Friday, February 13, 2009

sustainability and the small producer

My friend Kyla gave me this wonderful book for my birthday while I was in Halifax last week called Fashion Future White Papers. It is made up of essays from all aspects of the textile growing, processing and manufacturing industry. It often makes the point of how little we think about the textiles in our lives, where they come from, how they are made and the waste and pollution generated by the textile industry. With the use of natural fibers, there is a strong similarity to organic farming practices when it comes to producing sustainable textiles. It's got me thinking particularly about cotton - this factoid blows me away: there are 17 teaspoons of pesticide used in the growth of cotton for one t-shirt. I love cotton. I love it for it's breathability, softness, lightness and how wonderful it is to weave with. There are strains of cotton that grow in colours and need little to no pesticide use, an ancient South American practice buried under the enormity of mass cotton production, and recently re-generated.
As a small producer whose work is all made by hand on a very small scale without the use of energy guzzling machinery (I use a human operated loom), large scale agriculture (I buy in very small supply quantities, but they are not organic) and transportation (I ship very small, mostly in Canada) - it's got me thinking about the ecological footprint of my own business. I do think knowledge is power and even though I am controlling the small scale manufacturing process of my work, I think doing some digging to find out where my cotton comes from (besides my supplier in Quebec) would be a good thing. Something to keep thinking and learning about. Even though I am small, like the original organic food producers, it is often the small forward thinkers who end up making big changes through an approach that is outside the mainstream. And manufacturing scarves by hand is definitely outside the mainstream.....

1 comment:

  1. Good comments Rilla - and it is the UN's Year of Natural Fibers this year, a great opportunity to learn about the fibres we work with. Even the new 'organic' ones like bamboo require very high temperatures to process and are not environmentally sound at this point. Some of the older fibres like hemp are really great for the environment, and wonderful to work with. Dyeing is great but also requires care - and natural dyes can sometimes be worse with the mordants. So what to do? As you say - something to keep thinking about and working on, and we can make a difference.