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Rebecca Burgess: A pioneer in local and regenerative fiber systems

Rebecca Burgess is a pioneer in local and regenerative fiber systems. I (Lizzy Kahn, Social Media Manager of Kiss The Ground) was thrilled to connect with her and learn more about why she went on this path, why textiles? Lizzy knew the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful in the world. I also knew that most of the clothes in my nearby shopping mall were made oversees in probably not-so-great conditions. My big question was why and how was Rebecca going to transform our way of thinking about and making clothes?

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RB: I had been traveling and in Southeast Asia in 2005. The factories I visited at that time were producing for western consumption. I saw color of dye in the nearby water ways, women and children working in harsh conditions all serving western markets. I knew this wasn’t right and I knew from that experience it had to change.

I got that the more we consume, the more you stress the people and all the ecosystems that are impacted by the supply chain. If we bring our production home and take responsibility for its impacts, we begin to get up close and personal with the costs of garment creation. I’ve experienced how proximity breeds a new ethic of appreciation, through an enhanced understanding and sensitivity for agriculture and manufacturing. Bringing production into our own auspices also takes the pressure off places in the world that do not have significant labor and environmental protections to ensure fair wages, clean water and air.We have infiltrated these lands and their communities with western ways. We’ve disrupted their culture, land, and tradition.

LK: How do we begin to change this system?

RB: We are encouraging a shift in perspective that there is beauty in reducing consumption and moving towards purchasing regeneratively farmed, naturally dyed, locally labored & constructed goods. This outreach work is part of our organization’s educational mission.  Also known as the“The Zen Wardrobe” we admonish efforts for people to focus on what they really need. The idea is to just bring total mindfulness around clothing.

There is not much within the current global system of production that can truly sustain over the long haul given the water and climate implications of the current means of production. Some aspects are there but more accurately we need to focus on all of our systems becoming ”regenerative”. We want to create and support regenerative systems that bring life back and leave the environment better off than it was when we started.

LK: How is Fibershed working to improve this?

RB: We’ve been promoting a couple of things, particularly partnering with for-profits and non-profits that are working on developing the policy and infrastructure changes and shifts needed to bring a regional and regenerative ‘Soil-to-Soil’ clothing system into being. We need to support strategic changes in agricultural practices as well as the manufacturing systems that add value to the material. We encourage relationship building between farmers, ranchers and endusers, as these relationships tend to develop into new local production based businesses.

LK: Lastly, a recent documentary called “The True Cost” came out this past summer and focused on the fast fashion’s impact on the environment and social well being – what do you think about fast fashion?

RB: I don’t know why anyone would wear it. It is a health risk exposing yourself to a store full of a toxic dyes and fabrics that have been treated with endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. Think about it, if you don’t want to eat it [chemicals], you don’t want to wear it.

Wearers must demand a new paradigm.

VISIT FIBERSHED’S WEBSITE
ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON KISS THE GROUND

Anna Swaraj

Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning wheel and Gandhi’s ghani (the indigenous cold press oil mill) are both symbols of swadeshi as economic freedom and economic democracy.

Gandhi inspired everyone in India to start spinning their own cloth in order to break free from the imperial control over the textile industry, which enslaved our farmers to grow cotton and indigo for the mills of Lancashire and Manchester, and dumped industrial clothing on India, destroying the livelihoods of our spinners and weavers. The spinning wheel and khadi became our symbols of freedom.

Gandhi promoted the ghani to create employment for the farmer and processor and to produce healthy, safe and nutritious edible oils for society. What the spinning wheel is to “kapda”, the economy of clothing and textiles, the “ghani” is to “roti”, the economy of food.

Fresh, local and artisanally processed food without chemical additives and industrial processing is recognised as the healthiest alternative. That is why until the 1990s, food processing was reserved for the small-scale and cottage industry sector. The World Trade Organisation rules changed our food and agriculture systems dramatically.

Today we are living in food imperialism. We have become a sick nation due to the rapid spread of industrially processed food and junk food, which are destroying our healthy food traditions.

Keep Reading on Asia Age

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Degenerative vs Regenerative Agriculture – A Battle for Your Fork and Fashion

Author: Jon Connors

In the fictitious Star Wars mythology, there are two sides battling for balance of the Universe. Those who serve the Dark Side, represented in the picture above with red light sabers, serve an order of hatred, anger, and absolute power. Those who serve in the Jedi order, serve according to Universal Laws and principles of goodness, fairness, balance and justice. These stories have captured our collective imagination partly because we can intuitively sense their truth in our everyday lives. In a subtle way, we are playing out the myth of Star Wars every time we sit down to eat, or choose clothing to wear; it is time to be aware of the ramifications of our actions.

In the real world, there are similarities between the Dark Side and the Jedi order when it comes down to agricultural production. The majority of agriculture in the United States is degenerative (aka the Dark Side); it pollutes the land, takes up more water than can be replaced naturally, erodes topsoil, and places carbon in the air- contributing to global warming. Most of the world’s agriculture fits this description.

Pollution: Wikipedia

Agricultural pollution refers to biotic and abiotic byproducts of farming practices that result in contamination or degradation of the environment and surrounding ecosystems, and/or cause injury to humans and their economic interests.

Water: USDA Economic Research Service

‘Agriculture… accounts for approximately 80 to 90 percent of U.S. consumptive water use.

Topsoil: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

In the United States, we lose an estimated 6.9 billion tons of soil each year (Pimentel, 2000).

Carbon: Yale’s Environment 360

The world’s cultivated soils have lost 50 to 70 percent of their original carbon stock.

According to many scientists, the Earth’s Sixth Extinction event is underway, in large part because of global agricultural practices. What this means is that every time most of us choose what food to eat and clothing to wear, we are unconsciously participating in the rapid destruction of our planet- we are unconsciously acting like the Death Star from the first Star Wars movie.

Keep Reading in The Medium

 

You Know Slow Food? Check Out Slow Fashion

Author:

In the 26 years since professional gourmet Carlo Petrini coined the term slow food and ten since food activist Jessica Prentice coined the term locavore, access to locally-sourced food has increased for many who previously may not have thought about their meal’s geographic origin.

So why not slow clothing? That’s what then-33-year-old weaving teacher Rebecca Burgess thought in 2011 when she challenged herself to wear garments sourced within 150 miles of her California home. It wasn’t as simple as only buying from local stores: She had to wear clothing with fibers, dyes, and labor exclusively from her region.

“What started as a personal project spiraled into a community of people who helped create this one-year wardrobe: artists, designers, ecologists from UC Berkley who were getting their PhDs in environmental science,” Burgess says. “They felt passionate about the reduction in the toxic load, and of the prospect of making clothes from organic natural fibers.”

The toxic load Burgess speaks of are chemicals and heavy metals generated from producing and dyeing textiles, according to the EPA. In addition, Burgess says the textile industry in California alone produces a tremendous amount of material waste. “After my one-year wardrobe challenge, [Fibershed] did an analysis and found over 3.1 million pounds of wool in the state,” she says. “Over a million pounds are thrown out every year.”

Keep Reading in Modern Farmer