BLUEdot Register Interviewed by Alternative Fashion Media

BLUEdot Register's co-founder Ted Redmond was interviewed by Alternative Fashion Media's Symone Jackson.  The interviewed focused on the BLUEdot Certified Carbon Neutral program and how that program is helping the apparel industry become aware of and reduce their Carbon Footprint.

Interview Transcript:

Alternative Fashion Media:

My name is Symone Jackson, broadcaster for the Alternative Fashion Media Podcast Show.
Welcome to Alternative Fashion Media. Alternative Fashion media presents to you a podcast showcasing a range of fashion and sustainable businesses and interviewing the leaders behind them.

I’d like introduce and welcome Ted Redmond, co- founder/owner of PaleBLUE Dot to the show, and for a glimpse inside his sustainable business. Ted and his partner and co-founder Colleen, have supported numerous fashion businesses with their program, BLUEdot Certified. We will be addressing their work geared to how BLUEdot supports fashion brands in becoming Carbon Neutral.

Hi Ted,

Can you give us a brief introduction of BLUEdot Certified Carbon Neutral, and how it works?

BLUEdot Register:


First – thank you, again, for having me with you today.  We are honored to be able to talk with Alternative Fashion today.

Our organization is focused entirely on helping businesses and individuals learn about our carbon footprint and its relationship to climate change, to calculate their carbon footprint, learn ways of making reductions, and ultimately eliminate or repair that impact we have every day on our environment.

BLUEdot Certified Carbon Neutral is one of our core programs to execute that mission.  The general program is applicable to all types of businesses – from mobile apps, to hotels/travel destinations, to goods and services, to traditional business services.  BLUEdot Certified for apparel, though, is focused specifically on the apparel industry.

The main focus of the program is to help the apparel industry understand their carbon footprint, identify ways of making reductions – and if they are interested in becoming Certified Carbon Neutral – eliminating or repairing that impact from the full life-cycle of their garments.

Because the apparel industry is extremely complex and typically involves many ‘players’ that means that there are a number of contributors to a garment’s carbon footprint.  That also means that there may be a number of interested parties who might wish to engage in carbon footprint reduction or certification.  Consequently, BLUEdot Certified Carbon Neutral can be engaged by anyone within the traditional supply chain – from Labels, to manufacturers, to wholesalers, to retailers.

We think of our certification program as a partnership where we work together to continue to improve our collective impact on the planet.

We work with our partners to calculate their entire organization’s carbon footprint as well as the full life-cycle carbon footprint of their products – for garments that includes everything from the harvesting of raw materials, the manufacture of fabrics, assembly of garments, transportation and distribution, and the business operations of the retailers and label itself.

Once we have a good understanding of our partner’s carbon footprint, we can typically identify ways in which they can make footprint reductions beginning immediately, as well as into the future.  For some, we are able to actually secure alternative energy to support their operations without the need for them to invest in alternative energy equipment.

As noted, though, the fashion industry is very complex with many players in the supply chain.  That means that even the most environmentally conscious group can currently only reduce their footprint so far.  The balance, in that case, is then offset through third party internationally certified carbon offsets.  These are investments into carbon reduction or carbon capture projects that would not otherwise happen.  They are a mechanism to reduce atmospheric carbon equal to the impact we have which we cannot yet avoid.

Alternative Fashion Media:

In regards to fashion brands in particular what are some important factors we have to be made more aware when producing fashion, and how this cor-relates with getting BLUEdot certified?

BLUEdot Register:

That is an interesting question. 

The first thing everyone needs to understand is that your carbon footprint, or your product’s carbon footprint is not just about transportation fuel use.  Certainly shipping products on cargo ships, trucks, and air planes are contributions to your carbon footprint – but they are a much smaller portion that most people realize (unless you are shipping via air – in that case, it can be a massive contributor so please stop shipping materials by air!).

I think all businesses, but especially fashion brands, need to understand that most of the choices they make ultimately affect their carbon footprint.  As a label is working on designing their next year’s collection the material selections they make are crucial in minimizing their environmental impact including their carbon footprint.  For instance, a garment made from Tencel may have a carbon footprint of roughly 7 times its weight, but the same one made from Cotton would be 15 times its weight, and if you chose polyester it would be 20 times its weight.

This is really the core of our program: we work with apparel groups to understand their entire footprint and, where appropriate, help them make better choices.

The last thing I’ll point out is that fashion brands should be more aware of the fact that people are becoming much more aware of it, and opinion polls make it very clear that for the first time ever, the majority of consumers are aware of the term “Carbon Footprint” and most consumers want to support brands who make reductions or eliminate their environmental footprint – carbon and otherwise.  (in fact 9 out of 10 customers will switch to brands that do, and 35% are “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” shoppers and are willing to pay more for products and services which tread as lightly on the planet as possible).

Alternative Fashion Media:

Do you provide consultations, and other services that support and educate the businesses to reduce their carbon footprint?

BLUEdot Register:

Yes, we provide services both to our Certified Carbon Neutral partners, as well as to businesses who are interested in learning more or making reductions but are not yet ready to work towards carbon neutrality.

For businesses within North America, we provide energy assessments where we can help assess their operations and look for ways of reducing their energy consumption.

We can help any business secure renewable energy to power their operations through coordination with utility companies and alternative energy generators – ear-tagging power created specifically for their use.

We also provide carbon footprinting assessments for business operations as well as product life-cycle carbon footprint assessments in order to help organizations understand their impact.  As mentioned, these studies almost always result in our ability to identify ways of making reductions.  These studies can form the basis for consultations where we can help an organization make better choices as they design a product or service.

Lastly, we also provide Carbon Footprint comparison studies where we can create a detailed comparison of a given product or service against their competition – this is a great way for a group who is looking to be environmentally competitive to really understand how they compare.  Of course, if they truly are competitive, these studies also make a great way of illustrating to customers and the public why they are a better choice.

Alternative Fashion Media:

For the fashion industry at large, do you believe some of the resistance of change to neutral carbon footprint is due to our emotions and connections with “fast fashion”, similar to fast junk food?

BLUEdot Register:

That is another interesting question!

Probably, yes, I think that could be a contributor to it.

The core reasons are likely first that although many people are now becoming aware of carbon footprints and how they relate to climate change, few leaders and businesses have really connected the dots yet to realize that THEY are the contributors to the problem.  We all are.  People are just beginning to understand that we all are contributing to our environmental problems, and fewer yet have come to realize that they can actually do something about it – and BLUEdot Certified is one of the tools available to leverage better choices and a better environmental profile.

What future technological advances do you know of that allow us to trade and outsource globally without having to source locally? Can you present to us green technology that supports non-local outsourcing in regards to fashion supply chain? For example, green transportation, and green factories?

As for non-local outsourcing, one area that has not been tapped into by the fashion industry yet is the idea of 3d printing.  It is really just in its infancy, but has already carved out a place for itself in manufacturing as well as construction.  I can imagine a day when we have an inter-related fashion industry where designers are working globally with locally placed 3-d fashion printers that can produce small-batch high quality garments any where in the world – eliminating waste entirely and vastly reducing transportation costs.

One trend that is already here, though is alternative energy.  It is here right now – and I think getting it applied to all of our manufacturing processes is just a matter of time.  I will be very excited to see this take hold in the industry.  Electricity is a fluid and the power every factory is using right this minute comes from countless resources that are all dumping their power into the grid.  Manufacturers and businesses can actually use alternative energy today without installing solar panels or wind generators on site through renewable energy credits that literally ear-tag renewable power for use by the organization.  Of course, actually installing renewable energy on-site is becoming much more feasible and I think will become common in the years to come.

Alternative Fashion Media:

What are 3 top methods of sustainable production that you think are most important within the fashion industry supply chain, that contribute to treading lightly on our planet.

BLUEdot Register:

One production trend I’ve been seeing, especially in the cotton industry, is manufacturers becoming much more aware of their water usage and moving towards water capture and on-site recycling.  There is one manufacturer in Northern Africa we were just working with last week who has succeeded in capturing and re-using 80% of their water and they are working on getting it down to 100% reuse.

Another production trend we’ve seen is in recycled content fabrics.  Mud Jeans, as an example, offers the option to lease their jeans rather than buying them, allowing them to readily collect them when the user is done with them and harvest those fibers to create new fabrics from entirely recycled content.  That kind of circular economy thinking will be core to creating a truly sustainable fashion industry.

Alternative Fashion Media:

Can you explain to us offsets? What development and projects are you most interested in supporting, and are actually being created as we speak to neutralize our carbon footprint?

BLUEdot Register:

I'll start with project types because, well that is a little easier.  The types of projects that BLUEdot supports are projects which avoid or eliminate carbon emissions, or capture carbon.  Projects that eliminate carbon emissions are alternative energy projects like solar or wind.  Projects that capture carbon are things like carbon scrubbers on coal plants or methane capture projects on landfills or at ag installations, diary farms who capture methane and turn that into a usable power source.

The first thing to understand is that each of us has a global carbon footprint.  We share one atmosphere so that means that the emissions I am responsible for join with everyone else’s and impact the globe, not just my back yard.

The second thing to understand is that no matter how much I personally want to eliminate my carbon footprint, I cannot yet do it alone.  This phone I am speaking on uses power – power that I am not responsible for generating and which currently draws from fossil fuels.  I wish our whole grid were powered through alternative energy – but I am not in control of that

The good news is that with carbon offsets, I can help to fund alternative energy projects and I the reductions I make happen will literally offset my impacts – regardless of where geographically they occur.  Offsets are basically small gap-financing to help make a carbon reduction project happen.

Our offsets are fully third party certified.  To become third party certified, they have to meet four strict criteria:

First, they must be proven, through third party engineering assessments, to eliminate or capture carbon emissions – they must be proven to literally reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Secondly, they must not be projects which would otherwise happen – so if a project is required by government legislation , etc, it does not qualify as a carbon offset.

Thirdly, it must be a project which cannot happen financially without the use of carbon offsets.  This is assured through third party audits which look at the detailed financials of a project – if it could feasibly happen without the partial funding that comes from BLUEdot offsets then it does not qualify.

In this way, a BLUEdot Certified Partner is literally making a carbon reduction project, or alternative energy project happen that would not otherwise happen without their financial assistance – and the reductions that they are making happen are proven to be equal to the impact they have which they cannot yet avoid.

Alternative Fashion Media:

You have some great fashion brands that have partnered with you, and are joined
as a member. Can you give us a brief tutorial on the requirements with working with fashion brands that want to invest their time, energy and work with contributing to sustainable business?

BLUEdot Register:

The biggest requirement is a willingness to work towards improving your environmental footprint.

The process does take some engagement by our partners – it would be meaningless if it did not!  But we work to make it as easy as possible.

First, our partners need to work with us to collect what information we need in order to calculate and understand their product’s carbon footprint.  We collect this through a questionnaire we create uniquely for each of our partners and any information they cannot easily obtain we can usually find ways of getting at through our other resources and data bases.

Secondly, for any group who is certified we hope they work with us as a partner so that as they design their collections or move from year to year, we can help them identify ways of making better choices.  This is essentially free consultation so all a certified partner really needs to do is to engage us and think to use us as a resource.  For those willing to put some time in every year to connect with us in this way, we can help them find better choices.  For that time they put in, they will frequently be able to find some energy savings which translates into operational savings.  Meanwhile their customers will benefit from an ever improving product.  We think that is a win-win-win!

Alternative Fashion Mediais a venture lead by Alyssa Couture, designer and founder of Alternative Fashion and focuses on communication about eco-fashion and sustainable business trends.