IndigenousPhoto Credit: Courtesy of The Leakey Collection

Indigenous materials are sustainably gathered elements that are native to the areas in which the products are made.

Conventional fashion knows nothing of this practice.  Manufacturers throw together materials from all over the planet –racking up a massive carbon footprint in the process.

Transportation Means Big Climate Impact

Have you ever thought about how far your latest purchase has come, or how many countries it has seen before landing in your hand as a complete product? Hearts is willing to bet it’s got more stamps on its passport than you! Modern consumer goods made from materials found all over the globe – plastic, metal, wood, rubber and glass –use a tremendous amount of fossil fuels in their production.

In fact, the transportation sector uses 28.4% of all energy and contributes 33.6% of all carbon dioxide emissions.[i]  Much of these emissions are racked up by shipping raw materials and unfinished products around the world to eventually make it to retailors as a completed product.

Non-Indigenous Materials Rack Up the Miles

Consider this: By 2007, 95% of all clothing purchased in the US was manufactured overseas.[ii]  This says nothing of where the raw materials were sourced. The fashion industry makes a huge contribution to climate change. The conventional supply chain looks something like this.

  • Sourcing to Manufacturing: Raw materials are found all over the world. They are transported from a harvest site to a manufacturing plant.
    Take a plain cotton T-shirt for example. The cotton is grown in India and then transported to a textile plant in Peru where it is woven. It might be shipped to yet another factory where it is then dyed.
  • Manufacturing to Assembly: Once the raw materials are processed into things like cotton fabric, they are shipped again to an assembly warehouse.
    For our T-shirt, that means a trip from Peru to a clothing factory in China.
  • Distribution: Finally the finished product is sent to the point of sale.
    That means our T-shirt makes yet another journey, this time from China to the USA.

That’s a lot of miles for a simple cotton tee. Throughout the long journey, this little T-shirt involves trucks, container ships, trains and planes.  We can’t even calculate the wasted fossil fuels. 

And that means your fashion has a pretty big carbon footprint. If you’re like the Hearts’ family, you want your carbon footprint to be as clean as possible, right?

Indigenous Material Make a Difference

A conscientious eco shopper can make a difference by choosing low-impact fashion made with indigenous materials. Check out this example of an indigenously-made bracelet:

  • A piece of wood collected in the forest behind an artisan’s house is carved into beads
  • The beads are colored with paints made from locally-grown berries
  • Straw grown in the backyard is woven to create the string that holds the bracelet together

This entire piece is made with locally sourced materials. And that means an incredibly small carbon footprint.  That’s a far cry from our little cotton tee, wouldn’t you say?

Fashion made from indigenous materials has a double benefit. Not only are indigenous materials more climate-friendly, they’re also more people-friendly because they support indigenous artisans, and traditional crafts.  These creative folks band together to sustain their communities by using local materials, skills, and labor to gather, create, and assemble handmade fashion and jewelry. 

We are realistic about our efforts at Hearts. While we do everything we can to limit the transportation of materials and finished products by choosing indigenous whenever possible, there are still many times when we have to engage in the transportation of items as we produce them. To shrink our carbon footprint that results from transportation emissions, we partner with, offsetting the greenhouse gases we produce. This commitment to operating carbon neutrally is our way of fighting climate change.

At Hearts, we’re excited about benefiting people and the planet we share with our ethical fashion made from indigenous materials. We hope you are, too.

For more information about indigenous materials, Dive Deeper

Material - Indigenous -

[i] “U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector 2007,” Dec. 5, 2008,; and “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2007,” Dec. 5, 2008,

[ii] Ethical Style: What Happened to Made In the USA? (2012, February 16). Retrieved April 2, 2012, from