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 fresh water 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.
The project began in 2010 with a commitment by its founder, Rebecca Burgess, to develop and wear a prototype wardrobe whose dyes, fibers, and labor were sourced from a region no larger than 150 miles from the project’s headquarters. Burgess had no expected outcomes from the personal challenge other than to reduce her own ecological footprint and maybe inspire a few others. Burgess teamed up with a talented group of farmers and artisans to build the wardrobe by hand, as manufacturing equipment had all been lost from the landscape more than 20 years ago. The goal was to illuminate that regionally grown fibers, natural dyes, and local talent was still in great enough existence to provide this most basic human necessity—our clothes. Within months, the project became a movement, and the word Fibershed and the working concept behind it spread to regions across the globe, with at least 15 similar projects now underway in different parts of the world. Burgess founded the Fibershed Marketplace in 2011 to inspire the team of artisans and farmers to stay together in a state of collaboration through a cooperatively run green business model. In 2012, Burgess founded Fibershed’s 501c3 to address and educate the public on the environmental, economic, and social benefits of de-centralizing the textile supply chain, for the purpose of creating regional, resilient, and community organized textile cultures that support rural and urban cross-collaboration.
- Zero toxic dye effluent
- Zero pesticides or herbicides, genetically modified organisms, or synthetic biology
- Sustained a regional community of artisans and farmers that continue to collaborate and grow in number
- Reduced CO2 impact in the cases we were able to measure by 6X that of conventional equivalents, proving to us that clothing can be made in a climate sensitive manner.