If you are going to buy a face mask, make sure its a reusable one. But if you want to go above and beyond buy a Surfrider Face Mask because they are ethically made, sustainably sourced, upcycled (Love it!), and all the profits go towards protecting our oceans and coasts. Also, the face mask is $10, which is a typical price now a days for reusable face mask. Unfortunately, one thing to keep in mind while buying this face mask is that its carbon footprint is likely much higher than other reusable face masks due to its globe trotting lifecycle. So if higher carbon emissions are a red flag for you then I would recommend investing in a face mask that is sourced and manufactured locally to you. But for the rest of you that want to support Surfrider and Known Supply’s missions, this mask is great way to show your ocean and those around you that you care.
It is well known among ocean lovers that Surfrider works hard to protect our oceans, waves, and beaches, but what you may not have known is that Surfrider also sells sustainable clothing, accessories, and face masks! The Surfrider face mask is made of 3 layers of upcycled Pima cotton from Known Supply t-shirts, sewing string, and elastic bands. Pima cotton is a soft and strong, high-quality cotton that is produced in the U.S.A. Surfrider’s sustainability page states that they “use 100% organic cotton, water-based inks, and recycled fabrics wherever we can, and we encourage our partners to do the same”. Known Supply also uses GOTS Certified organic cotton in the majority of their collections.
Surfrider sources their t-shirts from Known Supply. Known Suppy sources their cotton for their t-shirts from the United States. Known Supply does an incredible job of explaining exactly where their clothing is made and how it is made. Their products are made in Lima, Peru; Gulu, Uganda; Tamil Nadu, India; Chennai, India; and Kolkata, India. At each of these factories workers hand-cut and sew Known Supply apparel from mostly GOTS Certified organic cotton. Then, Surfrider purchases t-shirts from Known Supply and sends it to Seattle, Washington, U.S.A where the cotton is cut and sewn into masks. After the masks are manufactured in Seattle, they are packaged and sold on the Surfrider website.
While Surfrider may do a good job at being transparent about the source of their face mask materials, they could improve with their transparency about their own manufacturing. Surfrider states that their face masks are manufactured in Seattle, but they do not explain if the masks are manufactured at their own factory or if they outsource their manufacturing to another company. Surfrider also does not explain what the manufacturing process is like and how their workers are paid at this factory.
While Surfrider’s face masks may be ethically sourced and use sustainable materials, each mask’s carbon footprint is likely significant because each step of the face mask’s life cycle takes place in different parts of the world. After the cotton is grown in the United States it must be shipped internationally to one of the Known Supply factories in India, Uganda, or Peru. After the t-shirts are made they are then shipped internationally again to Seattle.
Surfrider manufactures and sells the face mask, but the cotton material used to make the mask is processed by Known Supply. Known Supply is an apparel brand that has a goal of humanizing apparel by connecting consumers with the people that make the clothing they buy. Each item of clothing sold has the signature of the person that made it and Known Supply pays fair wages to all its workers. The brand is a Certified B Corporation and Fair Trade Certified. Both Fair Trade Certification and B Corporation Certification have been critiqued for valid reasons, but in general are forcing industries to focus on being more ethical and sustainable. Fair Trade Certification has often been critiqued because it has not proven to ensure that workers receive fair wages The B Corporation Certification has also been critiqued because there is no requirement for companies to report their environmental or social impact results. Despite these two somewhat shady certifications, Known Supply seems to truly care about their impact on their workers.
Surfrider is an organization that fights to reduce the impact of plastics on marine environments, works with policy makers to ensure fair and equal access to beaches, and takes on issues that threaten beaches, water quality, and the ocean. Since Surfrider’s creation in 1984, they have had 34 federal, 43 regional, 131 state, and 499 local victories with ocean and coastal conservation related campaigns. Surfrider started selling apparel and accessories as a way to help fund their national campaigns and programs (100% of profits go towards these projects). On Surfrider’s sustainability page they state, “We encourage people to buy clothing of better quality that will last, rather than buying more of what is in fashion. We are not perfectly sustainable, but we are responsible, and we encourage other brands to do the same.” I absolutely love that Surfrider admits that they are not perfectly sustainable and they explain where most of the materials for their products come from, but I wish they would be a little more transparent about their own manufacturing process. Besides that, Surfrider is doing incredible work across the United States to protect our oceans and coasts and I think it is great that consumers can show their support by purchasing items from them.