- Mercado Global
During the spring 2021 semester and for eight weeks the following summer I worked remotely as a Sustainable Design Intern for Mercado Global. Mercado Global is a nonprofit accessory brand that partners with indigenous Mayan women in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala to provide them with market access and financial services. Mercado Global is one of many organizations that are helping indigenous women achieve financial independence by providing the resources and support necessary to bring their ancient weaving traditions to market. Although Mercado Global is a member of the “ethical fashion” community due to its fair and empowering labor practices, the organization has not been able to integrate environmental concerns into its mission. The organization as a whole has expressed a desire to move toward more environmentally sustainable practices, as the amount of waste that Mercado Global produces and the unsustainable materials that they use are a significant weakness in the eyes of conscious consumers. The organization has not yet had the time or resources to dedicate toward this significant undertaking.
My primary role at Mercado Global was to consult the organization on how to integrate sustainable design into their manufacturing and supply chain processes. In order to do this, I worked with the head designer to design and create several resources to facilitate this organizational shift over a manageable period of time. In the spring, I created a supplying catalogue on Google Sheets that is now a comprehensive and accessible way to view all of Mercado Global’s environmentally and ethically vetted sourcing partners. Throughout my internship I reached out to new potential sourcing partners regularly in order to build out the catalogue. Next, and as was the primary focus of my summer project efforts, I designed a template to evaluate the environmental impact of each Mercado Global collection. This spreadsheet contains three sections (logistics, materials, and waste--in both English and Spanish) and can manipulate input data to calculate impact in several areas including total CO2 emissions per material shipment, total blue water footprint per cotton yarn type, and total blue water waste from fabric scraps. To accompany this spreadsheet I also created a very detailed instruction and data interpretation manual. In addition to these two larger projects, I also created a report on how Mercado Global could change the ways they collect and interpret their social impact data based on peer research and industry standards (including a method for calculating their own living wage), designed a flowchart on Adobe Illustrator show MG’s design process, and formed a partnership between MG and The New Denim Project who will now be recycling all of Mercado Global’s cotton fabric scraps.
Overall, despite my project being remote, I had an amazing experience working with Mercado Global’s designer on implementing sustainable practices and I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about ethical and sustainable product development.