I was asked to run a class for high school students on sustainable textiles.
What I discovered
Firstly, I discovered what a ‘textile’ is! (I hadn’t really given it much thought before, and just presumed it was ‘material’/’cloth’. I was not incorrect as such, but I learnt it specifically refers to fabrics that are woven.)
As for the sustainability component, I looked into both social and environmental components.
I read and saw a lot about the poor living and work conditions of people on the supply chains of too many clothing and fabric manufacturers. This is not just at sweatshops where garments are assembled, but also often the lives of the people that grow and process the raw materials to make the clothes in the first place.
I read about and watched a number of stories of particular garments, for example the life cycle of a t-shirt… such information never fails to shock and concern me (even when I am already familiar, I think sometimes my brain goes in to denial mode). www.youtube.com/watch?v=afuuT1MhfQ0 – Life Cycle Of A Cotton T-Shirt.
I also did a lot of reading into examples of textiles that have lower social and environmental impacts. I came across a lot of information about hemp and was reminded about how it really is an incredible resource with so much potential. Why hemp is incredible – www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/03/hemp-sustainable-crop_n_5243351.html
I have taught the class on sustainable textiles and have incorporated a lot of the learning into other classes and workshops I have run free of charge.
I have also become more aware of the materials I purchase. Before I would focus more on the country of origin and the price (considering the social impacts of the creation of my garments), but recently I have also been paying more attention to the actual materials I use in my life, and have been trying to avoid textiles derived from less sustainable sources (especially those that are petroleum-based, such as polyester).