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As part of an academic collaboration, students in UGS 201: Big Ideas visited the Surplus Store and Recycling Center for an exercise in "menditation," a play on words that refers to a sort of meditative stitching.

After an introductory discussion about textile waste, students were invited to sew, embroider, and adorn washcloth-size rags cut from repurposed towels using vintage yarn, fabric scraps, and felt cut-outs. Sitting just outside the material recovery facility at MSU Recycling, students were encouraged to attend to the materials and the process, without concern for productivity or worry over how it looked.

In a time when our attention is a commodity, being able to slow down and allow ourselves to direct our focus on only one thing at a time is nearly impossible. The focus on menditation was used to bring to life some of the concepts in class text, How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny O'Dell. At the same time, the activity of sewing gave students a vantage point to consider the labor and natural resources that are embedded in each article of clothing.

The session intended to help students consider the environmental and social costs associated with the low prices of fast fashion, and to preempt the faulty thinking that leads consumers to treat clothing as disposable. 

Are you interested in trying menditation? Students are invited to contact Spartan Upcycle for materials and to see about attending or hosting a stitching circle or sewing event.


Why is it worthwhile to choose secondhand clothes? 

Doing so helps you live a lower waste life with a smaller carbon footprint. 

The textile industry is energy intensive, heavy on chemical use and is a major source of air and water pollution. It's estimated that the apparel and footwear industries generate eight to ten percent of all global carbon emissions. Still, despite all it takes to manufacture clothes, they are ending up in landfills at a staggering rate. In 2018 in the U.S. alone, landfills received 11.3 million tons of textiles from municipal sources (accounting for almost eight percent of all municipal solid waste).

While some textile recycling and other recovery pathways exist, these options can't keep up with the supply of unwanted clothes. This is partly due to the increase in clothing production, which has doubled since 2000, with 150 billion new clothing items produced annually. You may wonder if the production is simply responding to consumer demand, but with the cheap prices associated with fast fashion, is the market inviting overbuying? In any case, the average consumer buys 60% more items of clothing than just 15 years ago.

Explore this topic futher: 

  • For a great book that can introduce you to visible mending and creative clothing repair, check out MEND! A Refashioning Manual & Manifesto by Kate Sekules. 
  • For a selection of resources on fahion and textile waste see the Clothing & Apparel section of the Environmental Justice & Sustainable Purchasing Guide. 
  • Fashion Revolution is a great source for info and ways to advocate for a better fashion industry.
  • If podcasts are your thing, check out Wardrobe Crisis, led by author Clare Press.
  • Visit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to explore the future of fashion, including how and why the industry can and should improve using principles of circularity.