Town Haul Podcast | Episode 15

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Marci Zaroff (Sustainability Entrepreneur)
  • Listen Here!

Sustainability entrepreneur Marci Zaroff is a green business leader and influencer, an environmental pioneer, and a style icon.

Over the years, Zaroff coined the term ECOfashion®, produced THREAD, an ECOfashion® documentary, founded sustainable clothing brand MetaWear, and co-founded seafood alternative Good Catch Foods. (And that’s just a short list of her accomplishments.) Town Haul host Amy Koonin dives into Zaroff’s lengthy resume and discusses how the world is thinking about sustainability in a new way.

On what ECOfashion® is

ZAROFF: “There’s a lot of prejudice that if you’re a fashion-forward consumer you couldn’t possibly be into the environment, because if you’re one of these tree huggers, then you don’t understand fashion. There’s a lot of stigma. If you were an environmentalist, humanitarian, or you were a conscious businessperson, then you wouldn’t support fashion, because fashion was materialistic and superficial, and very wasteful, and destructive. There’s no way that you could truly embrace your own values.

I was in both worlds. For me, coining the term, and marrying those worlds was about demonstrating that you don’t have to give up style, quality, fit, color, or comfort to have ethically made sustainable product, that those worlds can absolutely coexist.”

On what makes MetaWear different

ZAROFF: “I’ve modeled a lot of my career after the food industry. You go into restaurants today and you have these buildable options. You point to the menu, you pick what you want, and you get a customized dish at the end. All kinds of brands, retailers, and companies across different distribution channels have very, very unique needs. We made a menu for MetaWear.

Menu item number one: What story do you want to tell? Is it certified organic? Is it made in the US? Is it cradle to cradle? Is it fair-trade? Is it all recycled, and is it some combination of these things.

Menu item number two: What products are you looking to make? Is it underwear? Is it women’s at leisure wear? Is it a baby, or children’s wear? Is it home textiles? Is it loungewear? What do you want? Then we actually will work with you with all of our materials libraries. We have about 15 proprietary materials. We have about 150 base styles we’ve developed. We’ll work with our clients to help customize what we call our elevated essentials.

Menu item number three becomes the manufacturing model, which is the core of MetaWear. We’re going to ask you what kind of volumes you’re looking to produce, what kind of margins you’re shooting for, and what are your price target goals for retail.”

On why sustainability in the textile industry matters

ZAROFF: “10% of the world’s carbon footprint is coming from the textile industry. When you pull the curtain back, you also see 20% of the world’s fresh water pollution comes from textile treatment and dying. Three trillion gallons of water are used here in textile production. Over a trillion kilowatt hours of energy. The list is endless.

I think people are really just learning about this, and there’s been a movement also on the social justice side to wake people up to how a lot of the garments that we’re wearing and buying here in the US are being made in places where garment workers are making 36 dollars a month and cannot even put food on the table.”

On what the Eco Renaissance is all about

ZAROFF: “In essence, the Eco Renaissance is modeled after the original Renaissance when we were coming out of the dark ages. There was a refocus on creativity, collaboration, connection, community, and consciousness. There was a shift in popular culture and a rebirth.

That’s where we are today. We’re coming out of this kind of modern-day dark ages. There are these paradigm shifts happening, using those same five pillars across our food, wellness, fashion, beauty, and business.”

On what beginners can do to help the planet

ZAROFF: “If you’re talking about food, read labels and try to avoid GMOs. Try to avoid any of the heavy chemicals. One of the things I’ve been saying for 25 years is if you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Eating organic is certainly now widespread and available, so look for it and support that movement in the food world.

In fashion, I would say clothes swapping is a very inexpensive way to be sustainable. There are also great websites where you can rent clothing, like Rent The Runway. After you’re done wearing it, you can send it back and get something new. You can sort of move away from the fast fashion model, which is quicker, cheaper, more and tons of pollution goes with that.”

On how she takes her coffee

ZAROFF: “Black. Dark roast.”