In the last decade, the world has woken up to the enormous impact of pollution on our planet. Each year millions of tons of waste are produced, used, and thrown away, and daily it is thought that at least 8 million pieces of plastic end up in our oceans.
With global waste expected to reach 3.4 billion tons by 2050, without an orchestrated effort from all of us now, by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea than fish.
Together We Can Make A Difference
World Cleanup Day this year falls on September 18th. This dynamic idea began in 2008 in the small country of Estonia, where 50,000 people banded together to clean up the countryside in just five hours. The initiative calls on people from all over the world to defend Earth by collecting litter in their area, preventing waste from entering waterways and ecosystems.
These cleanups are a means of raising awareness of the global pollution problem while bringing together all members of society for an important cause.
Horseware Ireland applauds the more than 20 million volunteers across 180 countries uniting for World Cleanup Day.
A Circular Equestrian Brand
No product can last forever, but solutions can be designed to avoid downcycling and landfilling and keep materials in use.
Most fabrics sold around the world come from virgin sources, usually made from fossil fuels. A circular economy supports sustainable consumption of recyclable materials like throwaway plastic, which is widely seen as one of the world’s greatest environmental hazards.
Over 99 percent of plastics are made from fossil fuels, so if plastic production stays on its present trajectory, by 2030, the greenhouse gas emissions could reach a whopping 1.34 billion gigatons per year. Only by steadily phasing out the use of virgin/fossil fuel-based textiles and transitioning to natural or recyclable fibers, we can reduce our reliance on them and enjoy products that last longer, can be more easily repaired, reused, and eventually recycled.
Only around 8% of plastic gets recycled in the USA and until recently, most efforts to deal with plastic pollution were concentrated on waste management or plastic reduction. But this is only part of the equation. Collectively we can learn to reuse the resources we already have and see them for what they are – an opportunity to reduce emissions and lower our carbon footprints.
Product innovation manager Clare Silke broke down Horseware Ireland’s upcycling-centric manufacturing practices and discussed with me how the brand is transitioning towards a 100% circular business model.
What motivated Horseware Ireland’s move towards a more circular business model?
Currently, the way the world manufactures, utilizes, and disposes of goods is unsustainable. We are rapidly depleting the planet’s natural resources and the effects of global warming have become progressively clear all over the world. Sustainable practices are no longer an option. We must act now and fast!
Here at Horseware Ireland, we are reviewing all elements of our business model in order to develop solutions that will protect the environment our horses live in. Because single-use plastic is produced from fossil fuels, these plastics emit vast amounts of greenhouse gases, not to mention the millions of plastic bottles disposed of in landfills and our oceans every year. This is not only menacing marine wildlife and the natural environment but is also having a tremendous impact on our world’s overall ecosystem and, ultimately, on our existence. Our vision for the future at Horseware Ireland is to become 100% circular. Since the materials we use are a key facet of this, we have taken steps towards creating collections based on environmental impact and introduced natural fabrics into our range.
In 2021, we launched our highly anticipated Eco collection which includes our new Amigo AmEco Turnout Rug.
The polyester fabric used in this collection is made from recycled plastic bottles. By reusing these bottles, we extended their lifespan and prevented them from ending up in our planet’s oceans and landfills. The release of this collection is in line with our commitment to becoming a circular business and we are already on track to save over 1 million plastic bottles from being disposed of into the environment this year. By using renewable and/or recycled materials, we hope to help promote sustainability in every aspect of our customers’ daily life and help them make more informed decisions related to product design.
What are the specific sustainability initiatives Horseware is focused on?
From a product development perspective, we have utilized advances in sustainable fabric development and launched two new blanket styles as part of our Spring Summer 2021 Eco collection.
The Amigo® AmECO 12 Plus Turnout is Horseware Ireland’s first turnout blanket made from recycled plastic bottles. The fabrics used to create this blanket are created by recycling plastic bottles that are known as rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate). Empty PET bottles are first collected, washed, and turned into flakes, then those flakes are melted into tiny pellets, extruded, and spun into polyester yarn. The entire process is certified by Global Recycled Standards who ensure only plastic bottles that derive from actual consumer waste are used. The production process for rPET fabrics uses less water, fewer chemicals and produces less CO2 than the production of virgin polyester yarns. For each 6’3ft (75″) Amigo AmEco 12 Plus turnout blanket, an average of 218* used plastic bottles are recycled and reused.
The Rambo Natura Summer Sheet is the first rug made using biodegradable and compostable natural fibers at Horseware Ireland. The fabric used on the outer of the rug is a hemp/ organic cotton blend with many natural advantages such as keeping horses cool in the summer and even protecting them from UV rays. Hemp is one of the oldest plants in the world and was even used by sailors to make canvases for sails and ropes whilst crossing the oceans. As a highly sustainable plant, hemp leaves no ecological footprint and requires 5 times less water than standard cotton to be grown. It’s good for the earth since it can be grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals, and as a renewable crop, it can be harvested several times per year. The organic cotton used in the Rambo Natura has OCS and GOTS certification to support its heritage and traceability. Naturally soft and highly breathable, organic cotton is especially comfortable against the horse’s skin. The combination of these natural fibers makes the Rambo Natura Summer Sheet a lightweight, sustainable summer sheet for all horses.
Looking ahead to Autumn Winter 2021, we are also introducing a reusable packaging solution for our Rambo Turnout Range. Since the Rambo range is renowned as a rug for life, we are actively trying to move away from single-use packaging solutions for our products and this is our first step towards this goal. From this autumn, Rambo turnouts will be sold in a ‘Bag for life’ designed to be used for storage over the years, or as an equestrian gear bag. Some super handy features include a stash pocket on the side and a roll-top closure for easy access. With the adjustable shoulder straps, it can even be used as a rucksack.
Sustainable products seem to grow more popular every day. What are some characteristics of the Eco collection that make it stand out from the pack?
Yes, it is great to see so much sustainable development happening within the equestrian industry across a variety of products. The Amigo AmEco turnout rug is a unique feat of fabric engineering because every fabric element has been created from recycled rPET polyester yarn! The 1200D outer lining, fiberfill, webbing, and the binding are wholly comparable to standard polyester fabrics, but with the added benefit of being kinder to the environment. Each rug uses an average of 218* plastic bottles–that’s putting to use 1.5 US citizens* plastic bottle consumption for a year.
Where do you source inspiration for new collections?
Our research & design team are all active equestrians with a variety of interests in various equestrian disciplines. It is this hands-on experience and insider knowledge of pain points which are common to horse owners that drive the inspiration behind new design and development. We actively review industry research and utilize information from WGSN leaders for trend forecasting on global consumer and design trends.
Before the pandemic, our team regularly attended trade and sourcing shows around the world to source new technologies, ideas, and concepts for use within the equestrian industry. In 2018, already in pursuit of more sustainable fabrics, they came upon an opportunity to create a polyester fabric from used plastic and instantly began researching whether this technology could produce a horse blanket.
Do you have a favorite piece from the Eco collection?
It is honestly so hard to pick! The products launched so far serve different functions and meet vastly different needs. The Rambo Natura is a great option for breathable coverage and UV protection during the summer months while the Amigo AmEco turnout rugs are available in several weights and can be used through the autumn and winter months.
Is there a difference between the equestrian market when it comes to acceptance of sustainability/sustainably produced fashion? If so, why?
Based on our experience, Horseware Ireland customers are not only interested in sustainability but are also increasingly active in seeking environmentally friendly products. They are curious to understand the features and benefits provided by products they purchase and where and how each product is produced. While we were confident launching the Eco Collection would resonate with our customers globally, the response we received was actually phenomenal.
This spring, we were delighted to receive the SPOGA Horse Top Innovations Award for the Amigo AmEco Plus Turnout Rug as an eco-friendly equestrian product. To top off the success of this launch, our customers’ reaction on social media was exceptional. This just reinforced our vision for a fully circular future at Horseware Ireland.
What are equestrian consumers asking for? Has this changed lately?
We believe in designing products for a circular world so that they can easily be recycled. Where possible, we use materials and processes that allow resources to be fed back into the production cycle to be used again. A key consideration for our customers when we released the Eco collection was how well the new rugs would perform when compared to the standard polyester equivalent. Standard polyester is widely used for horse rugs in the equestrian industry because of its robust and durable nature, and Horseware Ireland has a reputation for making products that last. Therefore, our customers are conscious buyers, preferring to buy less but buy better.
It took more than two years for the R&D team at Horseware Ireland to develop an alternative fabric that offered the same high strength properties required for horses as standard polyester fabric. This innovative recycled fabric is certified to Global Recycled Standards. The Amigo AmEco 12 Turnout rug is just as durable and resistant to snagging and tearing as standard polyester fabric, but it’s made of resources that might have ended up in our waterways or a landfill.
How about the Horseware supply chain?
Supply chain transparency has become increasingly important, as more of our consumers are demanding to know where and how Horseware Ireland products are made. Our products are manufactured in factories that are wholly owned by the company. Therefore, our supply chain is completely transparent from start to finish. We source all materials ourselves, and each item is produced through a carefully selected network of suppliers. We visit and review all our factories and suppliers to ensure products are constructed in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way, and to affirm that all employees are granted a fair wage and treated with respect.
What’s next for Horseware?
We’re confident about our commitment to make the world a better place by reviewing all aspects of our business to discover the most environmentally friendly solutions for every aspect of our operation. Some initiatives we are reviewing include reusable packaging, vegan ink for printing, reusing shipping materials, more eco-friendly fabrics, and sustainable supply chain management. Our focus remains, as always, on designing durable and high-quality products that last. This means less waste, less pollution and better performance.
In the future, expect more of our best-selling Horseware products to get the Eco treatment as we transform more of our most popular styles to sustainable fabric alternatives. We are also undertaking a huge packaging revamp to remove single-use plastic-based packaging from our supply chain over the next five years.
On top of producing environmentally friendly products, we are also dedicated to the reforestation of our planet, and we’re partnering with One Tree Planted and pledging to plant a tree for every Amigo® AmECO 12 Plus blanket sold.
Everyone can help out on World Cleanup Day, whether on a large or small scale. You can join in the discussion across social media by using the hashtag #WorldCleanUpDay.