McWilliams: Students need to pay attention to clothing waste

Leta McWilliams

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Earth Day is a great day to bring awareness to the beauty surrounding Fort Collins as well as bringing awareness to ways that us as students can live a more sustainable lifestyle.

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Colorado State University prides itself in our collective eco-friendly efforts to be a sustainable campus. However, there’s one big waste producing industry that, until recently, hasn’t had a lot of attention on our campus: clothing consumption and waste.

The Clothing and Sustainability Research Group is hosting many events during Earth Week in order to bring awareness to textiles and clothing waste. The textiles and clothing industry is the second most environmentally damaging industry in the world and students need to be more aware of how harmful it actually is.

Sonali Diddi, an assistant professor at CSU, is part of The Clothing and Sustainability Research Group. She said the events aren’t just for CSU students, but for the Fort Collins community as a whole.

“We want the Fort Collins community to become aware of the environmental impacts of their clothing consumption and disposal choices,” Diddi said. “Yes, individually we can make small differences, but we need to start holding companies accountable, not just responsible, regarding the products they create and ask questions like who made my clothes. As a community we need to think creatively about how we can collectively decrease the resources we consume and find ways to contribute towards overall happiness and well-being.”

Along with the research group, students are helping put on the events. Students from the Department of Design and Merchandising played a crucial role in organizing The Mending Café.

Sara Van Hatten, an ecosystem science and sustainability major at CSU, has been working with The Clothing and Sustainability Research Group. She said students need to pay more attention to textile waste because they’re helping contribute to it.

“We’re a college that really prides itself on sustainability, and we are not talking about this issue really anywhere on campus,” Van Hatten said. “It’s in some of the Design and Merchandising curriculum, and of course we have some really incredible researchers working on textile waste, but essentially there’s no curriculum surrounding it. I think the fact that we’re systematically ignoring it is a huge issue. Everyone on this campus wears clothing, everyone on this campus contributes to clothing waste, so everyone can have a part in fixing this issue. I really want to bring more awareness to this issue and start the conversation.”

The fact that students and professors are researching and working on bringing awareness to this problem is a big step in the right direction. I never thought about how much waste was being produced by clothing, and I’m sure many students can agree with me on that ignorance.

There are many things students can do to lower their textiles and clothing waste, like bringing clothes to mending cafés, washing clothes less and shopping at thrift stores.

“There’s some really good thrift stores around Fort Collins you can go to,” Van Hatten said. “And what it takes is knowing you’re going to go there without anything specific in mind, but knowing you’re going to find something great. It just takes a little more dedication, and at the end of the day you’re going to be happier with what you buy and it’s going to cost a fraction of what you were going to pay for if purchased brand new.”

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The Clothing and Sustainability Research Group put on many events for Earth Week, the last one being a screening of “The True Cost” at the Lyric Theater on April 25. If you missed the events this week, the research group is hoping to put on more events in the future.

“We will also be seeking for community input regarding having such events on a regular basis to repair/mend with the aim of decreasing products ending up in the landfill,” Diddi said. “These events will be very beneficial to students, as many are unaware of the impacts of their clothing consumption choices. These events provide both education and tools for helping students be sustainable in their clothing consumption choices.”

If you’re interested in textiles and clothing waste and want to become more involved, Van Hatten is open to discussion. More students should consider being involved with stopping textiles and clothing waste. We all contribute to it, so we should find ways to be more responsible with our clothing.

Leta McWilliams can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LetaMcWilliams