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Our Future In Sustainibility

2020 and the growth of Oshki’s philanthropy efforts

2020 and the growth of Oshki’s philanthropy efforts

For the first time in his tenure as president, the Trump administration’s budget proposal has included $320 million dollars for Great Lakes funding thanks to efforts by US Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich) - stressing the importance of the Great Lakes to our community and water supply across the world. This is an example of the government working in a positive manner to reverse a previous incorrect decision - a decision that inspired me to start Oshki in the first place. The importance of these lakes cannot be made light of, especially as the issue of water shortage continues to propagate across the globe, a globe where 1/5th of all freshwater is located in the Great Lakes. 

Or, as Mr. Trump so eloquently put it: “I support the Great Lakes, they're beautiful, they're big, very deep, record deepness." 

All jokes aside, grassroots and lobbying efforts across the state do have an impact. There has never been a time in history more allowing of all voices to be heard. This is something I have thought deeply about over the past few months. 

If I was born thirty years prior to when I was (1970 rather than 2000), I would never have been able to start a company, while remaining involved on campus as a full-time high school and then college student. I would have never been able to make the connections I have been over the past few months, which is what has become my favorite part about founding a company in the first place. The individuals I have met inspire me to master my craft, to be resilient in the face of doubt, and to make the most of the opportunities I have been granted. 

I want to highlight the work that a couple of my new incredible connections have done to help mitigate threats to the Great Lakes watershed and other environmental issues across the Midwest:

Williamston High School’s InvenTeam:

Williamston high school (MI) teacher Joe Rasmus is working with a group of students that applied and were accepted into the InvenTeam program run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This rigorous program challenges young people to identify a societal need and create an invention to address it. The students he is working with felt compelled to invent something to address the growing issue of plastic pollution on beaches. Since they live in Michigan, they have seen first hand the problem of plastic pollution. They are focusing specifically on the small plastic pieces that current beach cleaning methods miss, such as broken pieces of larger plastic items, cigarette butts, and cigar tips.

They aim to invent an autonomous device that will identify and capture these small plastics, removing them from the beaches, thus stopping them from breaking down further, leaching toxins into the soil, or being mistaken for food by animals. This device will help with the pollution problems that have plagued lakeshores and oceans across the world, aiding to preserve the beauty of our shorelines, remove materials that leach toxins into the soil and keep wildlife from ingesting dangerous plastic items. A fundraising effort is in store for this group of students to develop their project and attend MIT’s EurekaFest to pitch their idea in Washington DC: Oshki will be contributing to their cause and designing custom Oshki gear for their journey. I encourage you to make a donation to these amazing young people as well, here

Georgian Bay Forever:

A small non-profit based out of Ontario dedicating intensive research to the preservation of the Georgian Bay aquatic ecosystem - a feeder to the Great Lakes. This amazing group of people is developing a unique pilot they are currently testing as a solution to keeping microfibers from our clothing wash stream out of water using end-consumer filters.

The research they are doing is showing that the diversion tactic they are working on is effective across their local community; they will be pushing to implement their solution on a larger scale in the near future. This is heavily needed research as scientists are uncovering the negative health effects of micro plastics at a rapid pace. Check out their website and consider donating here!


Inspired by these organizations and the many more I have been fortunate enough to talk to, I have decided a main goal for Oshki in 2020 is the expansion of our philanthropy efforts. Beach cleanups are a huge aspect of our community engagement. They allow preservation efforts to occur in the purest form: collecting plastic and waste along the beaches of the Great Lakes and other linking lakes and rivers. 22,000,000 pounds of plastic waste enters these lakes every year. With 90% of this waste ending up on beaches evenly spread across the region, successful cleanups of this area is to be done on a grassroots level. Everyone has a duty to do their part and I encourage readers to take time out of their day to contribute to their local communities. 

Organizing four of these beach cleanups this past summer in my hometown (Muskegon, MI) has allowed me to reflect on the reason I founded Oshki and the most impactful aspect of our organization: helping preserve the Great Lakes. In this reflection, the desire to grow these beach cleanup events to other cities around the Great Lakes region became stronger than ever. 

I created a donation option on our website recently to aid our expansion efforts to beach cleanups in other cities. A donation of any kind would be greatly appreciated here!

We are looking for lead volunteers in cities around Michigan, Canada, and other neighboring Great Lakes states to represent Oshki in their city by gathering community volunteers to collect plastic waste.

Lead volunteers will be granted: 

- 1 free piece of Oshki merchandise as a show of our appreciation

- Volunteer supplies for the cleanup: bags, gloves, and sign-up sheets

- Oshki marketing materials for the event 

- A complete guide for how to gather and incentivize local volunteers

Funds from the donation option on our website as well as the Oshki 5% to the Great Lakes fund will contribute to our expansion efforts. If you are interested in being a lead volunteer in your city, please fill out this form. We are looking for impactful, inspired individuals to guide our philanthropy growth, starting with cleanups in May 2020.  With the help of the passionate individuals this region has, we can make a great impact. 

Thanks for reading.

With love,

Jackson Riegler

Founder - Oshki

Thoughts on Microplastics

Thoughts on Microplastics

At Oshki, we have shifted our production in 2019 and beyond into using all recycled polyester - reusing PET plastic waste from the Great Lakes and around the United States. However, this usage does not mean Oshki supports the use of virgin polyester and we see the effect polyester can have on the environment around us. Polyester is a synthetic fiber, made from petrochemical material in a process known as polymerization. Although polyester is breathable, easy to clean, and does not wrinkle - it has its side effects such as the usage of fossil fuels, microplastic shedding, and the usage of toxic chemicals in it’s production. 

Recycled polyester, when used correctly, can limit the effects of this synthetics fiber by:

  1. Using significantly less energy usage (45%+ less) in its production, versus virgin polyester. These energy savings help reduce the carbon footprint of all Oshki products.
  2. Diverts PET plastic from landfills and the environment, reusing the plastic in an innovative way. Oshki being the first company to use 100% United States plastic waste in all products also limits the need to transport plastic all over the world, reducing fossil fuel usage and contributing to a more circular economy. 

This polyester is created from PET materials from local recycling centers. This plastic is sterilized, heated, and split into plastic chips. The ships are then melted and spun using a spinneret to form polyester yarn. The yarn is then put into spools, passed through a crimping machine, and then knitted into polyester fabric. What was once waste turns into a usable material. 

In addition, there are critics of recycled polyester that preach the necessity of using natural fibers (cotton) instead. While this argument has merit, cotton is by no means a sustainable way of production around the world. The ample use of pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers in the production of cotton clothing causes a range of serious diseases and illnesses such as cancer and respiratory diseases. In addition, the average cotton t-shirt uses about 2,700 liters of water in its production (900 days worth of drinking water for 1 person).  With the increasing scarcity of water across the globe, this water usage is unnecessary and unsustainable. Organic Cotton is a new development that can successfully reduce much of the pesticide and water usage, a trait many sustainable fashion companies have applied to their business model. However, Oshki’s production being in the United States was a huge necessity when redesigning our supply chain and only 4% of cotton production in the US is organic (found in an OTA study). Recycled polyester’s potential for reuse and overall lifetime is something that attracted me to use it in Oshki’s production. Once recycled polyester is used, it is one of the few materials that can be remade into what it once was - a recent development first made commercially available by a fantastic company called worn again. We are working on developing new ways to reuse other companies’ old recycled clothing as well as sending our customer’s old garments to streamline our production’s sustainability. 

Another misconception of sustainable production is that we are preaching our product is improving the environment in our products alone. Consumerism causes many issues when it comes to the earth and its ecosystem. For us, it is about limiting the effect our clothes have on the environment and developing new ways to innovate that no other clothing company has done. Clothing is a basic human necessity. Working to sustainably offer clothing to the average consumer puts us in the same battle of sustainable farming and reusing materials in building construction. A significant issue we are currently looking into is the shedding of microfibers. Synthetic fibers such as polyester shed hundreds of thousands of tiny particles known as microplastics in the washing process. These particles are difficult to filter out, and there is no washing machine currently on the market that correctly filters out these fibers from the water stream. Temporary solutions to this issue have come to market as research on this issue has heightened including wash bags and lint filters. These solutions can temporarily halt a long term issue that researchers have more recently uncovered. I just recently spoke with 2019 Google Science Fair winner Fionn Ferriera about this very issue and the best way to go about solving it. Fionn recently won the grand prize of $50,000 for his development of a ferrofluid that removes microplastics. We both understand the importance of plastic removal from waterways around the world and that our generation is the one that needs to solve it. In the long term, solutions we are looking into include:

  1. Developing synthetic fibers such as recycled polyester that do not shed microfibers/plastics. 
  2. Working with water filtration plants into developing new microplastic filters that limit the possibility of these plastics seeping into drinking water - an issue scientists have more recently studied
  3. Washing machine companies working on filters that automatically collect microplastics during the washing process - where 99% of the issue exists.
  4. Working with material science engineers at the University of Michigan and beyond to create durable, recycled garments that push the boundaries of what was previously thought possible - making apparel that will consistently last 60-70 years. 

Developing these issues at Oshki can not only help our company’s success and sustainability, but move the fashion industry and humankind forward. At Oshki, this is what matters most to me. We were founded under the ideology of keeping the earth clean and moving forward we will only get better at doing this. 

 

With love,

Jackson Riegler

Founder - Oshki

Our Supply Chain

Our Supply Chain

During my first year at the University of Michigan, I decided to redesign Oshki's supply chain entirely. I became more educated on the impacts of a company's supply chain and how to have the most sustainable product possible through a "Business & the Environment" course I took during my second semester. Companies preaching sustainability must work towards it across the entirety of their production. Not just within their corporate structure, but also their suppliers. Considering this universal impact is known as a circular economy. 

Sadly, not enough companies focus on the impact of their production across the board - from resource extraction to final product. A company may be using sustainable methods, but if they have to ship resources from halfway across the world 2-3 different times before their product reaches a consumer, what is their true impact? If a company produces in Vietnam, but 99% of their customer base is in the US - how sustainable is their product? The fossil fuels used to ship their materials across the globe offsets a huge percentage of their claimed "sustainable methods" used in their marketing. Oshki's customers are almost entirely in the United States. When considering this, I wanted to redesign my supply chain accordingly. 

Oshki's supply chain now consists entirely in the United States, from resource extraction to packaging to final product. I was inspired to use plastic waste from the Great Lakes in our clothing using recycled polyester. 22,000,000 pounds of plastic waste enter the Great Lakes every single year, a number set to triple by 2050. While recycled polyester has been produced overseas for about 25 years, it is a relatively new industry in the United States, as China just recently stopped buying plastic waste from recycling centers in mid-2018. Due to this recent development, Oshki is the first apparel company to use 100% United States plastic waste in every garment. Since we are using plastic waste from the Great Lakes and other US waterways, it would not have made sense to produce the clothing anywhere other than the United States. Below is a map with all locations within our supply chain, being transparent across the board to our customers is vital. 

  • Muskegon, Michigan

This is where our design team and headquarters lies. On the shores of Lake Michigan, Muskegon give us the constant reminder of the importance of the Great Lakes. We run community beach clean-ups and serve as vendors in our local community. 

  • New York, New York

All of our vinyl stickers are produced in New York, New York. A vinyl sticker comes with each purchase and is a way for our customers to market our brand what it means to join the group of passionate Oshki customers working to preserve the Great Lakes and beyond. 

  • Louisville, Colorado

All of our sustainable packaging is produced in Louisville, Colorado through our partnership with packaging company Ecoenclose. Each one of our recycled paper mailers is naturally biodegradable, recyclable, and made of 90% post consumer waste. Our tissue paper used is also produced by Ecoenclose, a paper made entirely from post-consumer & post-industrial content and is recyclable and naturally biodegradable itself. This partnership has enabled us to greatly reduce the impact of single-use packaging, a huge issue in the shipping industry. 

  • Hanahan, South Carolina

Our 1:1 shirts are produced in Hanahan on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Our manufacturer produces these shirts with a 50% recycled polyester / 50% cotton blend. The polyester is made of plastic waste from the Great Lakes and other US waterways, while the cotton is extracted from local farms within a 200 mile radius. 

  • Yadkinville, North Carolina

The Repreve plant in Yadkinville is where the plastic waste is transformed into recycled polyester. This plant has relationships with recycling centers around the United States, specifically the Great Lakes and other US waterways - where the plastic waste is shipped from. This plant processes the plastic waste into tiny chips, tiny plastic beads, and eventually polyester yarn. 

  • Los Angeles, California

Our hangtags and packaging postcard is produced in Los Angeles, California. This company (Uprinting) uses vibrant, professional printing to help tell our story in a meaningful way through artwork created by our design team. 

  • Lakewood, California

Lakewood holds our manufacturer of polyester fabric made of the plastic waste from the Great Lakes and other US waterways. This manufacturer takes the polyester yarn produced by Repreve and transforms it into long-lasting, sustainable fabric. In addition, our producer of woman's leggings has their factory in Lakewood, these leggings made of recycled plastic are set to launch in early August 2019. 

The transformation of Oshki's supply chain is a moving ecosystem. We change according to the most sustainable practices we can find in the United States. Transforming to producing everything in the US is not about American exceptionalism, it is about creating the most sustainable product possible. Limiting the amount of fossil fuels needed to ship around our resources throughout their production is what apparel companies preaching sustainability need to do. The cheaper option may always be to produce overseas, but if companies are going to seriously consider sustainable manufacturing, they must consider the universal effect of its production. We hope the transformation of our supply chain inspires other companies to take the same initiative in creating a more circular economy. 

With love,

Jackson Riegler

Founder - Oshki.