Quantcast

The 150-Mile Wardrobe: A Solution for One of the World’s Most Polluting Industries

Popular
Fibershed / Facebook

By Araz Hachadourian

Between pesticides, chemical dyes and plastic, producing a typical sweater eats an enormous amount of natural and industrial resources. Apparel is one of the world's most polluting industries, and the U.S. sends up to 75 percent of its cotton abroad—only to ship it back as cheap T-shirts.


The Northern California Fibershed was designed to circumvent all that.

About 104 farmers, ranchers, weavers, spinners and designers across 19 counties make up a garment-producing system where every producer uses materials sourced within a 150-mile radius: A shop in Oakland buys marigolds from a farm in Chico to dye yarn shorn from sheep in Sonoma and weaves it into sweaters sold in San Francisco.

Fibershed founder Rebecca Burgess, Mike Lewis of Growing Warriors in Kentucky, and Arnie Valdez of Rezolana Institute in Colorado collaborate on hemp processing. Paige Green

The concept started in 2010 when textile artist and sustainability advocate Rebecca Burgess challenged herself for one year to wear only clothes produced near her community.

"Six weeks in, I still only had two items of clothing," said Burgess, who drew inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures with highly localized fiber production. "Your region can hold all you need to survive—that transformed my understanding of what was possible."

Piece by piece, she built a regional wardrobe and learned what resources were available nearby—and what was needed to "create a functional system out of an abundant system."

Since then, Burgess has been working in Northern California and across the country to help farmers and artisans connect and create their own regional fiber systems, first by analyzing the supply chain, then by connecting producers to each other. A complete circuit starts with the production of dye and fiber, which is processed, spun and turned into fabric, then handed to designers and makers before reaching the wearer.

At heart, the system is about connecting and respecting the gifts and limits of the land. Burgess said the system sequesters as much carbon from the atmosphere as it emits, and the organically dyed garments are compostable. The farmers plan to strengthen their network as an agricultural cooperative by the end of 2018.

"You realize you have such a community of people here who are helping you survive," Burgess said. "You become grateful to each other in ways that modern culture strips us of."

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less