Action Research Project: Sustainable Fashion :)
by Wallace Lou on November 13, 2017 - 12:33pm
Wallace Lou, Lina Osmani, Farah Majid, Kazuki Gonzalez-Adachi, Georgi Maslyankov
What is our goal?
To promote sustainable clothing and to show the negative impacts irresponsible shopping can have on the environment and the society. Sustainable clothing can be defined in many ways. First, it is the use of eco-friendly materials when making the clothing items, clothing which will produce as little waste as possible. Second, it is the way we consume clothing; it concerns how much we buy and how much we throw away. Third, it is the sustainable consumption of clothing. In other words, it is fair trade, where social equity, economics and ecology are equally important.
Why are we pursuing this goal?
With the rise of fast fashion since the 1950s, retailers constantly introduce new products to the fashion market. What was once a seasonal practice has become a weekly practice. The overconsumption has been shown in studies such as one that that showed that the average consumer bought around 60% more clothing in the 2014 than in 2000. Moreover, these clothes were usually kept half as long (Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme). The cheap clothes sold abundantly in most of today’s stores had replaced the quality items we had a long time ago since people would rather consume a lot at a low price then invest in durable, long-lasting clothing. This is what fast fashion is all about, the overconsumption and waste of clothing to keep up with the weekly trends, the economic interest, and the low price tag. Though this problem is deeply rooted in our way of living since our economical system is based on consumerism, it causes many environmental and social problems.
Environmentally, the modern tendency of constantly producing new clothes cheaply in order for people to buy more, also called fast fashion, has caused many problems with resource consumption and waste. Cotton, from which are made 33% of the clothes in the world, is using 2,700 litres of water in order to grow the fibers necessary to produce one single T-shirt (Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme). Because of this enormous water consumption, cotton alone has been able to dry out the fourth largest sea in the world, the Aral Sea, in Uzbekistan (Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme). This is due to bad practices as irrigation. Cotton is also using 11% of the world pesticides and 24% of the insecticides, even if it is only using 3% of the cultivated land (Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme). In addition, according to the UK Carbon Trust, a typical cotton t-shirt has a carbon footprint of around 15 kilograms of CO2.
The clothes made out of polyester are the second major type of textile used in today’s fashion industry. Even if the environmental impact of cotton seems very large, polyester is doubling it. In fact, the total amount of green gases emitted by the production of polyester in 2015 is the same amount that is emitted by 185 coal plants during a whole year, around 700 G kg(Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme). It is also made out of oil, so it is encouraging one of the most polluting industries out there: the oil industry.
Additionally, in general, 1 kg of clothing produces 23 kg of greenhouse gas during production and 11 kg of greenhouse gas post-production due to its maintenance needs like washing (Remy, Nathalie, et al.). More importantly, it is estimated that around ⅗ of all pieces of clothing are thrown away within 1 year after they are produced (Remy, Nathalie, et al.). The waste and resource need of conventionally used textiles are way too dangerous for use in our time.
The reason we focus our project on alternative sustainable textiles and practices is because there are many textiles that have a much smaller impact on the environment than popular textiles. For example, there are natural bast fibres which come from the stems of plants. There’s also bamboo which is sustainable. Even organic cotton can have a big positive impact because even though it still has a big impact due to its water and land consumption. In fact, it is unclear whether organic cotton uses more or less water than conventional cotton. Yet, it is believed that due to better soil, it can slightly reduce the water usage.
The following table compares the resource consumption and waste of different textiles. As seen, natural bast fibres, obtained from the bark of plants like hemp, jute, flax and nettle, are overall lower in every environmental aspect of the clothes production.
How will we achieve this goal?
We will start with by informing Champlain’s students on the impact that fast fashion and the usage of some types of textiles, like non-organic cotton or polyester. To achieve this goal, we will start by installing poster for advertisement in some strategic parts of the school. Of course, we will ask the permission from David Persons before doing it. We will also create a survey to ask the students about their shopping habits and their interest towards sustainable clothes.
After the advertisement, an information session will take place to show even more the benefits of sustainable clothing. We will present the results of our research on the subject in a stand at the cafeteria or in the hallways of the Cegep. At our stand, interested students will also have the opportunity to sign a petition that will show their interest in sustainable clothes. This petition will then be used in order to promote the selling at least one line of T-Shirts made out of sustainable textiles, like hemp, at the bookstore. If the bookstore accept the project, we will be able to help realise it thanks to our research on the subject.
In addition, in order to give the students a better idea of what the shirts could feel like, we will be buying one single shirt that we will showcase, and give away at our information session. We will also inform the students about where they can buy sustainable clothing in general.
Who will be doing what?
Research is separated into three main parts: environmental impact, social impact and sustainable solutions. Wallace and Kazuki will be focusing on the first subject, Lina and Farah on the second one, and Georgi on the last one. Of course, we will all review each other's’ information by the end of the information gathering step. This is information that we will be presenting to the public.
Advertisement is a crucial responsibilities in this project. It includes everything concerning making sure people know about our project. This step requires contacting the people in charge of student life in order to post in Omnivox or send Mios to the students of the school. This also consist of putting up posters around the school in order to inform students about the problems caused by non-sustainable clothing and using social media. Another responsibility is to make the petition. Georgi and Kazuki are responsible for these steps.
In addition, there is the actual presentation. This includes all the images, the powerpoint, the visuals, the order of presentation and much more. The responsibility is to make sure that everything is ready on time for the presentation and that there is nothing missing. This also includes the visual appeal of the stand (if we decided to make a stand). Lina and Wallace will be entrusted with this step.
Next, there is also the responsibility of buying the clothing needed for the project. This responsibility also includes research on where to purchase the clothing because we will be naming a few shops that sell sustainable clothing. The main part of this responsibility will be managed by Farah.
The last responsibility is communication and will be handled by Wallace. This responsibility is to contact the people in charge of student life to set up a date and location for the stand or presentation on the subject. This also includes communication with anyone who has questions to ask or information to share as well with any team in collaboration. In sum, this responsibility takes care of representing the group when communication with different parties is needed.
Is our timeline for the completion realistic?
According to our timeline, the first week (Nov. 13) will be used for our research. We already have done a part of it and we have the major part of our sources. Furthermore, the research is divided between all the members of the team, so we should be able to finish it in time. We also have done a big part of the research so it is realistic.
During the same week, we will start to organize the first part of the project: the advertisement. We will create the posters and we will go seek permission from the person in charge of advertising around the school. After receiving the permission, we will start installing them. On these posters, will be posted the information about the informative session that we will start preparing towards the end of the week. This also means we will have to schedule the presentation this week. To continue, we will order the t-shirt we will be using for the giveaway during this week. We will be able to complete these tasks since each of us has already been assigned to one of them and because our research will have already been completed.
On the second week (Nov. 20), we will do the information session during the free block. We will also make the petition for this week. Hence, the people at the informative session will have the opportunity to sign it if they agree with the presentation. During this week, we will also start talking with a company that will supply the clothing or review the products we could suggest.
On the third week, we plan on presenting our information and petition to the school bookstore in order for them to consider the sale of sustainable clothing.
What are the potential impacts of such a project?
Ultimately, this project should have a large impact if carried with success. First, by spreading awareness, the consumers - which is everyone - will be more sensitized to the problems of overconsumption, waste as well as environmental and social factors that exist in the fashion industry. Hopefully, this will allow to reduce the clothing, or even overall, consumption of the people we get in touch with. The fact that we will be offering alternatives will help and create an even bigger impact.
Furthermore, in our society, a lot of information is passed by word of mouth. We hope to create as much awareness as possible. Hence, we’d be making a more educated society. As a matter of fact, the young of today will shape the future of tomorrow so it is important to educate as many students as possible. The more the society is educated and informed, the better the future is going to be.
We also hope to simply reduce the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Since the clothing industry is the second dirtiest industry that exists and forecasts expect an increase still of consumption in the world, it is expected that consumption will get even worse. Fortunately, simply changing the material of the textiles could have a huge impact on the planet.
How much will the project cost?
This project’s expenses will include the shirt and all the decoration for the presentation as well as paper and items for the decoration. Since we found a company that sells shirts made of 45% of organic cotton and 55% of hemp fibres that only cost 21$, we could easily purchase at least one shirt and buy a enough material for the rest of our needs. Since the rest of the project is research, presentation and petition, we don’t need more money.
Afterwards, however, a sustainable t-shirt costs less than 30$. When bought in bulk, it goes down. In the case of the organic4nature webstore, for instance, t-shirts bought by 50-99 units only costs 13.65$ per unit. This is very little, and with additional printing, the shirt would still cost below 20$ per unit. Hence, the school could still even make money out of selling these shirts. This seems to be very reasonable.
Where will the funding come from?
We expect the funding to come from the SALTISE grant. Though it is only of 50$, this should be well enough if we properly budget the money for the material.
How many hours will we need to invest?
Since we are starting late, we will need to be very effective. However, we have two ped days in the week of November 13th. Therefore, in the first week, we should be spending around 6 hours each because there will be many steps such as research, presentation preparation and more such as explained earlier. Afterwards, the project shouldn’t require more than 2 to 3 hours per person since there will be the need to communicate and
What materials and support will we need?
The only material and support we will need are the clothes we buy as well as a location and support for our presentation. If we make a stand then we could schedule to have the stand in front of the cafeteria for instance. We will also need material to advertise and have visual support for our presentation.
Do we need to follow any rules or seek permission to carry out this project? If so, who do we need to speak to? Do we have that contact information?
We will only need to speak with Dave Persons to set a date and location for our project to take place. We will also need to communicate with him to make advertisement in the school and on Omnivox. We will also need to speak with the school bookstore to sell a line of sustainable clothes and possibly with the company that will be selling the clothes.
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“Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up.” GREENPEACE. October 2012.
“Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry: Unravelling The Toxic Trail From Pipes To Products.” GREENPEACE. www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/toxics/Water%202011/dirty-laundry-report-2.pdf Accessed Oct. 16, 2017.
Drew, Deborah, and Genevieve Yehounme. ”The Apparel Industry’s Environmental Impact in 6 Graphs.”WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE. July 05, 2017,
www.wri.org/blog/2017/07/apparel-industrys-environmental-impact-6-graphics. Accessed Oct. 15, 2017.
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“Cleaner, Greener Cotton: Impacts and Better Management Practices.” WORLDWILDLIFE. January 15, 2013.
Remy, Nathalie, et al. “Style That’s Sustainable : A New Fast-fashion Formula.” McKinsey&Company, October 2016, www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula. Accessed Oct. 17 2017.
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