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Fibershed Leads the Movement in Sustainable Textile Systems

Determining a garment’s biological impact is no longer a myth.

Nonprofit organzation Fibershed is at the forefront of environmentally-friendly textile systems, which may be the solution for today’s dirty fast-fashion market. With an emphasis on “soil-to-soil” textile processes, Fibershed serves as a catalyst for a greener apparel industry.

“Our work is based on the framework of soil to soil,” Fibershed materials manager Krystle Moody said Friday at a workshop in New York City hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Lexus Fashion Initiative. “We want to look at the soil, where plants are producing fiber from and look at the output of fiber production so that garments and goods can be composted and returned back to the soil.”

Founded in 2010 by Rebecca Burgess, Fibershed supports the production of textiles with local fibers, local dyes and local labor. The company works with nearby artisans and farmers to make apparel that is chemical-free and recyclable. With the goal of facilitating an environmentally-friendly garment cycle, Fibershed today fosters the development of sustainable textile systems and enables communities to work together to reduce clothing’s carbon footprint.

Fibershed currently works with several apparel brands, including The North Face, on sustainable clothing initiatives.

In partnership with The North Face, Fibershed created the “Backyard Project” hoodie, which was one of the first apparel items created from bioregional materials (sourced from the region). The hoodie gets its “backyard” quality because fibers were grown and sewn 150 miles from The North Face’s headquarters in Alameda, California, and it is also biodegradable. Not only did Fibershed enable The North Face to create a Made in USA product, but it also supported American-based businesses.

Climate-beneficial wool is also at the heart of Fibershed’s mission. Some California-based ranches work with Fibershed and practice carbon farming. According to the Carbon Cycle Institute, land management is the second greatest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions on the planet. When local wool farmers engage in carbon farming, they improve the way carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and transformed to soil. Considering the apparel industry is one of the top polluters, carbon farming reduces harmful environmental impacts by stabilizing carbon dioxide on Earth.

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In addition to The Backyard Project hoodie and climate-beneficial wool efforts, Fibershed also advocates for the regenerative production of denim.

“What we are working on now is understanding the quantity of depth you can receive from home grown indigo,” Fibershed project manager Jess Daniels said. “It can be a really great crop for future U.S. agriculture.”

Last year, Fibershed held its Grow Your Jeans event, a celebration where 81 California-based artisans, designers, land-managers, local farmers, mills and ranchers sold denim apparel and accessories. Created in the vicinity, these denim products are 100 percent compostable and contain zero fossil fuel resins.

While the apparel industry remains considerably unsustainable, Fibershed, in addition to other affiliated groups, said it will continue to prove that textiles, including clothing products, can be more sustainable.