Varusteleka's own product carbon footprint

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Hey gang, we have finally calculated the carbon footprints of the majority of our own textile products. Meaning the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the production process of each product. These footprints can be found on the product pages of our webstore. If interested, you can take a deep dive into the calculation method as well. These calculations were done with the great help of Compensate.

Why did you have to do that?

Well, we like to be on the side of the good guys, and cleaning up one’s mess is a central part of that, we believe. The largest portion of companies’ carbon footprint is hidden somewhere deep in the supply chain. The majority of the emissions come from the extraction and processing of raw materials. In the textile industry, this is approximately 90% according to the Finnish Textile & Fashion organization. All the calculations regarding our company’s footprint will be misleading unless the emissions from production are included. And by the way, this is true for other companies as well.

Sure, we could have estimated the footprint of our products in bulk by using some general emission data e.g. for an average t-shirt. However, to be able to produce less harmful products, we must have a bit more profound understanding of the footprint of an individual product.

We also figured it would be nice if companies were honest about the environmental damage related to their products. So that the customer would not need to wonder what kind of crap pile was created as a result of manufacturing the product. Instead, it would be stated in the price tag, and as an honest number instead of an ambiguous green leaf or a vague statement of sustainability. This might also help clarify that there are no absolutely “environmentally friendly” options, but there are always some kind of environmental costs related to each and every product.

It is true that the carbon footprint only communicates the climate impact, but not the amount of soil or water that was ruined due to the production of the item or how much microplastics will dissolve from it. Not to mention how the people involved in the supply chain are doing. However, we had to start somewhere.

Let’s see what kind of numbers we have gathered for you!

Case Pea Coat

We discovered that one of our worst offenders is the Särmä Pea Coat. The production of one pea coat pushes some 87 kilos of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The coat is of course heavy, around two kilograms, but it also combines two intense emitters: wool and China, with a hint of viscose. For example, in comparison, the Fishtail Parka which is also made in China and weighs just half a kilo less, emits almost 40 kilos less - which is less than half of the emissions!

Note! We have tried to balance out the situation by using recycled polyester made from used plastic bottles in the coat. However, unfortunately there are yet no credible calculations on how much emissions the recycling process saves in comparison to the conventional polyester production from crude oil. So, to avoid underestimating the emissions, we have used the emission data for conventional polyester. We will modify the results if we get more accurate data.

The Särmä Pea Coat emits 87 kg of greenhouse gases, while the Särmä Fishtail Parka can be produced with 39 kg of emissions.

Case Linen Shirt

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the Särmä Linen Shirt, made fully from linen in Lithuania. Its production causes approximately five kilograms of emissions for a 400 g shirt. To contrast, let's take the Särmä T-shirt as an example. It is made from lyocell, often praised as less harmful to the environment, as well as elastane. It is also made in Lithuania and weighs around 200 grams less. Still, it causes 1,5 kilos more carbon emissions.

The production of the Särmä Linen Shirt causes 4,6 kg of greenhouse gas emissions, while the Särmä T-shirt creates 6,3 g.

Is this a little or a lot?

The absolute kilogram amounts may be clear for the most engineeresque tree-huggers, but for the rest of us, some kind of a reference point might be useful. That’s why we included some useful figures for comparison in the chart below. The numbers may or may not contain other greenhouse gases in addition to carbon dioxide and are meant purely for entertainment purposes.

Särmä Pea Coat

Särmä Fishtail Parka

Särmä T-shirt

Särmä Linen Shirt
Emissions, kg CO2e 87 38.7 6.3 4.6

Percentage of the average yearly emission of a Finn (10,300 kg CO2e)
0.8% 0.4% 0.06% 0.04%

Percentage of the yearly target emissions of a sustainable way of life (2,500 kg CO2e in 2030)
3.5% 1.5% 0.3% 0.2%

How many beef steaks (150 g)?
13.6 steaks 6 steaks 1 steak 0,7 steaks

How many rounds on an AK5?
321,033 rounds 142,775 rounds 23,107 rounds 16,974 rounds

Hom many kilometers on a car?
395.5 km 175.9 km 28.5 km 20.9 km

How many kilometers on a Leopard 2?
5.6 km 2.5 km 0.4 km 0.3 km

How many seconds on a Lockheed Martin F35?
6 sec 3 sec 0.5 sec 0.3 sec

Sources: Sitra, 2018, Sitra, 2019, Autoalan Tiedotuskeskus, VTT Lipasto Yksikköpäästöt, Luke, 2016, Defra, 2021, Defra, 2021, Government of Canada,

What’s the point?

The calculation process also helped us understand how harmful the different production stages are. Rather unfortunately, the last factory in the supply chain, the one we have the most control over, is likely to be the smallest component in the whole footprint. It is pretty hard to make an impact at the roots of the supply chain, where it would matter the most. In such a case, we must take a cold hard look at the materials we use; is there a less harmful alternative or could we use less of this material?

Now that we know that we have some pretty emission-intensive products, we will have to decide if the emissions are justified. Is the product durable and usable long enough to legitimize such a polluting production process? Can it be circulated to another user? What other changes can we make in order to shrink the amount of emissions?

Progress doesn’t stop

During this process, we realized that it is pretty hard to emulate reality completely. Since the assortment of our own products is somewhat large, there is no sense in traveling to Lithuania to assess how much electricity is consumed e.g. when sewing the side seam of our merino boxers. So, we relied on industry averages, and thus some concrete changes in the production process will not be reflected in the carbon footprint.

Although the calculations are based on several international standards, there are still many uncertainties involved. We have tried to be honest about all the inaccuracies and have been overestimating the emissions rather than underestimating them. So, the figures give a good estimate of the magnitude of the emissions, but they are not an exact depiction of the footprint.

We will continue to develop the calculation tool and expand its use to cover more products. In the future, we would also like the numbers to show the real-life energy consumption at the factories, which is a good way to motivate our partners to choose emission-free electricity sources as well. Moreover, we will use this data to make products that emit less in the future and compensate for the emissions caused by the manufacturing process.

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