EC Wear was launched by Marija Mikolajczak in 2008 when her son was an infant and she had trouble finding convenient clothing for their elimination communication practice that met her criteria for environmental and social justice.
Marija ran the company alone, in her spare time while taking care of her son, and later, a daughter, until summer of 2015 when she was joined by Sarah Milcetic, a friend she had met through a cooking Meetup group.
Marija and Sarah are both devoted to living in an ecologically conscientious way, cooking organic whole foods, natural parenting, and practicing pemaculture. We built a friendship through our participation in the cooking group and our local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network.
Our recent changes
We both wanted to take a look at how we could improve EC Wear and so we took a look at the business through the the lens of permaculture design, a process based on three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and returning a surplus. So we thought about how we could improve EC Wear using each of these three principles.
Care for the earth
While manufacturing clothing which helps parents reduce or even eliminate the usage of disposable diapers is certainly a green business with a tangible, positive impact on the environment, we wanted to see if we could take it to a darker shade of green.
There are inherent qualities of manufacturing new goods which are unavoidably taking a toll on the environment. Every step of the way from growing and harvesting fibers and shipping them to a cloth-making plant, then shipping rolls of cloth to a sewing facility where some of it is becomes trash (the bits between the cut-out parts used in sewing) and shipping the finished goods back to Marija’s home and then shipped out individually to customer, uses resources including a lot of fossil fuels. In this analysis, our company is far greener than many other baby clothing manufacturers because we make decisions to utilize and support the best available practices at each step. So, the question was could we get beyond “sustainable” into the realm of regenerative? Could we actually use EC Wear to heal the environment rather than merely seeking to minimize a negative impact?
Care for people
We saw that EC Wear was a business which provides support for new parents seeking to practice a natural parenting technique that supports a positive attachment with their infants, a practice which helped parents with bonding and kept babies healthier. But we were limited to having a simple consumer based relationship with our customers and we recognize the limits of a consumption-based society on peoples’ feelings of satisfaction and value. In addition, our business needed to care better for Marija and Sarah and ensuring that our intellectual and emotional needs were being met How could we further empower people to be great parents and feel happy with their choices and their engagement with our company while practicing the environmentally and baby-friendly practice of Elimination Communication?
Return of Surplus
As a business operated only part-time by two unpaid business owners, EC Wear does not create a large amount of surplus, but in carefully evaluating practices, we observed that we do a lot of recycling, donating extra fabric items to schools for art classrooms, and giving a lot of free advice and support online and by telephone to parents beginning their EC journey. What could we do to generate more surplus and in what ways could we return meaningful contributions to the earth and communities we are a part of?
Launching a new vision for EC Wear
With these three ideas in mind, a new plan for the business emerged. We would no longer manufacture clothing, and instead we would begin putting the skills of sewing EC clothing from repurposed materials directly into the hands of new parents and caregivers. By decentralizing the production process, we can eliminate all of the negatives of the manufacturing process. Parents can choose to sew their baby’s clothing from repurposed baby blankets, unwanted adult shirts, small remnants of fabric sold at a discount at fabric shops, or any other creative source of material. Even buying a small amount of fabric at a local fabric shop produces less waste than the mass manufacturing process. By empowering parents with skills to create their own baby clothes, we feel we are helping to convert a wasteful consumer society into a waste-reducing producer society. Changing the way Marija and Sarah spend our time with EC Wear from “mailroom clerk” duties into spending time as the teachers and sharers of knowledge that we love to be is also healthy for us and allows us to contribute in a more meaningful way to the EC community and the environmental movement.
We know it is a big risk to take to switch gears after all of these years. But in some ways those years were necessary to get us to this point. We now have great patterns for sewing all our clothing and we know how to create more patterns in the future, and ideally this will open the opportunity for more time to be spend on these endeavors which will benefit our own sense of self-fulfillment as well as that of all of our customers.
We hope you will sign up for our email list to receive updates on our progress and continue to hear about our efforts to make the world better for babies, parents, and every living thing on earth.