Successful farmers put as much back into the soil as they take out. Without re-balancing the nutrients that garlic and other crops extract, the land becomes exhausted by the take, take, take and eventually stops giving. There is evidence of crop rotation dating back to 6,000 BC. Before our ancestors defined the science of soil erosion and yield, they intuitively understood a circular way of production was a good scene.
So, what have T-Shirts got to do with this? Rapanui, a company powered by 'Teemill' who are based a few miles west of us are 'farming' T-Shirts in a fully circular, sustainable way. Their product material is completely natural organic cotton, designed to be re-made into into new T-Shirts when the old ones wear out and are returned to them.
This circular approach inspired us to partner with them to produce our staff shirts at the farm as well as create garlic-themed T-Shirts available to everyone – click here.
I visited their HQ to learn more as we developed the range together. Just like the farmers from 6,000 BC this crew have a blindingly clear and intuitive view on sustainability. Their whole process of clean, low-impact material in, vertical integrated manufacturing and plastic-free packaging dials as much harm and waste out of the system as possible. Their mantra is one of constant improvement and this has been recognised by winning a Queen's Award for Innovation; in their own words a "totally rad' achievement.
But all this is sustainability drive is before you even get to understand their 're-manufacturing' model. This is where the real game-changer comes. By making product that is designed to be sent back to them when it's worn out, they recover the material rather than waste it. This re-writes the take-make-waste extractive cycle that erodes precious, finite resources. It's properly cool and makes tangible the mission that our other Island neighbours are advocating – see Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
To enable this purpose-driven ethical approach, the Rapanui and Teemill team invest in some properly C-3PO level science wizadry. In-house coding and robotics deliver a constant stream of reporting and efficiencies that allow them to re-invest into innovating relentlessly to develop new ways of adopting the gentlest possible way of developing product. Jess explains: "As well as designing out plastic, we are also designing out waste from our factory. We've successfully made new stickers and notebooks made from recycled organic cotton off-cuts from our t-shirts, and the ink is made from soya beans."
Whilst we are busy growing garlic here on the Isle of Wight with the most minimal intervention possible, it's very inspiring to work with a neighbouring business in a different sector whose team are similarly impassioned. Sustainability, alongside service, are difficult things to do well. The enthusiasm it takes for a team to constantly deliver a quality product is only possible to maintain when everyone believes in what they're doing. There was reference to this 'Jedi' level commitment on my visit - the Rapanui and Teemill crew are genuinely 'using the force'!
Our T-Shirts that celebrate the love garlic, make great gifts and are going well in our farm shop. The cut and fit is considered, the organic cotton is soft and drapes well and we couldn't be happier with the low-impact, circular-economy approach of our partners in this project. Hooray for the Isle of Wight!
Thanks to Mart, Rob, Dan and Jess for getting us going with this.
Thank you for reading this. Please share it if you know someone who enjoys garlic.