Prior to launching her textile design business, Lea was an energy analyst and consultant to the US electric utility industry. She received her master’s degree in environmental policy jointly from MIT’s Department of Urban Planning and the Sloan School of Management, and also worked directly for the Sloan Sustainability Initiative post-graduation.
She later joined the faculty at Boston University’s Questrom School of Management as a lecturer in corporate sustainability, energy and environment to MBA students.
Given this 15-year career in sustainability, Lea actively considers the environmental and social impacts of each decision she makes related to her textile business.
Lea has actively made the decision to print her textiles and wallpapers digitally, as opposed to the conventional process of screen or rotary-printed textiles. The main reasons for this are that the digital process uses less water and less energy, produces less waste, and has a smaller overall carbon footprint.
Lea has also chosen her manufacturers carefully. She primarily works with printers in the U.S., though she has partnered with India and the U.K. on specific product lines. Each manufacturer has been chosen carefully for their thoughtful attention to environmental, social, and local impacts in their operations and supply chain.
Sustainable Attributes of Digital Printing:
Low Water Usage
Textile production is estimated to create around 20 percent of the world's industrial water pollution. It consumes an estimated 79 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually. The largest benefit of digital textile printing is its alternative, low water-use operations in comparison to traditional production. Specifically, digital textile printing saved over 40 billion liters of water worldwide in 2018 (FESPA).
Reduction of Noxious Effluents
In addition, digital printing uses only 10 percent of the volume of color used in traditional screen printing, and virtually eliminates the discharge of noxious effluents during its printing process.
Low Carbon Footprint
When comparing factory space, digital textile print machinery drastically reduces the manufacturing footprint compared to traditional textile manufacturing. In a recent comparison study by the Epson Textile Solution Centre, the carbon footprint of the conventional rotary printing system generated 139.56 kg of CO2eq, while digital printing used 85.66 kg of CO2eq - a carbon reduction of nearly 40 percent.
Supply Chain Risk Reduction
In the traditional rotary screen business model, competitiveness is only achieved through volume production. This means that, for all parties involved, large volumes of print must be shipped and stored pending sale and distribution worldwide. The traditional textile supply chain is slow and built for stock – leaving all stakeholders, their resources and their finances, exposed to risk.
Digital printing, however, frees both the manufacturer and the consumer from this business model of overconsumption. With smaller volumes and faster production, digital printing offers more supply chain control, thereby reducing operational risk.
Improved Labor Credentials
Conventional printing processes often employ disadvantaged communities, which may benefit in the short term from the employment, but suffer in the long term due to the serious environmental and water impacts of traditional printing practices.
Digital printing requires small and made to order print jobs, facilitating the speed of production and more accurate stock replenishment. This leads to increased profitability for manufacturers in these communities and reduced textile-related waste, air pollution, and water usage than they have historically experienced.