At NearSea Naturals, we believe that when given the opportunity people will make choices that benefit both themselves and the environment. With our focus on the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit, we endeavor to make those choices easier and more enjoyable by carefully selecting sustainable fabrics and notions that are as delightful to work with as they are beneficial to people and the planet.
NearSea Naturals is the leading Internet provider of exclusively sustainable fabrics and notions. With over forty years' combined experience in the organic fabric industry, NearSea's principals have learned about green business - often the hard way. Watching North and South Carolina's textile industries essentially shut down as growth and production was outsourced, we've grown to treasure what little remains; the relationships with American farmers, mills, finishers, and manufacturers that we've nourished over these years are integral to our business.
NearSea Naturals began in 2002 as a small, mother/daughter company. (Learn more about a major impetus for our creation here.) Though we've grown significantly since then, our basic values and principles remain the same. For the first eight years of our existence, NearSea Naturals was located off-the-grid in rural New Mexico. Sadly, the local infrastructure was unable to support our growing business, and NearSea moved: first to Santa Fe, and then later to Asheville, North Carolina. In Asheville, we're closer to the remnants of America's textile industry - we're able to work face-to-face with the people who are making the fabrics we sell. That's a level of responsiveness you won't easily find when working with mills overseas, where distance, time zones, and often language can hinder both communication and accountability. Our move to Asheville also enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint, as we're no longer shipping literal tons of fabric to the middle of the country (but far from any major shipping hubs) and back out again.
As an environmentally-aware, "green" business, we of course do the basics. We use eco-friendly supplies (soy toner, 100% recycled, high-PCW-content paper, etc), we recycle, reuse, or rehome things we can no longer use, we encourage working from home where possible (obviously, cutting fabric requires being on-site; web work does not...), etc. We are also active in education and advocacy work; for instance, with fifteen years of service, NearSea's managing partner Daniel Sanders is the only remaining original board member of the Sustainable Cotton Project. And, of course, we are incredibly careful when it comes to sourcing the materials we sell.
You may have noticed that there are many more options for fabric made from organic fibers today than existed ten or twenty years ago, and in many ways that's very encouraging. What we don't think is quite so good, though, is the fact that nearly all these exciting new fabrics are either made overseas or manufactured in the US from fibers that are grown overseas.
We have nothing against China, India, or any other country, and if we lived in India we would be encouraging the development of a local sustainable fabric industry there. We simply believe in creating a local sustainable fabric industry; we think the environment, the economy, and consumers all benefit when fabric isn't shipped around the world three and four times before it ends up in the US to be sold. We thus work hard to source domestic fabrics made from domestic fibers. We do sell fabrics from other countries in certain circumstances; the following come immediately to mind:
•Our peace silk and silk blend fabrics. The US has no significant domestic silk industry, so we've carefully sourced fabrics from India and China that meet our criteria.
•Our hemp and hemp blend fabrics. It's currently illegal to grow industrial hemp in the US, and we thus have no choice but to source it from overseas. (Nearly all of Canada's hemp crop goes to food products, in case you were wondering...)
•Our Harmony Art fabrics. Harmony Susalla's strong commitment to environmental sustainability is visible in her fabrics.
Overall, you can know that: Our organic cotton fabrics and notions are primarily milled in the United States using certified organic cotton (we clearly state country of origin for any exceptions). Our organic wool products are also from the United States, primarily from California, New Mexico, and throughout the East Coast. Our organic merino wool comes from California and Australia. Our hemp fabrics are from socially-responsible facilities in China, while our yarns, notions, and useable goods come from various sustainable enterprises worldwide.
In case you're more interested in fully American fabrics, do know that all fabrics sold on our American Grown•Spun•Milled site meet the following criteria unless expressly noted in the fabric's description:
•The fabric is made from certified-organic fibers
•The organic fibers from which the fabric is made are grown in America
•The fibers are processed (spun into "yarn," which is very different from knitting yarn) in America, in an eco-friendly fashion
•The yarn is milled (that is, woven or knit into fabric) in America
•Any finishing (dyeing, flannelling, etc) also takes place in America
We try to contain all the various steps within as small a geographic area as possible. The majority of US organic cotton is currently planted in Texas; from there it's a fairly short trip, using established transportation systems, to the Carolinas and thereabouts, where most of the fabric creation (the spinning, milling, and finishing) takes place. Rest assured that as innovation makes it possible for other parts of our system to be further streamlined, we will eagerly take advantage of any such options.