Gardening in Fashion by Ciarra Wentzel, March 09 2016, 0 Comments

Photo by Brenna Dolan

Let’s get the facts straight about the real costs of what’s in your closet.

The Big Issue

Every year, just one single person throws away 68 pounds of clothing and textiles; that is 4% of total American waste! Twenty percent of water pollution comes just from the treatment and dying of garments and textiles. And we can’t forget about those money-making pesticides! Pest repellents are used on cotton plants that produced that new spring dress you just bought. The harmful chemicals can cause cancer, neurological issues, reproductive disorders, and get into lakes and streams, which kills marine life. Pesticides used on cotton that makes clothing account for 25% of all pesticides used worldwide every year.

Feel bad about the 10 cotton dresses and the 7 pairs of dyed jeans hanging in your closet yet? Or how about the 20 blouses and 5 skirts from last season that you just threw away?

The Solution

Well, luckily you can stop stressing right there and take a breath of fresh air for once. Get this—fashion can actually help the Earth instead of harm it thanks to a project initiated by a few ambitious college students. The students started turning muslin (a lightweight cotton fabric used to make garment patterns), and certain dyed garments into soil for the rooftop natural dye garden by composting at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).The rooftop natural dye garden is a garden on top of the school where students raise fiber plants. When the plants mature, they are used to make natural dyes for textiles.

Lydia Baird, co-founder of the compost project, describes her initial inspiration, “I wanted to do a science project with my professor. When I learned about the natural dye garden and their desire to compost, the idea to experiment with textile compost just clicked.”

The Process

Students start by collecting muslin from the fashion design classrooms. Other dyed garments are tested in a lab in the school to see if they are healthy for the environment before they are added to the compost mix. The textiles are then placed inside a bin where they are combined with biodegradable food scraps collected from the school's own cafeteria. When oxygen is added to this perfect mixture of biodegradable nutrients from the textiles and the food scraps, the bin heats up and the mixture becomes compost in a matter of weeks. When the compost has fully matured, it is then taken to the rooftop garden and used as soil to plant seeds that will later be turned into natural garment dyes.

How can YOU get involved in sustainable fashion?

Getting involved in sustainable fashion is something everyone can and should do to protect our Earth, while still staying stylish! You can recycle your old clothes instead of throwing them out. Wearable Collections is a clothing recycling program that collects fashion for recycling. After collecting used clothes, shoes and textiles, the program gives the recyclables to charities, turns them into reusable rags and grounds them into fibers to make new clothes. You can request a collection bin for your building, your office and even your school. The program also has a number of drop-off locations in all five boroughs of New York City. Another simple solution is to shop sustainably. Shop only from retailers like EcoPlum that sell eco friendly products (the quality might be better anyway because products are made from organic materials)! Just remember, you don’t have to feel guilty about shopping if you are helping Mother Earth!

Author Bio:

Ciarra Wentzel is a junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology studying a Bachelor of Science degree in International Trade and Marketing. She is minoring in Ethics and Sustainability and a leader in sustainable fashion. Ciarra is a part of FIT’s compost project and has volunteered to collect compost with non-profit organizations.