As the effects of climate change and human impacts on the environment become ever clearer, a pro-sustainability movement around the world has been catching on. And in the U.S. alone, Pew Research Center has found that 74% of Americans believe that the government should do "whatever it takes to protect the environment." But on a personal level, many people still aren't sure of the best steps to take to lessen their own environmental impact. JOOB Activewear and BYOC Co. are two sustainability-minded Michigan companies that are working to change that with their own array of ethically made products, and on Sept. 12 they will be co-hosting a pop-up event in Ann Arbor to educate the public on why environmentally mindful products matter.
"We hadn't done a collaboration with a company as local or as unique as Emma [Hess]'s BYOC Co.," said Bonny Cai, JOOB Activewear's design and operation's manager. "[JOOB Co-Founder] John [Ames] had done clothing collaboration with companies, but we were just so in awe of Emma and how she was able to build up this concept, and it's easy to do: providing package-free personal hygiene and household care products. We were like, 'This is something that more people need to know about.'"
BYOC Co. works as a mobile refill station that allows people to replenish their zero-waste personal hygiene and home care products. Hess said that while JOOB and her own company create completely different products, she said that she reached out to the clothing company because she was "blown away" by the company's environmentally conscientious approach — like the fact that they are Climate Neutral Certified, donate some of their sales to environmental causes and dedicate themselves to being a Zero Waste company.
At the Sept. 12 pop-up, attendees will be able to browse through BYOC Co.'s line of zero-packaging and zero-waste hygiene products alongside JOOB's line of activewear. The event will also be the public debut of JOOB's brand-new Tie Tank that uses sustainable fabric made from 100 percent post-consumer PET plastic bottles.
"It gears toward womenswear whereas so far John's initial JOOB line was more targeting menswear, specifically for flyfishing or things that John had wanted for himself that didn't exist on the market yet," Cai said. "So we're now broadening our audience and making our product range more accessible and inclusive and creating this product that we're launching on Saturday."
And of course, precautions will be taken at the event to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Attendees are required to wear masks and Hess said that members of her team will work to provide samples of her products for the public to smell that are separate from what will be purchased.
"Right now, we don't allow the customers to do the refilling themselves, my team and I, we do everything and then we hand-sanitize between every customer and we don't let them touch it," she said. "We do encourage people to smell. We have these little buckets that are refilled when we're pumping out [product], our pumps naturally will drip, so we have a little catcher that people can smell and that's how they can scent everything."
However, Hess emphasizes that there is "no pressure to buy anything." She said that first and foremost, she's looking to introduce people who are interested in sustainability to the concept of no-waste products and she "welcomes questions."
"I make sure that they have all that information readily available, and I can bring them to my website. I like to think of it as a community event where people can come talk," she said, adding that attendees shouldn't feel unwelcome if they aren't ready to commit to a zero-waste lifestyle.
"I never shame or guilt anyone into doing it if they don't feel like they're ready to do it. I consider myself someone who has a low-waste lifestyle. Zero waste is one of those intimidating terms, which Bonny and I have talked about pretty early on, it can be overwhelming," Hess said. "So, a low-waste lifestyle is something that is a little more attractive to people."
Cai agreed, adding that even small steps to achieve a smaller impact on the environment can have positive, far-reaching effects. She said that in her own career as a fashion designer, she's worked to be mindful of her own impact, too: "It's all about making sustainability accessible."
"As a woman of color, sustainability to me has never felt so accessible to a lot of marginalized communities. And especially coming from a fashion lens of sustainability, for whatever reason, [sustainable fashion] has always been very luxurious and unaffordable," Cai said. "… All social justice is tied in nuance or obvious ways, but sustainability to me is more than our planet, it's also the people, obviously, but I don't think that message is shown in the way that sustainability and fashion has been marketed. I think activewear is something that, hopefully, people are able to wear and engage with in a more honest and less intimidating way.
The Sept. 12 event will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and be held at JOOB Activewear's showroom location at 5007 West Jackson, Suite A, in Ann Arbor. Find out more about the event online on its Facebook page.