By definition sustainable means; able to be maintained at a certain rate or level. In my humble opinion, what we have going on now on our planet is not sustainable. But we don’t have to change everything about the way we live to make a difference. Just start by making one small change. And then another.
I don’t get to chat with Dawn, the owner of HumBird, as much as I wish I could. She is a beautiful soul. She really cares…well… about everything it seems. And not just that, but she tries to make it better. Just this week, she launched her brand new website for HumBirdwool.com. She said it took years. I believe it because I know from experience. Ya’ll being a small business owner is hard work. And doing businesses in such a sustainable and responsible takes even more energy and time.
Kudos to her on her years in business and for her new, beautiful website! I wanted to take a minute and let Dawn share her own perspective so ya’ll could get a peek behind the curtain. Watch the video and then read on for my interview with her.
When I started HumBird my first goal was to have contact with others. After my daughters were born I was very lonely, and HumBird came out of that loneliness. As time went on I felt more and more responsibility for leaving my kids the best world I could. My work, both in and outside of HumBird (I am also the coordinator of an after school program), is dedicated to honoring, respecting and protecting the Earth and all who live here. We are not just a small cloth diapering and wool community, but interconnected parts of the greater whole.
I recently read this article and realized so much more how consumers are led to believe that the companies they purchase from use sustainable practices even when they do not. An important aspect of running a sustainable business is providing a living wage for employees. HumBird has one employee, Evi, who works 28 hoursf per week. She is paid a very good living wage, which includes full health insurance, paid sick days as needed, and six weeks of paid vacation each year. My husband, Markus, also has what is referred to in Germany as a “mini job.” He helps with tasks like packing and shipping, cutting fabric, and keeping HBHQ organized. We all work together to keep the wheels turning and running smoothly.
These past 9 years running a small home-based business have helped me realize (among a thousand other things!) how connected we all are, and how important it is to run HumBird mindfully. Sustainability, to me, is a mindful awareness that drives me toward constant growth and learning, always staying aware of what a privilege it is to own this company and to be part of the larger community. All of our choices — how we choose fabrics, the products we offer, the language that we use, and how we work with our customers and other companies — all affect our footprint on the world.
AACD: How do you source your materials and produce the clothing?
HumBird Headquarters (HBHQ) is located in Germany and we only source our materials from within the European Union. In the beginning we bought some fabric from the US and China, but we now work with a family-owned mill in Italy who makes all of our custom fabrics. The yarn that the mill uses to knit our fabrics is made in Germany. We are also very proud to offer fabric made from certified GOTS and Responsible Wool Standard yarns. While the cost is higher, we strongly believe that the benefits to the earth and all that it encompasses are worth it.
The wool mill is a small family owned operation and we have built a close relationship over the years. They have really embraced my wild ideas and experimented with me on what is possible with mill-dyed wool. We started out with two-tone stripes, then rainbow stripes, and now we have even printed licensed NASA images and have special effects wool (tv effect and graffiti effect.) They also love and are passionate about what they do, so collaborating on ideas and stretching what is possible together is so rewarding. It means so much to me that my small business supports other small businesses.
Every single HumBird item is made by Evi and me at HBHQ, which is based in my home. We don’t outsource anything. I have experimented with outsourcing in the past, and Evi and I came to the conclusion that we were never fully satisfied with the quality control. I also could never be 100% certain of the well-being of the workers making the items. Keeping production in HBHQ also helps us to limit waste. We work hard to leave as few scraps of fabric as possible, for instance.
All of our fabrics are ordered in advance. Wool interlock is ordered yearly, and wool jerseys are ordered twice a year. This takes months of planning with my admin team to decide on colors, patterns, and fabrics. We also love getting input from our FaceBook community!
Every step in the process of creating a piece of HumBird clothing is done in-house. We don’t carry items in stock, so everything is custom made after it is ordered. That is why it is so easy to get a custom and perfect fit. The new website should make the process even easier.
AACD: How have you chosen which styles to make?
Will there be different options available in the future?
We try to offer a variety of styles that we feel will seamlessly be added to and enhance your current wardrobe and become wardrobe staples. We aren’t trying to be trendy; we want our pieces to stand the test of time in quality, but also in terms of fashion. We are slow and sustainable fashion. We want our clothing to last for you and your family and that’s why we source the best materials we can and pride ourselves on our quality. Every piece goes through at least two quality control checks. If it’s not up to our high standards, we will remake it and then sell the flawed piece as a seconds item. It doesn’t happen very frequently, but we are only human.
New styles come while other styles go. We really take the time to listen to our community. We have a very active Facebook group and people definitely let us know styles and colors that they would like to see. We always ask for input on colors before we place our wool orders. Our motto is “Wool for EveryBody, EveryDay,” and we take that very seriously. We come in all different shapes and sizes and we do our best to find patterns that will work for many, and we then even refine those patterns to offer more sizes so that everyone has an option. This is truly a work in progress and we are constantly working to expand and fine-tune sizing.
AACD: It can be pricey. Why is it worth the money?
Yes, this is something I think about and discuss often. In our fast paced society we are really used to the culture of “fast fashion” – inexpensive and practically disposable clothing. But at what cost? All clothing is handmade. Have you thought about who made your clothes? How were they compensated? Were the conditions safe? Was the person who made that inexpensive item exploited? The issue here really is a human rights issue.
So part of that higher price tag for HumBird is to pay our employee a fair living wage with full benefits, but also the fabric itself is a more expensive fabric compared to polyester, cotton, or even another wool that is not GOTS, RWS, or Tencel certified. And that has to do with how wool is harvested and the quality of wool we choose to buy. Wool is an amazing fabric. It is incredible as clothing and diaper covers. It is temperature regulating, antibacterial, antimicrobial, odor resistant, biodegradable, 100% renewable, wrinkle resistant, naturally breathable and moisture wicking, stain resistant, fire resistant, UV resistant, and it is the most reused and recycled textile out there.
AACD: Let’s talk about wool myths.
A: It needs to be babied and is hard to wash.
B: It’s itchy.
C: I already get hot in the summer. Wool would make it even hotter?
I think that is the most common misconception about wool. Wool is actually very easy to care for. All you really need is wool wash and lanolin for interlock wool. For our merino jersey collection we recommend Unicorn Beyond Fiber Wash and Unicorn Beyond Soft and a quick hand wash. The great thing about wool is that it doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as regular clothing.
Wool is an amazing natural fiber that has a natural protective outer layer that makes it stain resistant, the lanolin process causes urine to naturally dissipate as it dries, and since wool tends to not generate static it attracts less dust and lint.
We have an extremely detailed wool care guide as well as a YouTube video available on our website. We also always welcome questions in our very active Facebook group for troubleshooting any issues.
Wool’s itchy reputation is a holdover from big, bulky wool sweaters of the past. Our wool is soft and luxuriously gentle next to the skin. Our wool fibers are extremely fine compared to traditional, coarse wool fibers.
I can personally attest that wool clothing and its temperature regulating properties keep you comfortable in all temperatures and weather. In contrast to synthetic fibers, wool is an active fiber that reacts to changes in your body’s temperature. Also, wool has the ability to absorb moisture vapor which wicks sweat away from your body. It also absorbs odor molecules from sweat which are only released when washed. Even after all these years I am still so amazed by wool!
Jenn is a long-time cloth diaper educator and a passionate small business advocate. She has worked in the reusable diaper industry for over a decade, helping millions of families via her websites All About Cloth Diapers, Thinking About Cloth Diapers and Cloth Diaper Geek as well as hundreds of small businesses during that time. Her goal always to provide simple, reliable information.