We’ve developed and manufactured all Ecologic Designs products in the USA since we opened in 2005.
What does it mean to be “Made in USA”?
The last twenty years has seen a sharp decline in products that can be confidently stamped, “Made in USA”. With the availability of cheap labor and lax governmental regulations in underdeveloped countries around the world, a growing trend within the United States has been to take advantage of potentially harmful cost-saving measures at the expense of local communities and those abroad. What is often overlooked is the contributions manufacturers make toward exploiting workers and resources in those countries. Even less apparent is the deceptive nature this relationship creates between manufacturer and consumer. Unfortunately, a growing disconnect by consumers within developed countries about the effect their purchasing power has on working conditions and environmental degradation abroad will only continue to generate a careless attitude toward the humanitarian and environmental challenges we face together.
The issue is complicated by the fact that governmental regulations within the United States have incentivised manufacturers to ship jobs overseas. Corporations, motivated solely by profit and capital growth, have found it convenient to use foreign labor to increase their bottom line. As a certified B-Corp Corporation, we integrate the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. We recognize that in order for a business model to match our convictions, it must consider the impact our decisions have on people and the planet before actively pursuing profit.
“Made in USA” can imply a confusing array of manufacturing guidelines. Put simply, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines it as a country of origin label indicating a product is “all or virtually all” made in the United States (Wikipedia). All or virtually all, “means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin” (FTC). Since Made in USA claims are not pre-approved by the FTC, it is up to manufacturers to indicate the full nature of their claims to the consumer. Furthermore, as consumers it is up to us to make educated decisions about the products we choose to purchase.
(More on how the FDC defines Made In USA)
According to the FTC our products are to be listed as “Made in USA from Domestic and Foreign Materials”. We know from experience that consumers, and therefore brands, primarily focus on the “Made in USA” label, regardless of what additional language follows.
However, for the sake of transparency, we choose to inform our clients and consumers that a small amount of the materials used in the production of our messenger bags, totes, and other products, contain some foreign material. These include zippers, some threads, buckles and webbing that we’ve found increasingly difficult to locate domestic manufacturers for. Also, for for the purpose of increasing product integrities, such as strength, durability and quality control, we have at times chosen to utilize foreign alternatives for materials valuable to the overall longevity of a particular product.
For us, Made in the USA implies a holistic approach to manufacturing. One that begins long before the first stitch (by hand) and only ends when the product is in your hands. We acknowledge that it becomes nearly impossible to assert our products are entirely made in the USA, since the materials we use are repurposed from discarded vinyl billboards, rubber bike tubes, wetsuits, etc. that we have little control over their country of origin. However, we see ourselves as able to give new life to materials that would have otherwise gone straight to a landfill, never to be used again. In other words we feel that by giving those materials a second chance at use, we also give them a new place of origin.
At Ecologic Designs we source the vast majority of all our materials through innovative repurposing methods. Materials that would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators are given new life through a process known as upcycling. As part of this process, a substantial volume of our materials come to us from partners within the United States. Once they arrive, we clean and curate these materials by hand in Boulder, CO, where they are designed locally in-house, and produced in partnership with local sewing operators. We’ve always placed a high priority on providing our operators with safe, healthy working conditions and fair wages. We see this as our obligation to supporting a domestic economy. By contributing to the reshoring movement, we’re bringing jobs back to the USA.
Any member of our team can attest that our mission has always been about reducing environmental impact. By assuring our products are Made in the USA by our own team of designers and producers, means we reduce our environmental impact by eliminating the shipping of products made for us by overseas manufacturers. Recently, it was reported that, of total global air emissions, shipping accounts for 18-30 percent of nitrogen oxide and 9 percent of sulphur oxide in the atmosphere. The effects these two gases can have on global air quality and atmospheric degradation is only beginning to be fully understood. However, scientists have concluded that shipping is responsible for 3.5-4 percent of total climate change emissions (John Vidal). And since 70% of all ship emissions are within 400km of land, the impact on something as vital as the air we breath everyday is under considerable threat. That’s why we see the benefits of cutting foreign transportation from our manufacturing model as crucial to combating the effects global greenhouse gas emissions can have on climate change.
(Learn more about the effects shipping pollution is having on climate change, and some proposed solutions to the issue).
At Ecologic Designs, every product since our inception has been designed, manufactured, and distributed from within the USA, using only the highest-quality foreign and domestic materials available to us. We take immense pride in holding firm to the belief that a product with the least possible negative impact on people and planet has the greatest potential for a sustainable future. Ultimately, every aspect of the manufacturing process has to be considered and we feel confident our approach will continue to have an impact.
For an in depth company profile detailing our long-standing commitment to sustainable manufacturing in the USA, check our feature in Sustainablog.
If you’d like to understand further details about the effects of global shipping pollution and possible solutions for the future, see the final report by the High Seas Project, entitled “High Seas, High Stakes”
Ecologic Designs is proud to be a Made in the USA company.