Introducing Create and Sustain

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Every year millions of tons of textiles end up in landfills around the globe, making the textile industry one of the largest polluting industries in the world. 

As makers, we love fabric and fiber which makes understanding the textile industry’s impact on Earth's rapid decline a pretty tough pill to swallow. After all, we are makers; we do good work. We donate quilts, make pillowcases for children in hospitals, knit caps for premature babies; we create safe spaces and build strong communities. We come together as a collective group to provide each other with much-needed therapy and make lifelong friendships because we are, by nature, a compassionate, giving, caring group. How do we reconcile all the good we do and all the beauty we create when the materials we use are often harmful to the environment? 

Well, we educate and organize. We start by recognizing that there is a multi-layered problem related to the creation of textiles, thread, patterns, buttons, etc. Water use, harmful dyes, and textile waste are just a few issues that usually land at the top of the list but what about packaging, paper, plastic, and shipping?  Furthermore, there are issues regarding global labor practices, wages, poverty, hunger, education, and health and well-being. The United Nations has a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG’s) – how does our industry manage those goals and what companies actively use them to make better goods? Are companies in our industry even trying to use them to make better products? Would you know where to look to find those answers? Websites are the obvious first choice, but sustainability isn’t a tab on a lot of craft industry company pages. In fact, there’s very little visibility or discussion with regard to sustainability on many company websites. That needs to change and that needs to change quickly. Earth cannot maintain its current trajectory of climate breakdown. So let’s do what we do best: Collaborate and help amplify this idea to facilitate change. Gather the pieces, mend, and stitch these ideas together to make a patchwork of sustainable practices for our community. A quilt that gets better with time, attention, and you.

Enter Create and Sustain, the first non-profit of its kind in the quilting and crafting community.

After the UN summit in New York City in 2019, Patty Murphy reached out to Kristi McDonough and Jennifer Sampou because they both used their platform to share a photo of Greta Thunberg and express their concern about the environment and climate change. At that moment, it became clear that there was room in the quilt and crafting industries to devote to sustainability. In fact, it was glaringly obvious so Create and Sustain was born. Makers can live creatively AND sustainably. We can have both. 

Photo credit Christine Cox, shared with permission


Create and Sustain is the first and only non-profit in the quilting, home sewing, and crafting communities devoted to creativity and sustainability. We believe that through art and education we can help shift environmental changes with our collective voice within our craft and textile industries.

The earth’s population is using resources at 2.5 times higher than the amount available. While many quilters and makers are well known for saving even the smallest scraps, in 2018 in the US alone, 17 million tons of textile wasted ended up in landfills according to the EPA1. That’s approximately 70 pounds of textile waste PER PERSON and accounts for close to 6% of all landfill space2! Keep in mind this is all textile waste and not specific to quilting cotton and crafting goods, but makers have the ability to reduce the impact of all textile waste by also using materials already out there. 

We aren’t suggesting you shouldn’t buy new materials; we love new fabrics! We want you to continue to support your favorite local quilt and craft shop. What we are asking is that you buy better, new materials and consider repurposing garments and other textiles to make new quilts, garments, and crafts. Research company sustainability platforms if they are available or check out the Tiers of Sustainability on the Create and Sustain website (Coming by end of the year 2021) on the Create and Sustain website


​Photo credit Chris English, shared with permission


Interest in sustainability in the quilting, home sewing, and crafting markets continues to grow.  We see quilts, garments, and other crafts using upcycled, repurposed, and found materials. Mending continues to provide a creative way to showcase our skills and create beauty in garments and other items that need a little love. Sustainably grown cotton is becoming a mainstream commodity. Organic cotton production and organic certifications continue to increase. Recycled fabrics are becoming more popular and shops dedicated to deadstock, scrap material, and leftover craft supplies have increased exponentially over the last several years. Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced goods and there’s a certain level of confidence when purchasing items with third-party certifications. 

The quilting and crafting industries should not be immune to these necessary changes and consumer demands. In fact, consumers need the industry to lead.

Over the last year and a half, we’ve built a board, created a website for Create and Sustain loaded with useful information, and have been working towards launching this initiative. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we hope, in time, that we will. Our vision at Create and Sustain is to be THE source in the industry for all things sustainable. This includes education about certifications, how climate change disproportionately affects BIPOC/lower socio-economic communities, upcycling, green projects, webinars, highlighting companies, and makers that are making decisions that consider environmental impact, creating tiers of sustainability, and so much more. 


​Photo credit Zak Foster, shared with permission


​In order to curb more significant environmental impact, and to make our planet habitable for generations to come, we need change. We need your help to make it happen. Together we can reconcile all the good we do and the beauty we create if we use our voices to “sew” the seeds of sustainability. We need conscientious global makers that want to see improvement in the quilting and crafting industries and are willing to challenge the industry to make it happen. 

On April 22, 2021, Create and Sustain is launching. You can show your enthusiasm for this initiative by visiting our website to becoming a supporter. In return for becoming a supporter, you will get access to exclusive content (TBD) and a badge you can proudly share on social media, your website, etc. to show you are a progressive member of the community we are building. We gladly welcome all tags, inquiries, project submissions, and ideas.

We look forward to building something sustainable with you. 

 

The Board of Directors of Create and Sustain proudly includes: 

  • Nisha Bouri
  • Christine Cox
  • Kristi McDonough
  • Bradley Mitchell
  • Patty Murphy
  • ChiChi Nwizu
  • Jennifer Sampou
  • Laura Willson

This article was written by Kristi McDonough, Patty Murphy, and Jennifer Sampou. 

Kristi is a quilter, designer, teacher, and quilt shop owner. 

Patty is a quilter, published author, teacher, and Executive Director of Create and Sustain.

Jennifer is a fabric designer, quilter, author, and teacher.

 

www.createandsustain.org

@create.and.sustain

 

 

1.      Environmental Protection Agency (2020) Textiles: Material-Specific Data

Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data

 

2.      Council for Textile Recycling (not dated) 

Retrieved from https://www.weardonaterecycle.org/