Hi, I'm Kat, founder of Sustain. I started Sustain for probably the same reason many small businesses get started - I had a problem and I couldn't find the solution, so I decided to make it.
For years I had issues with skin rashes. Nothing life threatening, but persistent and annoying. I would get little itchy bumps when I was doing nothing but going to work. I wasn't exposed to any toxic chemicals at work (or so I thought). I didn't work in a factory or with heavy metals. I worked at a desk in an office. And yet there they were, little itchy bumps - frustrating as ever.
I looked them up online and found something called eczema. Ends up a lot of people have it, something like up to 10% of adults. Crazy, right? At first I was happy to find the likely cause of my itchy little bumps, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized - nobody knows what causes eczema. It is just a generic term that is used to describe skin rashes. There are all sorts of anecdotal advice online about what causes it, and there are a ridiculous amount of creams and other "cures" out there that have mixed reviews at best. But there is no one culprit I could point my finger at and kick out of my life.
The one consistency that I found among eczema sufferers who had solved their rash problem was that something was irritating their skin, they just had to figure out what it was. Seemed pretty logical to me. And doable.
So I rounded up all the usual suspects: lotions, deodorants, soaps, detergents (this was a big one for my husband), l and slowly replaced them or did away with them altogether. The ones I replaced, I replaced with chemical-free versions. If I couldn't find a chemical-free version, I made my own. Body lotions were swapped out for my homemade olive and coconut oil sugar scrub, shower soap was replaced with an easy apple cider vinegar spray (ends up the high pH of soaps can be very irritating to your skin, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water has a pH much closer to the natural pH of your skin, while still being cleansing).
If you can't tell, I really got into DIY, so it made the process kind of fun. It also just made me feel cleaner to know that I wasn't covered in chemicals all day. And it was making a difference. Many of my rashes subsided, and some disappeared completely - but not all of them.
Determined, I tried to figure out what my skin was coming in contact with that I hadn't already fixed. I had at this point replaced or nixed every lotion, cream, wash, etc. I had been using. And that's when it hit me - my clothes. I wonder what's in my clothes?
I had no idea what I was getting into. The amount of chemicals in clothing was overwhelming.
Is your clothing cotton? Three to four pounds of chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, are used to make one cotton t-shirt. The National Institutes of Health have found these chemicals to cause "problems such as dermatitis and death" (death seems like more than just a "problem"...). In fact, the pesticides on military uniforms have been linked as one of the causes of Gulf War Syndrome.
How about polyester? Polyester is a plastic derived from crude oil. It undergoes a series of chemical processes which involve known toxins and cancer-causing compounds.
Ever wonder why you don't need a cedar chest for your wool clothing anymore? In addition to wool being treated with a whole host of harmful scouring and processing chemicals, wool clothing is coated with a layer of pesticides after production.
Is you clothing colored? Many of the common dyes (azo-dyes) used in clothing are toxic and even several the dyes used in certified organic clothing have been found to cause skin irritation.
Wrinkle-free? It includes chemicals like formaldehyde (a known carcinogen).
Water-repellent or stain-resistant? It includes chemicals like Scotchguard which are perfluorochemicals in the same family as Teflon that cause birth defects.
I wish I could list even half of what I found, but I think you get the gist. Don't get me wrong, some clothing is better than others, but there is no transparency to know which ones are better. And even then, they were no GOOD options, just less bad.
I wanted clothing that was safe and healthy in every single aspect, down to the thread, dyes, labels, everything. But that didn't exist. So, just like before, I decided that if there were no good options, I would make my own. That is how Sustain was born.