEMPEA, puts it: "A core value for HEMPEA is to give people a long-lasting option. An option where they don't need to throw something away and buy new after months or a year of purchase. To throw away something in the production process would go against this value."

What also helps, next to reusing scraps as much as possible, is that HEMPEA only keeps a small stock of products and fabric and produce more stock in small batches according to need. This way deadstock and excess products can be avoided. Returns (very few thanks to HEMPEAs conscious customers!) and slightly flawed items are fixed, reused or sold at special events as second quality.

Marja-Maija also made an interesting point about the impact of the size of HEMPEA on the possibility to reduce production waste. Marja-Maija: "As HEMPEA is a small company, we haven't yet been able to optimize all our production processes. With larger production quantities we could for example get a fabric width perfectly fitting for our purposes thus reducing production waste. But the positive side of small-scale production is that we are flexible in finding ways to use the different sized fabric pieces."

For us, all these strategies to avoid waste in the production, are a clear sign that HEMPEA deeply cares about the material they are using and have embodied sustainability beyond their material choice. This is, in our opinion, the way all sustainable businesses should operate. Where we as Wasteless Wonders come into this process is at the last step, the smallest scraps that are difficult to deal with, the ones that would truly allow for a zero waste production process, if used up completely.

Why should we care about scraps?

Of course we were curious, why HEMPEA trusted us to take care of their small production scraps. Marja-Maija said, she "was instantly drawn by the creative, playful designs of Wasteless Wonders." But there is also deeper reasons, beyond just the beautiful aesthetics on the surface.

There is definitely a need to find a way to make use of the textile production waste. This is not only about ecology or reputation but the producers could also benefit financially if they make the best use of all the materials.

According to various studies, up to 15% of fabric is wasted in clothing manufacturing during the cutting process. This of course depends highly on the design of the patterns and their arrangement on the fabric. (More about this topic can be found in our 'What is pre-consumer textile waste?' article) At the same time, it also depends on how much the clothing or textiles brand values their raw material and how much they value sustainable production with as little waste as possible. In fast fashion, the fabrics are often so cheap and the workers have to work so fast in such high quantities, that the amount of cutting waste is really not very important at all.

It is quite the opposite with brands like HEMPEA or ourselves. The material is the key and therefore highly valued. It breaks our heart to think about throwing away even one bit of it. ( A box full of 2,5 years of scraps is a clear proof for that!) HEMPEAs hemp fabric is made in Romania. Marja-Maija states that the whole fabric production process takes place in one area in Romania, from hemp seed to fiber to yarn and finally to fabric. The production of the fabric takes place under ethical conditions here in Europe in a very local manner. This makes the fabric ever more special and it also makes it easier to understand, why every square centimeter should be used, if possible.

What can we do to live more sustainably?

At the end of the interview, we asked Marja-Maija for some sustainability tips, as she is so immersed into the topic with her brand HEMPEA. It is one thing as a business owner to do the right thing, but what can you do in your every day life?

Marja-Maija: "I find one of the most important things how to live more sustainably, is to consider what you buy! Do you really need it? And when you really need something, buy locally and responsibly made things." Vote with your wallet is something you hear a lot, when talking about living more sustainably and we too believe firmly in it. We regrettably live in a highly capitalistic society where money rules. Whenever you make a purchase you are signaling to the companies you chose to buy from or not, whether their product is in demand or not. This then influences how much companies produce and which of them can be successful with the type of products they offer. It may feel like your purchase is insignificant, but if we all work together and support only those companies, who truly align with our values, we can make a difference together.

"Also, slowing down life in general is a good way to live more responsibly and it gives you a chance to ponder your lifestyle. For example take the bike or train to travel somewhere, travel and shop locally and secondhand." Many of us have been forced into a slower life this year and while this undeniably caused a lot of difficulties for many people, we hope that some of the new found calmness remains in our lives after we go "back to normal". Another thing we always want to add as Wasteless Wonders is the power of DIY and crafts. If you slow down your life, you may have more time to try and do more things yourself. It may just be cooking more, growing some herbs or creating your own textile products for your home. Doing things with your hands is not only great for your mental health, but also helps you to learn what goes into making a product and hopefully also helps you to appreciate how much resources and time go into any of those things you can pick up from the shelf in a store.

Please visit HEMPEA and their incredible hemp-based home textiles. You can find a variety of bedding, towels, kitchen towels and more home textiles in their shop. Find them at: www.hempea.fi

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