Reimagining Fashion Waste
Design for America - 1 year
The global fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar industry and is also somehow the world’s 2nd largest producer of waste, after oil. In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person.(the weight of a labrador retriever or a dishwasher). The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic textiles from the landfill into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road.
This prompted us to ask How can we reduce the environmental impact the fashion industry creates? And eventually we narrowed down into How can we foster community recycling within the college community?
Initially, this project was oriented towards a more general take on the fashion industry. A majority of the year was spent navigating and pivoting from the ideas of pushing textile waste into a new applicable industry, reworking textile materials, composting fabric, and finally on the current fashion recycling system.
After conducting student interviews and looking at the current donation bins on Brown’s campus, we started to see how we could improve this bin
- No one we interviewed knew that you can donate clothing in bad condition and it doesn’t say this on the current bins.
- People do not notice the bin: even though everyone has walked by them many times, only 40% knew that they existed.
- The bins don’t say what happens to the items you donate. Only 12% of students had an idea about what happens to their donated clothing although almost everyone said they were interesting in learning more about the process
Opportunities for redesigning the donation bin:
- Ensure that the conditions of the items were clearly listed on the front of the bin. These notes include how fabrics with holes, rips, and stains are all acceptable items.
- Include examples of items you can put in the bin that were personalized to Brown’s campus as well as to college life in general. This can help make the bin more noticeable and present information that would be fun to read,
- There is a lack of knowledge around what happens to the donated clothing. In order to clarify this process and be most transparent, we have gathered key points to explain the different steps Goodwill takes in handling the items. This information can help generate more usage donation bin, increase trust in the system, and create more overall awareness about the social impact aspects of non-profits like Goodwill such as the creation of jobs for disadvantaged individuals.