Well Made

Ep. 139 Impressing the eco-nerds with Alden Wicker

February 18, 2021 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

When consumers see a brand that claims to be "sustainable," reporter Alden Wicker encourages them to investigate. Every product's supply chain has different sustainability opportunities, so sustainability strategies will look different for every brand.

First, she says brands have to acknowledge that sustainability is not binary. One product can be more sustainable than another, but sustainability is an ongoing journey rather than a final destination. Next, brands need to define their sustainability strategies and what sustainability looks like to them. This requires unraveling the supply chain of each product to see the impact of your materials, manufacturing, and transit. 

It's a lot to unpack, and Alden is always eager to investigate. In this episode, Alden answers the question, "What do we talk about when we talk about sustainability?" She advocates for a bigger focus on factories, warns against recycling red herrings, and confronts the challenge of assigning value to sustainability.

“Brands are the ones that have the capital to fix this problem. The factories do not have the capital at all. They're struggling.”

Based on The Transformers Foundation's survey findings from 79 leading denim suppliers in May 2020. Impressing the eco-nerds

Based on The Transformers Foundation's survey findings from 79 leading denim suppliers in May 2020.

The last time we spoke to Alden Wicker, she was freelancing for other publications while running her site, EcoCult. Since then, she's hired a fleet of writers to turn EcoCult into a more robust publication. At the beginning of this episode, she shares a bit about her strategy and how the site makes money. 

Alden shares some of her biggest projects of the past year — an epic report on unethical behavior denim supply chain for the Transformers Foundation (14:21), a Wired article on the trouble with Poshmark (17:11), and a new course for Latin American brands that want to break into the US market (38:55).

Alden and Stephan discuss various ways to extend the life of clothes. She contemplates how to find the right balance between encouraging secondhand buying, while discouraging a perspective that clothes are temporary (25:07). She lists what it takes to start a proper takeback program for repairs and recycling (27:14): high quality items, timeless styles, takeback infrastructure, enough volume to actually start production of recycling. 

Alden shares the sustainable shopper personas that she's created and which one she most aligns with (38:55) and she breaks down what a brand has to do to impress her (46:50). Finally, she explains why she wants brands to stop focusing so much on educating customers (50:26) and the criteria for brands featured on EcoCult (52:14).


Also mentioned on this episode:


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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