March 19, 2014

Rainy Day Research

Last week I began to look for information about the environmental impact of producing different fibers and textiles. I hoped, ideally, to find a chart that compared the damages wreaked in producing a comparable amount, say a pound, of each textile. Growing cotton/flax/jute or raising sheep/goats/alpacas to produce one pound of fabric requires X amount of water, X amount of polluting pesticides & fertilizers, X amount of hormones & antibiotics, uses X space of X type of land, provides such and such conditions for farm workers. Requires X amount of energy/water/chemicals/labor to process raw material into usable fibers and then transform fibers into fabric or yarn. Not to mention the impact of of dyeing the fabric/yarn and possibly chemically treating it after production. And the transportation miles involved in the entire process from farm to fiber processor to fabric manufacturer to clothing/soft furnishing/housewares manufacturer to retailer to consumer's home. Oh yeah, and packaging the shipments along the way.

If such a complicated chart exists, I haven't yet found it. But I am determined to find the information I seek. In one form or another, the information must exist. My initial research at both the art and architecture and the chemistry libraries on campus turned up a couple of books that are worth a deeper look. But, rather than provide quantifiable outcomes, these resources mostly offer laundry lists of issues to consider, like I outlined above, when attempting to source green fibers and fabrics.

So, I am settling in for a lengthy research process. Which I look forward to. Today I begin with a stack of green crafting books from my own shelves and the public library. Quite a pleasant way to spend a rainy morning, I think.

I don't yet know how long it will take, but I would like to compile a guide for sourcing green fibers. If you have any suggestions for resources, suppliers, growers, etc., please leave a comment.

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