An important part of fair trade is showing up. Email and Skype are not enough. Building meaningful face-to-face relationships with our suppliers is part of our manifesto. That often means persisting through good times and bad, and learning from the bad times to build something even stronger.
We visited our main supplier in Peru earlier this month to work on some pretty exciting things.
First, starting this fall, the mill that knits, dyes, and washes our fabrics will be GOTS-certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) – the first and only fabric mill in Peru to achieve this very stringent standard. Our organic cotton fiber has always been GOTS-certified; our dyes have always been certified safe too. But this piece certifies the process is as safe and eco-friendly as can be, including recycling or treating 100% of the water used in the facility.
Second, we’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but now we’re very close. 100% bio-degradable and compostable bags for our clothes! Until now, an elusive clincher in trying to build the Greenest Tees on Earth.
In the midst of all this exciting progress, we faced some pretty serious challenges in finishing up our spring production. It should have shipped in early March. As you may have heard, Peru is experiencing historically heavy rains that’s causing heartbreaking devastation.
The coastal capital Lima, where our main workshop is, was not directly affected by the rains but is experiencing record-setting heat and humidity in a city that’s usually pretty dry and mild, thanks to the cold Humbolt Current. Most buildings don’t have or need air conditioning, but this past month the heat became unbearable to work in later in the afternoon. Our employees worked shorter shifts.
And last week, just as we were in the home stretch, the rivers near Lima overflowed their banks due to the rain upstream. This overwhelmed the city’s water utility and contaminated the water, which had to be shut off for all but a few hours a day as the city crews worked overtime to re-purify the water.
Roads connecting Lima to surrounding communities became impassible, including a road that connects our embroidery facility with our main workshop. A couple thousand pieces became stranded at the embroidery facility as a result.
All of this is really nothing. We hesitate to even connect delayed clothing production with what’s happening in Peru right now. The inconvenience we’re feeling can’t be compared to the wrenching situation so many are facing. Everyone in our workshop and their families are thankfully safe. Here are some ways to help. Those of us here in Peru, along with our workshop owners and employees have reached out to local organizations. The relatively unscathed city of Lima has come together in a big way to make it easy to raise funds for relief, using smartphone apps and volunteer canvassers.
Today we are finishing up most of the shipment and should have it out the door tomorrow. The units stranded on the other side of the flooded roads – we hope to have soon. So if you notice several “coming soon” items on our website, and other items with limited colors and sizes, thank you for hanging tight while these amazingly strong, industrious, and big-hearted folks push it over the finish line.