Imagine you wore clothing that had a beneficial impact on the climate.
I know — it sounds too good to be true. Those of us who care to investigate know that behind the attractively trendy brand tags and attractively low price tags of the global clothing industry lies a tangled web of exploitation and environmental destruction — not to mention 10% of global carbon emissions. The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster that killed over a thousand garment factory workers in Bangladesh awakened many of us to the high (human and ecological) cost of “fast fashion.”
The good news is that the movement to create a more ethical apparel industry is gaining momentum, and there are lots of ways to be a part of it. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for some great resources.
But there’s more. What if we could have clothing be not only more ethical, not only “less bad” for the environment, but in fact beneficial in terms of climate?
It is happening. Fibershed, the California non-profit developing regional and regenerative fiber systems, is now certifying fiber farmers who grow Climate-Beneficial™ Wool and—for the first time this year—rolling out regionally grown and produced textile made of such wool.
What makes these textiles climate-beneficial? The wool fiber is sourced from California wool farmers who use regenerative farming practices such as managed grazing, conservation tillage, and compost application on pastures. These boost the soil’s ability to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere. The resulting “climate-beneficial” clothing will, Fibershed hopes,
“become the new standard in a world looking to rapidly mitigate the effects of climate change. We see a nourishing tradition emerging that connects the wearer to the local field where the clothes were grown, building a system that can last for countless generations into the future.”
In other words, while “ethical” clothing is a good start, there’s so much further that we could potentially go. A regenerative, regional textile system could revitalize local economies and rural livelihoods, reconnect farmers, weavers, designers, and wearers in a mutually supportive web of relationships, take toxins out of our waterways and off our skins, and provide us with beautiful, durable garments far more meaningful than the $5 t-shirt that gets tossed after a few months.
Not to mention it would help to build fertile, carbon-sequestering soil and help address one of the biggest challenges we collectively face.
Their Community-Supported Cloth program is an amazing model, analogous to the CSA or “Community-Supported Agriculture” in which customers make an investment ahead of time to reserve weekly boxes of fresh, organic veggies. In this case, they pre-pay to reserve yardage of this uniquely produced cloth, an investment that helps to cover the manufacturing costs. 3% to the cost of the cloth also goes directly to fund Carbon Farm implementation.
True to the Fibershed spirit of regional fiber systems, the supply network is as local as possible. Fibershed has partnered with Leslie Terzian of Tangle Blue and Huston Textile Company, also in California, to weave the finished cloth.
To showcase this revolutionary project—our clothing transformed into a means of building soil and reversing climate change—Fibershed is organizing a Climate-Beneficial Fashion Gala at the Big Mesa Farmstead in Bolinas, California, on September 23. If you’re in the area, mark your calendar! This is a runway you don’t want to miss!
Learn more about Climate-Beneficial Clothing:
- Fibershed’s Community-Supported Cloth program
- Fibershed article on Bare Ranch, a Climate-Beneficial™-certified ranch where the fine Rambouillet wool for the Community-Supported Cloth is sourced
- Kiss the Ground’s video about Huston Textiles and the Climate-Beneficial Cloth
- Rebecca Burgess, founder of Fibershed on climate-beneficial fiber systems
Learn more about ethical clothing & get involved:
- 2015 documentary The True Cost
- Regeneration International’s Care What You Wear Campaign
- Fashion Revolution and their #whomademyclothes campaign
- Excellent free online course “Who Made My Clothes?” offered by Fashion Revolution and the University of Exeter
- Read about the benefits—for you!—of wearing ethically made clothing
- An ethical wardrobe, with a significantly reduced climate and waste impact, doesn’t have to be expensive! Follow these rules of thumb: buy less, buy better quality; shop second-hand and consignment clothing; and choose only natural (animal- or plant-based) fibers.