As a young adult, I am frequently embarrassed by the lack of practical skills which I feel I possess. Even more frequently, however, I am reminded that I am ahead of my peers in this regard. I know how to change a tire and the oil in my car. I can confidently assemble furniture, even from Ikea. I can write in cursive and still send “snail” mail. Most impressive of all, I know how to sew a button back on to a shirt or a pair of pants. For those of you reading, that may not seem the most impressive, or impressive at all, and I’d have to agree. Unfortunately, according to ATTN.com, a popular educational media platform, 70% of young people do not know how to sew on a button- a statistic which puts me on the endangered species list. We’re just talking about one little button! If the statistic is that high for a button, I immediately wondered, what about patching the knee of some jeans? What about darning a sock? How many articles of clothing are being thrown out because millennials lack the basic ability to repair something that was completely salvageable? Why aren’t more people concerned about this?
But others are concerned about this. We, Textiles West, are not alone. And when I say “this”, I mean Post-Consumer Textile Waste, a term that was rather new to me. A fantastic resource I found is the Redress Design Award website under their LEARN tab. I will be attaching a link at the bottom of this post. Their LEARN platform has multiple articles about sustainability in the textile industry. My favorite one was called Sourcing Textile Waste. In this article, Redress defines Post-consumer textile waste as “waste generate and collected after the consumer has used and disposed of it.” They identify two different types. The first is Secondhand clothing waste, which includes clothing and accessories, or wearable textiles. The other is non-clothing waste such as home furnishings like sheets and curtains. According to Redress, millions of tons of textiles are discarded every year;
“In Europe and America, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year. In China the total annual production of pre and post-consumer textile waste is estimated to be over 20 million tonnes. Not only does this textile waste pollute our environment and clog landfills around the world, but the precious resources that went into making these textiles are wasted,” (p. 3).
To update that report, 16 million tons of textile waste was reported in 2014 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, I ask myself, how many tons could be saved if people simply knew how to repair or repurpose their textiles? In this time of extreme wildfires, melting icebergs, and Greta Thunberg, the maker communities can not be ignoring such harmful environmental consequences. Certainly not in the Pikes Peak Region!
This is where Textiles West comes in. Sustainability is a major value here, and I urge you to reference the Sustainability Matters page on our website. There you will find “18 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Textile Eco-Footprint” and cool ways to Up-cycle. Chances are though, if you’re on our website, you already possess basic textile skills. I bet you can even sew on a button! Therefore, my next post will be further addressing the textile skills that we should be reintroducing to our young people to combat textile waste.
Until then, I leave you with one last article to assist you in your clothing shopping. The Good Trade provides an extensive list of ethical clothing brands. Note: the first one is based in Colorado!
About the Author
Olivia is an enthusiastic new intern for Textiles West. She is currently located in Boulder County where she is finishing her undergraduate degree in Art Therapy at Naropa University. She can usually be found knitting an absurdly long scarf in a coffee shop or procrastinating her responsibilities in the ceramics studio.