research pages will be available soon.
The aim of my Masters research was to collect information about sustainable materials and produce a collection of textiles and garments based on my findings. The context of this research is detailed below.
Eco-fashion emerged in the early nineties but due to the economic impact it never became mainstream. At present, production costs for fair trade, organic and recycled items tend to be much higher than their mass produced counterparts. But now, with increased awareness that we are damaging our planet and our health, design is no longer just limited by economic costs.
Ecological costs should be at the top of the list and should begin with the production of the raw materials intended for the design. Cotton production, for instance, is a key player in the hugely polluting agricultural industry, using '10% of the world's pesticides, and 25% of the world's insecticides'.(p131 - Design and Environment) What use are all these chemicals? It appears that the more you spray with them, the more you need to use. Over the last sixty years pesticide use has vastly increased and the pests are becoming immune to the chemicals. These chemicals don't save our crops and 'our soil is becoming less productive. Our answer has been to rocket-boost fertility with 20 million tons of anhydrous ammonium fertilizer a year' (p18 - Biomimicry - Innovation inspired by nature). Agriculture is one of the main polluting industries in the U.S. due to the use of pesticides. '60% of the nitrate fertiliser we apply when farming remains in the soil and gradually seeps into the groundwater'. (p19 -The Little Earth Book) Pestcides in the groundwater mean carcinogenic chemicals in drinking water and contamination of the soil. This is a huge cost to both people and the environment.
Everyone has an ecological footprint and in the western world our feet are huge.'20% of the global population in rich countries consume 86% of the world's resources.' (p22 -The Little Earth Book - quote from Plan B, Lester R Brown 2003). The ecological footprint is a way of measuring the amount of productive land used to maintain a certain type of lifestyle. This demonstates how the development of the western world has been a great cost to countries whose ecological footprints fit well within a size that is needed to sustain them. The depletion of the ozone layer is just one example of how the big feet of the west have stamped on the rest of the world. Part of the ozone damage is attributed to pesticide use and greenhouse gases created from the consumption of fossil fuels.
'When we burn oil, gasoline, and coal, we release great quantities of carbon that was locked up and compressed during the Cretaceous Period. The giant ferns and dinosaurs of those days decomposed in oxygen starved conditions and never had a chance to complete their decay cycle. Now we're finishing the job with a bonfire, consuming in a year what it took one hundred thousand years of organic growth to form. Like a huge bellows, our bonfire breathes in oxygen and exhales an earthly amount of CO2, a greenhouse gas' (p61 - Biomimicry - Innovation inspired by nature)
Petrochemicals are the raw materials for many synthetic fibres used in the textiles industry and these are created from burning oil or gas. Polyester production is relatively harmless compared to other synthetics but nylon production releases a greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide. However, it is the energy used to manufacture these synthetics which is the major pollutant. This highlights the urgent need to move away from high energy production methods or to use alternatives to fossil fuels.
'For the last one hundred years, we've been doing just that - burning the heirlooms made from ancient sunlight, ignoring the fact that contemporary sunlight was streaming in every window. Instead of feeding dead plants to our fires all these years, perhaps we should have been studying the living ones, carefully copying their magic.' (p61 - Biomimcry - Innovation inspired by nature)
Why haven't we been studying nature all along? It manages perfectly well without the need to burn fossil fuels and spray pesticides. The environmental cost of human development is reaching a peak and, as Victor Papernik emphasised in 'Design for the Real World', designers are to blame. Looking at the more obvious reasons it's easy to see why. Designing transport and plastic has been beneficial to humans in many ways but environmentally it's been a disaster. The energy and emissions created in the life-cycle of these products is phenominal yet, 'Despite our colossal energy expenditures, we still can't make materials as finely crafted, as durable, or as environmentally sensible as those of nature.' (p97 - Biomimcry - Innovation inspired by nature) Fortunately, with evolutionary advancement comes the technology to help counteract our global destruction. Biomimics, scientists who learn from nature, have been discovering ways of designing and manufacturing that are eco-responsible and will help advancement in sustainable design.
'Spider silk, ounce for ounce, is five times stronger than steel. Mussel adhesive works underwater and sticks to anything, even without a primer. Rhino horn manages to repair itself, though it contains no living cells. Bone, wood, skin, tusks, antlers, and heart muscle - miracle materials all - are made to live out their useful life and then fade back, to be reabsorbed by another kind of life through the grand cycle of death and renewal.' (p97 - Biomimicry - Innovation inspired by nature)
For raw materials, manufacturing and disposal, nature answers all the questions and it's been doing it for years.
Biomimicry - Innovation Inspired
Design and Environment - A global
guide to designing greener goods
Design for the Real World - Human
Ecology and Social Change
Eco design handbook - A complete
sourcebook for the home and office
State of the World Atlas - A unique
survey of current events and global trends
The Green Imperative - Ecology and
Ethics in Design and Architecture
The Little Earth Book
Cradle to Cradle - Remaking the
Way We Make Things
Dyeing and screen-printig on textiles
Fabric Dyeing and Printing
Repeat Patterns - A manual for designers,
artists and architects
Structure and Surface - Contemporary
Techno Textiles - Revolutionary
fabrics for fashion and design