The humble – and in some cases – not so humble bra has been around for quite some time. It emerged when women decided that the days of being squeezed into that all-enveloping piece of female specific body armour – the corset – had to end. In the ensuing years it has never quite lost it’s political edge, its ability to become a symbol to rally around. Hence the burning of many bras in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960/70’s, though one suspects more than the occasional flaming undergarment was bought specifically for the purpose, while the well loved day to day items – good bras are hard to find - remained safely tucked away at home.
Now the bra finds itself at the forefront of an altogether different movement - the fight against Global Warming - as Marks and Spencer (M&S) have launched the world’s first carbon neutral bra. Given that the bras primary role as a supporting undergarment is not noted for its toxic gas emissions, the question is where is the carbon coming from and how is it being neutralised. The carbon of course is generated in the production and transport, as it is with most manufactured products, so this is where the focus is being concentrated. The new lingerie set will be made in an ‘eco factory’ in Sri Lanka. Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at M&S, said the retailer will be trying to make more clothing carbon neutral in future. "We don't want green, eco-friendly products to be in a ghetto in the corner.” He said. “We should be making all products more environmentally friendly.”
The factory is run by a combination of hydroelectric power produced using a nearby river and solar power generated by photovoltaic panels on the factory roof.The buildings have reduced energy consumption by 30% through measures like making sure all lighting is either from direct sunlight or low energy light bulbs. The rest of the carbon dioxide produced will be offset by planting 6,000 trees in the community every year.
Most of the trees planted will be native to Sri Lanka, increasing habitat for wildlife as well as absorbing C02. This is especially welcome as Sri Lanka's forests are home to approximately 90% of the country's endemic species which are disappearing at a rate of 1.6% per year. The local farmers will also benefit as the new planting will help to develop sustainable agriculture by harvesting the fruit and timber from the newly planted trees.
The Carbon Trust Footprinting Certification Company calculated the carbon generated in making the lingerie and will monitor the project to make sure that the set standards are adhered to. It has yet to be seen how close an eye they will be keeping on the bras themselves.