Imagine this. You are going shopping with a beautiful Muses_Saga tote bag. You smile, and show it to others, telling them about your closet full of merch. Which is all cotton tote bags.
And you know, hoarding isn’t sustainable, but if it adds value to your life and is reusable, it is better than nothing. After all, the other option is plastic bags…
And then you get to know cotton isn’t eco-friendly.
Cotton or plastic?
Most people when asked this question would say plastic is more convenient but cotton is more eco-friendly.
And they would be right. But also, wrong.
Problems with Cotton
Research has shown that a cotton bag needs to be used up to 700 times, and an organic cotton bag needs to be used up to 2000 times for them to even out the impact making a cotton tote has on the environment. To even get to the same level of environmental impact that a plastic bag has, the cotton tote needs to be used thousands of times. Which means out totes need to be legacy items which our grandkids will use.
Then is plastic the better option?
How can an eco-friendly company like Muses_Saga then sell merch made on organic cotton?
Problems with Plastic
Well, plastic releases microplastic and does not biodegrade. And it has been found that plastic releases greenhouse gases as it biodegrades. And it hurts marine life. Plus, we don’t know the effects of microplastics that have been found everywhere. Literal, breast milk.
In such a case, what can we do?
I believe in realistic imperfect sustainability. Muses_Saga is founded on the same principles of doing the best we can to leave a better world for future generations. And thus, we have chosen an organic cotton tote as the material for our merch. We are using eco-inks and making the merch on a Print-On-Demand basis with a small business known as Swag_Central which is located in our home country, making it fairly local. Like Brown Living India, we too ship directly from the manufacturer to our fans, instead of additional steps.
But the cotton tote still talks a toll on the planet, Anjali! Why not try bioplastic or reusable plastic? Or even conventional cotton over organic cotton?
Well, as we mentioned, regular plastic does not biodegrade and causes pollution. While we could get a sturdier plastic bag, the question of the unknown effects of microplastic would remain. Cotton on the other hand, is biodegradable under the right circumstances and naturally occurring.
But pesticide use still harms our water systems and soil.
Thus, we use water-intensive organic cotton.
Anjali, why not use recycled or upcycled cotton?
We plan to switch to either hemp or upcycled cotton totes. Recycled cotton items currently are less durable and need to be mixed with other fabrics like polyester. Hence, they are not a sustainable option either, unless we can ensure they are either sent back to recycling, mended, or upcycled. Nothing biodegrades in a landfill, after all.
While bamboo bags are another option, I have yet to meet someone working with that.
For now, though our options are between releasing microplastics or an organic canvas tote that can has a high-impact and loses colour and shape faster than plastic. It is also more prone to stains.
Seems like, the only way to have low-impact merch like totes and tees is to go for polluting plastic or expensive hemp? And if so, why isn’t Muses_Saga doing that?
Of course not!
The Muses’ Solution to the Merch Conundrum
Like we saw, an organic cotton tote needs to be reused 2000 times before it is sustainable. Well, isn’t it a good thing then that it’s sturdy? And can be upcycled without having to engage in wish cycling?
But don’t worry, we aren’t saying the solution to this issue is spending time upcycling your cotton tote.
No, we are saying the solution is a circular economy.
Say you are bored of the design on your tote or the fandom no longer feels relevant to you. Or perhaps, you realise you often forget your tote at home and it’s collecting dust in your bedroom. And solutions such as placing it near the door haven’t helped.
Then, you get rid of it. Instead of adding clutter to your home.
But we can’t throw away items Anjali! That is creating waste.
Well, well, well, who said anything about throwing things away. No bestie, no. You return the tote to Muses_Saga and can either get another thrifted tote from another Muses’ fan in exchange or a monetary payment. All you have to do? Pay a small shipping fee!
Great, isn’t it?
But how does it solve the issue that cotton is resource intensive?
Well, since most of us will essentially be swapping totes instead of buying virgin ones (which will still be available for those who feel it is a must-have and can be utilized fully in their life) we are not using any new resources at all!
The perfect low-waste swap is not a new alternative but reusing what already exists.
Grand, isn’t it?
Until we can switch to hemp or durable recycled cotton, the swaps are our best bet to be green without releasing microplastics.
What do you think of the solution? Does our merch pass the sustainability test?
Let us know in the comments.
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