In 2015, the United Nations published the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
I didn’t come across these goals until a year later while I was a sustainability manager at prAna, a subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear. We were doing a group exercise on the definition of sustainability and we were having trouble pinpointing a definition that encompassed all the different versions of sustainability.
After hours of research, I stumbled upon the 17 UN SDGS. When I found them, I got that feeling that one gets when they put the last puzzle piece into the puzzle. These goals were quantitatively data driven, they were global, and they just made sense. The only thing that didn’t make sense to me was why companies were not adopting these goals and focusing their efforts on ensuring that we met these goals before our global deadline of 2030.
In April 2018, I left my comfy and secure job at prAna (a job that I loved) to apply my background/ knowledge / experience / skillset to using the business platform to do my part to ensure we met the 2030 deadline. Here’s how.
I always swore that after working for most of my career in the textile industry that I would never ever (I mean never ever) create my own brand and/or product. Unless… unless I could make a product that performed better than what was on the market and do it more sustainably. Cue, hemp.
At the time, I was living in Oceanside, California and I didn’t have a washer or dryer. I became scarily good at knowing exactly how many uses I could get out of all of my clothes and towels because I would have to go to the laundromat if I wanted to wash them. Like, scarily good. I had just purchased one of the most sustainable towel lines on the market and I had already started to notice that it picked up this mildew smell after a couple of uses. I remember feeling frustrated that I was going to have to be very unsustainable and buy yet another new set of towels.
Before I could make that happen, I was due for a trip to China to visit prAna’s factories and conduct social audits. I remember leaving feeling frustrated that everything in my house was clean except for those gosh darn towels that I would be returning to after a three-week international trip.
What happened next was completely unexpected. On my trip, I had the opportunity to learn about hemp from a manufacturing perspective and also learn about its natural performance features. I walked around the farm in disbelief that this superpower crop was not being used in greater capacity and furthermore, why the United States government (at the time) wouldn’t allow American farmers to grow it but would allow it to be imported from other countries.
I returned back to the United States with the following questions:
- Why is hemp illegal in the United States?
- How do we make it legal?
- What textile problems could hemp solve?
Next thing I knew, I was googling “where to buy hemp towels” because it made sense to me to buy a towel made out of a fiber that was naturally antibacterial to solve my stinky bath towel problem. What came next is what catapulted me to write to you right now. There were none. None. Okay, there were a couple, but they were all hemp lifestyle brands that did not specialize in designing the type of towel that I was looking to dry myself off with after my showers. I quickly realized that the hemp towel that I dreamed of would only materialize one of two ways. If did it myself or if I waited for someone else to fulfil my dream. I chose the former.
Of course, it was not my style to just find someone who could make the towel and slap a logo on it and sell it. Hell no. I HAD to bring all of my knowledge and expertise of working in factories around the world to ensure that I knew the supply chain, the people and the impact of what we are building to feel confident that I was making a towel better for ALL people and the planet. To illustrate this point, I recently traveled from Jacksonville, FL (where we are based out of) to China for 10 days for non-stop meetings and factory tours to ensure this brand promise.
If you can believe it – I was one of the first owners of a brand to come visit in person and meet the people behind the product. Hemp textile infrastructure exists in only a handful of countries around the world and China is by far the leader. I believe it is mandatory (not voluntary) as the founder of ANACT to take these trips, measure our social and environmental impact/footprint to ensure that we are serving you, our customer, and that we are doing our part to hit the 17 UN SDGs and meet the needs of the present while providing for the needs of future generations to come.
I have spent the past two years, building a product that solves my own personal problem with the belief that others out there (just like you) want to solve that problem too. I’ve never owned my own business before, but I figured that if you wake up trying to solve a personal problem then you won’t stop until you’ve fixed it and you’ll give it your all in the process.
The ANACT towel is made out of 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. At this time, we are not able to develop a 100% hemp-based towel that will meet the quality, design, costing and aesthetic needs for you, the customer. It comes only in an undyed version until we can explore natural dyes. It’s manufactured in China from farm to factory and we know every single person (at least we try to) involved in the process. Each purchase you make is connected with a global impact score to show how you’re making a difference.
ANACT is short for the simple act of creating impact. I was inspired to take a simple act and it’s my hope that you’ll be inspired to take simple acts to create impact whether it’s making someone smile, picking a piece of trash from the street or purchasing your own ANACT towels.
Hemp has transformed my life and I want to share it with you. You can order your own ANACT towel here on Kickstarter. We will be offering early bird pricing from September 3rd - 5th and we will run the campaign until September 30th.
Not ready to switch up your towel yet? Follow us @anactglobal to learn more about how we are taking simple acts to create impact.
Written by: Brianna Kilcullen, founder of ANACT.
Brianna Kilcullen is the founder of ANACT, a sustainable towel line made out of hemp and organic cotton that is better for all people and the planet. She has worked in the apparel industry for most of her career for companies such as prAna, a subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear, and Under Armour. She has traveled to over 40+ countries and has worked in factories on almost every continent. She was Under Armour’s first ever full-time sustainability employee based out of Baltimore, MD. Prior to working in the apparel industry, she lived in Uganda post-civil war and traveled and worked on agribusiness initiatives on the northern Ugandan and South Sudanese border. She has also lived in South Africa where she studied human rights and race relations. She graduated from The George Washington University International Business program and is an avid traveler and dual citizen in Ireland and the United States that welcomes conversations around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, Africa and her favorite Chance the Rapper song (it’s ever evolving).