The rise of “fast fashion” over the years has made the textile industry the top polluter of freshwater in the world—largely due to harmful dyeing and finishing processes. By 2050, global clothing production will account for nearly ⅓ of the carbon budget needed to keep global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius. And all of this synthetic clothing? It’s close proximity to our skin can expose us to over 8,000 different chemical compounds. Not to mention, 70% of what humans wear today is plastic clothing and plastic fiber blended clothing that is shedding nonbiodegradable fibers into our freshwater and marine ecosystems at an alarming rate through our laundering processes.

Now for the good news.

Fibershed, a 5013c non-profit has been hard at work developing regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent producers, ranchers, and artisans. The organization’s goal is to build carbon stocks on working landscapes while also directly enhancing the strength of regional economies and connecting consumers with the land. Fibershed is expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, creating public education tools, advancing U.S. clothing production, and collaborating with brands like The North Face on carbon-friendly clothing lines.

Most recently, Fibershed published a “slow-fashion” Clothing Guide for consumers, outlining how to engage in a circular system that connects farmers, ranchers, designers, producers, and consumers invested in healthy soils and responsible textile manufacturing. We also invite you to visit the Fibershed Marketplace, an online platform run directly by farmers and artisans who formed the Northern California Fibershed Cooperative, a sister organization to the 501c3 Fibershed. This marketplace is dedicated to providing buyers with clothing made from natural fibers and dyes, produced in a way that supports U.S. producers and manufacturers while also regenerating land.  

A couple of key takeaways & guidelines from Fibershed to improve your purchasing power and support slow fashion:

  1. Wear natural fibers. Natural fibers and dyes are biodegradable and much better for both the environment and our physical bodies
  2. Avoid plastic fibers. Synthetic textiles are responsible for a significant portion of microplastic pollution, which is now present in 94% of US drinking water.
  3. Choose quality over quantity. On average, we buy 60% more clothing than we did in the year 2000. Redistribute your clothing budget to prioritize durable, high-quality pieces that provide fair wages to farmers and workers.
  4. Keep clothing in use. Extending the life of a garment by just 3 months reduces its carbon and water footprints by 5-10%.

About Fibershed

Fibershed develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers, by expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, forming catalytic foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and through connecting end-users to farms and ranches through public education.

We envision the emergence of an international system of regional textile communities that enliven connection and ownership of ‘soil-to-soil’ textile processes. These diverse textile cultures are designed to build soil carbon stocks on the working landscapes on which they depend, while directly enhancing the strength of regional economies. Both fiber and food systems now face a drastically changing climate and must utilize the best of time-honored knowledge and available science for their long-term ability to thrive.

As each Fibershed community manages their resources to create permanent and lasting systems of production, these efforts to take full responsibility for a garment’s lifecycle will diminish pressure on highly polluted and ecologically undermined areas of the world. (China produces 52% of the world’s textiles. The industry is the third largest freshwater polluter in the country). 

Future Fibershed communities will rely upon renewable energy powered mills that will exist in close proximity to where the fibers are grown. Through strategic grazing, conservation tillage, and a host of scientifically vetted soil carbon enhancing practices, our supply chains will create ‘climate beneficial’ clothing that will become the new standard in a world looking to rapidly mitigate the effects of climate change. We see a nourishing tradition emerging that connects the wearer to the local field where the clothes were grown, building a system that can last for countless generations into the future.

About The Fibershed Marketplace

The Fibershed Marketplace is a one-stop online shop for a range of soil-to-skin fashion and home goods from a collective of farmers and artisans. The Marketplace was created by the Northern California Fibershed Cooperative, a sister organization to Fibershed, a 501c3 nonprofit.