Textiles-Project 1 The Life Cycle of Textiles.

Looking through the OCA workbook it says that ‘sustainability is about achieving a sense of balance and responsibility’- p186-Creative Arts Today.

To me when I think about defining the word sustainability I think of safety, keeping things in order, making sure that something isn’t overused, keeping enough back to be used by everyone that may need or use it. Supporting supplies of something to keep it going and to make sure it isn’t lost for the future or forever.


Photograph: Murdo Macleod-https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainability-performance-textiles-wool-environment– accessed 27th June 2017.

A dictionary.com definition of sustainability says;

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sustainability?s=t -accessed 27th June 2017.

1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.

 2. Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance:

‘The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.’
The contexts in which sustainability becomes an issue is quite a broad topic if you look at the definitions. I wrote a list of things that may impact it.

World sustainability- can the planet cope with the amount of resources being used each day? each year? can it survive the amount of people and their needs? are the planets resources enough to be able to sustain population- with these things comes- food, water, amenities, clothing.  Do we use too much? at what cost is that to the population? Is general life affected? what about the expiration of certain things-minerals, crops, animals. Do they affect other things that have relied upon them in the past? Economically – money, banking, work, jobs- people spend and things get better, people don’t spend things get worse.

Social – Can an area sustain itself? can the people who live there live well? are their needs met? housing, schools, health- illnesses, medicines, care, after care-usage of services- pharmacies, doctors surgeries, hospitals. Leisure, social needs. Is each person aware of their footprint? Do you as an individual care for the sustainability of how you live? Is your lifestyle well thought? Are their food/lifestyle choices thought out- local shopping, local suppliers, organic, fair trade, vegetarian/niche- or cheap, supermarket, fast, basic?

Clothing- Do you know where your clothes were made? Do you pay extra to know they are well made? Do you recycle or donate old clothes? Do you buy cheap for a few weeks or a season and then throw away? Do you research companies? Do you buy secondhand only? Do you make your own clothes? Do you furnish things from old material-reusing and recycling?

Environment- Do you recycle? do you make it a priority? Is it important to you for future generations that things are reused? Do you send everything to landfill? are you bothered about landfill sites? chemical waste from factories, pollution- waste water, waste products. Where do they go? Ecosystems destroyed due to extra landfill, spoil from chemicals and industry waste. These things cannot be replaced so are lost due to lack of sustainability and thought for the future. Can these products be made into something else to help sustain the original environments they came from? Can they be made into energy?- wind farms, solar power, power stations converted to burn rubbish instead of putting into landfill? Are these sustainability practices of trying to help the environment making things worse by taking, using and making them in the first place?

How do I think sustainability might be addressed in relation to the production and consumption of textiles and other manufactured products?

Looking at the textiles life cycle I am beginning to see that this topic is huge and just by writing the lists above I can see that each action that is taken impacts on another and on another.


https://www.ifu.com/knowtheflow/2014/product-environmental-footprinting-harmonization-or-proliferation-of-standards/– accessed 27th June 2017.

Agriculture/raw fibre production- The starting point for most fabrics is the growing stage. Growing the same crop year after year can hurt the soil due to overuse and its productivity- using different ways to manufacture, have a year off to enable growing areas to recover, this then making the product better and kinder to the environment and more sustainable for the area around it.

The environment is obviously needed to help the crops grow-in this case I am talking about cotton- but what if it doesn’t rain? a dry area. Water from other sources will need to be used, this will need to be taken into account as how much of it will be used? What if the crop is bad? Is the same amount of water used to try and recover it? Is this water from a grid or is it recycled water from water butts, rainwater etc? Different kinds of fibres and materials need different amounts of water and if this grown crop is to be dyed then this process uses a lot of water-  There is a whole document about safe practice with water and dyeing here-http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/GG062.pdf- accessed 27th June 2017.


Best practice in sustainability using Ginning isn’t really mentioned much but I found this from researching the life cycle in my previous post. I did a search and found this link to sustainable cotton production in Pakistan. It details best practice and environmental production and sustainability within the industry. Best I could find.

http://www.switch-asia.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/RPSC/event/5Aug16-Pakistan/TS2/SWITCH_Asia_Program_on_SCP__2__by_Ms._Roshan_Ara.pdf– accessed 27th June 2017.

Spinning and weaving

Sustainable practices regarding spinning and weaving- this piece talks about the environmental damages and impacts on fabrics and the drive towards more eco-friendly options-

http://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/1709/impact-of-textiles-and-clothing-industry-on-environment?page=1– accessed 27th June 2017.


Its amazing what you can find when researching things. Here is an environmental standards file from Marks and Spencer’s about their practices in chemical processing.

https://corporate.marksandspencer.com/file.axd?pointerID=3d913c2099fc4801bb07667a92276749– accessed 27th June 2017.

The dyeing of fabrics- I don’t know much about fabric dyeing except when I have done it myself in a bucket with powered packets and salt. I hadn’t really given it much thought as to the dangers or impact on the environment or how the dye was made beforehand. I just knew I had to wear gloves and dispose of it safely.

This link indicates all the different types of dyeing techniques and I am surprised at how many there are-

http://www.teonline.com/knowledge-centre/dyeing-fiber-to-apparel.html-accessed 27th June 2017.

There is a lot being said about natural dyeing techniques at the minute by using plants, flowers and old recipes from hundreds of years ago to dye wool and cotton with the environment in mind. These dyes use less chemicals as they are plant based and are only using natural ingredients found inside them, a bit like fruit sugars. The colours that are produced may not look as vibrant and neither are there many different colour options but still I think it is a nice way to colour fabrics and you can replant the ingredients you have used elsewhere ready for next time. I think it is more a niche market using natural dyes as with the colours being limited not everybody wants them.


https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Homemade-Natural-Dyes-31861660– accessed 27th June 2017.

I find the natural dyeing process really interesting and I found this piece about plant dyes and what colours you can achieve by using them.

http://www.countrysmallholding.com/how-to-s/lifestyle/plants-to-dye-for-1-3493360– accessed 27th June 2017.


The use of large scale factories comes to mind here and the implementation of better rights for workers putting clothes together is very important. Fair Trade is something that we hear a lot about and they make sure that clothing factories and the workers are looked after, giving breaks, better conditions, better pay and a better standard of living. This and working in partnership with other factories and owners helps to keep the sustainability aspect of the garment making running well and safe for everybody involved.

Maybe looking into local companies that can make clothes would be better in the long run with a full breakdown of where it was made, who by and this ensuring that they get recognised for it. Less of a carbon footprint for importing overseas but I understand that this isn’t always possible and the supply chain doesn’t work like that.

https://www.businessoffashion.com/community/voices/discussions/can-fashion-industry-become-sustainable– accessed 27th June 2017.


As with the stitching part, companies need to be more open about their manufacturing techniques and take into consideration the person and process rather than the mass truck loads of jeans. Delivering clothes by rail instead of road- sustainable- but for how long without all parts of the chain taken care of?

Make buyers aware that caring for your clothes means less waste, less pollution, longer life span and better outcome all round for the garment, the environment and the sustainability of the whole process. Education on the process rather than £2 pairs of knickers.

Who made my clothes?- http://fashionrevolution.org/-accessed 27th June 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/she-said/2014/apr/19/who-made-your-clothes-its-time-we-knew-and-cared– accessed 27th June 2017

Use/Consumption and end of life

Education as with distribution on what happens to old clothes that are thrown away and information on the whole process rather than just the one wear and then into the bin.

Make your own clothes, learn how to dye, knit, sew and recycle old fabrics. Buy in charity shops and give to charity shops rather than binning.

There is so much to learn and read about that I think I have over faced myself. Just these eight points mean so much to the overall picture and when you consider what you wear, where you shop and the clothes you have it is a massive subject to research.

Clothes waste- https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/feb/11/retailers-campaign-old-clothes-waste- accessed 27th June 2017

Valuing your clothes- http://www.wrap.org.uk/sustainable-textiles/valuing-our-clothes%20– accessed 27th June 2017


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