The world population is now estimated to have reached nearly 7.6 billion. What do almost all of these individuals use every single day whether they come from a big city or from a tiny village? Whether they are wealthy or living in poverty? Whether they live in the East or the West? Despite race, religion, ethnicity or gender – there is some things that just about every one of these people use every day.
The clothes you wear, the materials you sleep on, dry yourself with, have on your feet or on your head. These are important to everyone, everywhere - for protection, for warmth, for style, for identity. Not so strange then that we, in The Textile Interchange Project (The TIP), teach young people about sustainability through exploration of the textile industry which in 2016 was valued at 439.1 billion USD.
The TIP has just completed its pilot phase (August 2017) and is currently developing plans for the next few years. In the pilot phase a group of representatives from the Norwegian trade unions LO and HK and the Enterprise federation for Norway Virke joined forces with businesses in the Norwegian fashion and textile sector and two Oslo schools to create an educational resource about sustainability, ethical trade and decent work. This educational resource uses the textile industry as a case study for exploration of all these topics and more. It takes young people on a journey through the entire supply chain for a typical textile business and goes in to depth of what happens during these processes. What choices are made, what actions are taken, what ethical, financial and practical challenges surface. The aim is to teach young people in Norway about how this entire industry works, the benefits it brings, the challenges it causes and what can be done to bring about change. There are examples of change happening, we just need more of it.
The textile industry is not sustainable in its current form, not many of our industries are – and sustainability can’t be an afterthought – it must be a part of the process from start to finish. That is why The TIP wants to focus on inspiring young people to feel that they can be that change. We educate young people not to glorify or demonise the textile industry but to present the reality of the industry and to challenge young people to then do something with the knowledge they have gained.
It is not only young people that can benefit from this kind of education, however. Very few of us know or care about where our clothes come from. The current state of industry is not sustainable but neither are the choices we make as consumers. So what can we do? It is not easy to be responsible and live a sustainable life and we certainly are not in the habit of thinking about it when it comes to our clothes and shoes, but here are three simple ways you can begin starting today.
#1 Think before you buy – Before you buy something ask yourself do I need this? Will I use it? If the answer is no, do not buy it there and then. Make conscious, active choices, always.
#2 Recycle or repair – Yes, that’s right, no need to throw anything away. Norwegians throw away about 10 kg of clothes per person per year! Many clothes and shoes with just a little fix can be as good as new. Also, places like Fretex, H&M, UFF and recycling stations will take your old shoes and textiles no matter what condition they are in. What cannot be resold or upcycled can find a new life as insulation.
#3 Ask questions – Before you buy something, do your research. All the information you need is at your fingertips. Ask businesses where clothes are produced, what kind of conditions these workers have, where materials are sourced? Send questions to businesses online or ask people working in the shops. Think about the research you do before you buy a car and do the same.
The TIP is trying to bring about the change that needs to happen – and things are happening. Join us on 15-16th of September for Tekstilaksjonen at Vulkan where you can recycle, repair and donate shoes and textiles and learn more about how to think sustainability every damn day!
For more about The TIP and tekstilaksjonen check out www.tipyourlife.com and Tekstilaksjonen 2017