Underwear For Humanity

Foundation Member

Underwear For Humanity Sustainability Actions

Ethical Manufacturing

We make all of our underwear ethically in China. We ensure safe and respectful working conditions for all our makers. As part of our sustainable fashion practices, we are uncompromising on the materials and processes we use, including regenerated eucalyptus and utilising waste to create recycled items. We invented our own recycled elastic because we could not buy it.

Indigenous Collaboration

We are deeply disturbed by the treatment and dislocation of Indigenous people from their land. We believe we have an obligation to pay rent to Indigenous people for the land we operate on. 50c from every item purchased with us goes to Indigenous programs. We must all be considering how we can contribute to paying the rent in Australia and we hope that this acknowledgment on our product will spark that conversation and action. What is Pay the Rent? The Pay the Rent Grassroots Collective is an Indigenous organisation that supports Indigenous initiatives, and advocate for the need to ‘Pay the Rent’ in reparation of benefitting from stolen land. All funds given to Pay the Rent are distributed according to the insights and wisdom of the Sovereign Body, who centre the self-determination, social justice and sovereignty of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in all they do. Some of their projects include contributing toward funeral expenses within Indigenous communities and financial support to those affected by deaths in custody. Additionally we are working with Arakwal people (Byron Bay, our head office) to fund programs of their choice. So far their first program is around protecting and sharing culture, we will post updates when they are ready. But we are very clear that we do not expect anything nor dictate, the money is theirs to use as they see fit. We will share stories because it is healing for all.

Underwear Recycling

Underwear is delicate and worn every single day, and therefore has a limited life with a high turn-over rate. You cannot donate it in Australia, so the only pathway is landfill. With 204 million underwear items being imported into Australia every year that is a lot of waste! We live by our values and exist to create positive change, so we take back our waste, plus other brands! How does it work? Our mail-in underwear recycling system is dedicated to our customers. We would love to take everyone's underwear regardless of purchasing from us, but it costs us approx 42c per pair to recycle and the sale of our underwear covers some of that cost. We are a social enterprise running on low margins and would really love your support to help make this happen. How is underwear recycled? We sort, sanitise and send for shredding. They are then processed to have a second life as carpet underlay or insulation.

Plastic Free Packaging

We made our packaging minimal in size to preserve natural resources. We use recycled kraft board. We developed it utilising soy-based inks instead of the more common fossil fuel ink. There is zero plastic and small amount of animal free glue holding it together. We transfer our stock into kraft card pick boxes. They are picked and mailed in a small compostable mailer. We are looking into reusable mailers because whilst compostable mailers are great, the reality is there are so few facilities in Australia that can take them, if you can add them to your home compost that is the best current way.

One-for-one Underwear Donation

We are incredibly proud of the underwear that we are able to donate through our one-for-one campaign. It all started one day when we found thousands of meters of elastic at one of our factories that was destined for landfill, and this sparked a transformation in our business model. We now utilise all of our factories' deadstock – from other customers’ cancelled orders, half rolls, leftover elastic - to create the underwear we give away. The special thing is, they are all different. We have a close 10-year relationship with the factory that makes our donation underwear, based on mutual trust. They have been using BCI and organic cotton, as well as Oeko-Tex non-toxic dyes, for many years to unsure their fabrics are safe. WHO DO WE DONATE TO? If you have an organisation that needs underwear donations, please contact us. The National Homeless Collective. A local Australian charity that provide programs and resources for people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence and social disadvantage. Kara House Kara House provides support to women and children affected by domestic and family violence. They offer crisis accommodation, outreach and emotional support to those in need, and are waiting on new donations. Days for Girls In many areas of the world, having your period means not going to school. Days for Girls creates critical period packs and sewing circles to prevent girls from leaving their education in developing parts of the world.

Work Training Program

Getting and maintaining a job is something many take for granted. We are partnering with Social Engine to create paid workplace training opportunities in a non-judgemental environment that is supportive and set up for success. Our partnership and work program creates job training opportunities in warehousing, order fulfillment and customer service and work in processing for recycling to support work for youths at risk.

Poly Bags used in packing garments

In the fashion industry, garments are transported in plastic poly bags inside boxes, the boxes are then palette wrapped in warehouses with reams of cling film. This plastic is invisible to the consumer because it disappears before a product ever reaches the shelf. Poly bags are important in transporting garments to avoid damage and water exposure. But as we know single use plastic items are polluting our land, waterways and even the air we breathe. There is an urgent need to reduce this invisible shipping plastic. We couldn't find a solution, so we developed our own reusable system. We are proud to have developed our own reusable shipping bags, to be used over and over again. They eliminate any single use plastic from our shipping and align to our vision of being a low waste brand. They are made from Recycled Polyester, which is recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. They feature a sturdy zip and reinforced seams to ensure they will last for many years and will be repaired when damaged. They are shipped inside recycled card boxes; these are then reused in Australia, once damaged they are then recycled.

Manufacturing Waste: Off-cuts

Our seamfree bras are created from a tube, meaning only the arm and neckline are cut and the body is fully fashioned on the machine, this reduces material waste significantly vs cut and sew techniques. All of our off-cuts are sent to be recycled into insulation and carpet underlay. In the future, there will be a higher demand for recycled fibres and we will have the infrastructure to turn off-cuts into new fabrics – this is called up-cycling. Up-cycling is currently in its infancy for textiles, but we can expect it to grow in big ways in the future.

Tencel vs Cotton & Bamboo

Currently, the most common fibres used to make underwear are cotton and bamboo. The production of cotton requires intense levels of chemical and water, with research showing that it takes 3kg of chemicals and 4,300 litres of water to make just 1kg of cotton. While organic cotton is an improvement from a chemical perspective, it often requires an even higher rate of water use to produce. Bamboo fibres are almost always produced through a viscose process involving a highly toxic substance, Carbon Disulfide. This chemical poses a health risk for both the people producing the fibre, and local communities through water pollution (eutrophication). We believe that the production of cotton and bamboo present too great a cost to our planet. , Therefore, we have chosen to make our underwear with the sustainable and regenerated fibre, Tencel. Tencel, which is Lenzing’s brand name for the fibre process ‘lyocell’ , is made using the wood pulp of certified Eucalyptus trees, meaning it is a renewable planetary resource. Eucalyptus trees are some of the fastest growing in the world, requiring no irrigation or fertilisers, and sequester carbon as they grow. Tencel fabric requires 5 times less land and 20 times less water than cotton to produce the same amount of fabric, making it a sustainable material. The ‘lyocell process’ (the method for turning wood pulp into Tencel fabric), is very different from a chemical perspective to the viscose process, it uses a safe surfactant in a closed-loop system, 99% of the water and solution are recovered and used over and over again. When released it is safe.

Chemicals in production

The fashion industry currently uses over 8,000 chemicals in the processing and manufacturing of materials. Many of these chemicals are not even identified, let alone researched for safety. Of the ones that have been investigated, over 2,000 pose a significant threat to human health and are categorised as ‘substances of concern’. Due to decentralised supply chains, there is a lack of transparency in the fashion industry regarding chemical use and their full effects on the environment. To divert from these unsustainable and toxic chemical practices, we use Oeko-Tex certified dyehouses to ensure no toxic substances are used in the dying of our fabrics.

Recycled Nylon Elastic

Elastic needs to be soft, supportive to create a frame for underwear. It needs enough elongation to stretch and be comfortable to wear, but also enough power to hold. While there are many suppliers of elastic, recycled elastic is very difficult to source, so we created our own. Our in-house elastic is a beautiful, soft elastic that is made from GRS certified recycled nylon. The decision to be uncompromising on our standards delayed our launch, but we were unwilling to use virgin nylon. Utilising nylon manufacturing waste to create recycled nylon diverts waste from landfill.

Pre-loved Bras - creating positive change

Second-hand bras will be available for sale soon!  Everything we do creates carbon, so maximising the use of everything ever made, over new, is the most sustainable action you can take. That is why we have introduced a pre-loved section to our range.  Has your size changed? Do you have an Underwear for Humanity Wireless Bra, Bra Crop or Maternity Bra that you are not using? Please send it back to us. We will reward you with a $10 gift voucher for each item. It will be washed and any repairs fixed. Not only will you be helping to maximise the use of our bras, you will also be creating work for women that have experienced homelessness via the Shift Project.  Please email us to get the process started. 

On A Mission Climate Positive Company

We work with On a Mission to offset our emissions and carbon impact across our entire supply chain. Our Climate Positive certification with On a Mission recognises that our business buys at least 1.5 times more carbon offsets than we produce each year. We are continuously striving to leave as little impact on the environment as possible, in all we do.

PETA Approved VEGAN

PETA is an Animal Rights organisation that protects the treatment of animals. Their Vegan certification indicates that our products are completely free of animal ingredients, and that no animals were used or harmed in their making.

Social Traders Certified

This certification shows that our business, as part of our constitution, has a social, cultural or environmental purpose as its primary objective, and ensures that our primary efforts and resources are invested into this purpose.

HERO Home Compostable Mail Bags

We choose Hero compostable HEROPACK shipping mailers which are certified as both Home and Commercially Compostable. Our mailers hold certifications which meet the Australian standards (AS5810 and AS4736) administered by the Australasian Bioplastics Australia (ABA). Our supply chain also complies with ISO 14001 standards, ensuring environmentally ethical sourcing and production. We also only use compostable postage labels - so the entire parcel can be reused to send back product or recycling or composted in your home green bin. https://heropackaging.com.au/

Soy-based ink printed packaging

We made our packaging minimal in size to preserve natural resources. We use recycled kraft board. We developed it utilising soy-based inks instead of the more common fossil fuel ink. There is zero plastic and small amount of animal free glue holding it together.

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