Everlane, the San Francisco-based, direct-to-consumer brand that has become a sensation based on its commitment to “radical transparency” in terms of pricing and ethical factories, has a new cause: By 2021, the company plans to be completely free of virgin plastics.
The plan was announced at a dinner held Tuesday on the rooftop of the Brooklyn Grange farm, hosted by Everlane founder Michael Preysman, along with Natalie Massenet and Nick Brown, who invested in the brand through their venture cap fund Imaginary Ventures. The food was by Dan Barber of Blue Hill, whose sustainable farming and cuisine philosophy dovetail nicely with Everlane’s. Lest the menu and speeches by Barber, Massenet and Preysman didn’t hammer the point of event home, the al fresco setting helped. As temperatures dipped into the 40s, guests ate huddled under Everlane blankets and sweaters in its new ReNew fleece, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
“Michael and I have been joking, saying we thought we would host this dinner in a very, very cold place so that you would never forget how important it is to have a fleece blanket in your life, and this would sort of burn Everlane into your mind forever and ever,” Massenet said.
The blankets and fleeces were much appreciated, and in turn made it easier to appreciate the staggering statistics Preysman delivered: There are 8 billion tons of plastic on the planet, which is roughly one ton per person that exists; and plastic cannot be broken down in the environment. “It’s a really convenient thing, but it’s actually incredibly damaging because once plastic is made, we use it for a second but it lasts forever,” Preysman said. He acknowledged the “cognitive dissonance” intrinsic to a company that is built on producing and selling new stuff all the time, and how Everlane plans to reconcile that cognitive dissonance as best it can.
“We’re producing millions of units and every unit that goes out is wrapped in plastic,” said Preysman, noting that he didn’t realize the scale of plastic use until Everlane started production. “At the beginning, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s just take off all these plastic bags.’ There are a lot of complications to that. Everything you buy in the world comes wrapped in plastic when it comes out of the factory.” Also part of this awakening, some commonly used materials — polyester and nylon — are made from virgin plastic. By 2021, Everlane will no longer make anything with virgin plastic in it. All of its materials will be made out of plastic water bottles and renewed materials. Preysman estimated that in the next five years Everlane expects to use about 100 million water bottles through its system. It’s a humble number in the grand scheme of things. “The fact is 500 billion water bottles are produced every year,” Preysman said. “We’re a very small piece of that.”