Wednesday May 24, 2017
Most people know what we do at Wigwam. We make socks. But what’s more important is the how and the why we do it. We are not only focused on seeing our product on pegs at retail but carefully consider the whole process from start to finish. Where we source our yarn, how we take that yarn and knit it into socks and what happens to unused or discarded yarn drives our manufacturing process. The protection of our environment and adhering to sustainable and safe manufacturing practices has been a part of our DNA for 112 years.
But like anything, there is always room from improvement. Although we have been using solar energy to heat water in our dye house and motion sensor lights in our distribution center to reduce energy consumption for many years, a large amount of socks that didn’t meet quality standards have been destroyed and discarded. Within a few weeks of stepping in as Wigwam’s new President and CEO last Fall, Tom Wheeler discovered that this part of our process could immediately be improved.
“I spent a lot of time out on the knitting floor in my first few weeks at Wigwam. I would grab several pair at a time of discarded product, and without knowing what the quality issue was, would try to identify it. I couldn’t find what was wrong with it!” said Tom. He quickly realized that we had an opportunity to recycle this product, reduce our impact on the environment and provide warm socks to people in need.
In November of 2016, Wigwam established a new recycling center within our finishing department. Each month about 2,000 lbs. of socks that would have otherwise been destroyed and discarded are sorted, inspected, paired and re-paired. With 6,000 pair and counting already processed, we are taking steps to reduce our impact on the environment and warm the feet of people in need. This new program will push us towards our goal of becoming a zero landfill company, help to improve our manufacturing process and how we make our products. In the near future, Wigwam also has plans to work with Martex Fiber to recycle discarded yarn that doesn’t make it through the knitting process. This partnership will allow us to join Martex in their “No Fiber Left Behind” effort to eliminate textile waste.
In addition to establishing the recycling center to minimize our textile waste, we also have taken steps to recycle raw material waste. With countless spools of yarn working their way through the knitting process, we end up with buckets full of empty yarn cones. Rather than discarding the plastic and cardboard cones that we collect, we recycle them or donate them to our local art museum, where they are creatively repurposed for arts and crafts projects!
Beyond reducing waste and our impact on the environment, we are also able to provide much needed warmth to the feet of people in need. In our own local community, state and across the country, we will be able to better support charity and non-profit organizations in their efforts to help the less fortunate. It’s re-energized our approach to “why” we make socks and how we can continue to improve the lives of the people who use them.