Week 42 – Sustainable textiles

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

Action

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).

 

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3 thoughts on “Week 42 – Sustainable textiles

    1. I almost always buy clothes that are second hand, as no new materials are needed at all. Hemp materials are difficult to come by over here (New Zealand). I would opt for organic cotton where possible. But other materials that are considered more sustainable can include wool, woven flax and grasses (for bags probably, rather than clothes). Cotton (unless it is organic) is actually really resource intensive to grow and process (though at least it is biodegradable, unlike polyester).
      I guess there are lots of things to take into consideration when it comes to sustainable textiles, not just material type… for example durability of the material (will I be able to use it in 1/3/10 years?), where it was made, who made it. Very complex stuff. Sorry I don’t have more answers.

      But from what I could find, the most certain way to reduce your ecological footprint regarding textiles was to reduce the number of new materials created. Plus second-hand shops have some really amazing and unique items 😀

      1. Thanks for the advice! 🙂 I actually didn’t know that non-organic cotton is really resource intensive… Definitely something I’ll keep in mind.

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