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Clothing Makers Push for ‘Zero Waste'

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The way cloth is made, and what it is made of, is changing.

Companies that make textiles are trying different materials because people want products that are more sustainable, or better for the environment.

Shannon Maher leads Home Products Development at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

She said there is "a real push for sustainability now, and the home textiles industry is waking up to that consumer call." It is about reducing waste during textile production, she said. Maher added it is also about reusing or recycling waste to produce other products, so there is "zero waste."

For example, many people around the world have become concerned about the harm waste plastic does to the environment. Maher thinks people "are willing to pay five or ten percent more for a sustainable product."

Some examples are rugs and outdoor fabrics, or cloths. They are increasingly being made with recycled materials instead of new plastics.

Much is happening with clothing design, too. Companies are using new textiles made from sustainable resources. They also are exploring the use of textiles that can be composted. Maher said companies like Adidas and Nike are using some of these new ideas for their products.

An exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. It explores the ways designs drawn from nature and can address today's environmental problems. (Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
An exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. It explores the ways designs drawn from nature and can address today's environmental problems. (Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sustainability and design

A show at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York City is presenting some of these ideas to the public. It includes a dress made by a Japanese design team that is made with naturally glowing silk. The team said the cloth is made from silkworms injected with a green fluorescent protein that comes from jellyfish—a kind of sea creature.

The museum also is showing a version of an Adidas shoe made completely from plastic taken from the ocean. Other examples of sustainable products include a shoe that would be completely compostable, and a textile made from algae: a water organism.

Andrea Lipps works at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and helped organize the show. She said there is optimism when people see designers taking on this difficult problem. She said the public support and creativity around such textiles will continue.

To help companies tell the public what they are doing, the Sustainable Furnishings Council provides an online list. It is meant to identify environmentally responsible companies for consumers.

About 400 member companies are on the list. They each have made their own public and confirmable promises to sustainability, said Susan Inglis. She is executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

Maher of the Fashion Institute of Technology, said: "People are talking more these days about 'the value chain,' showing that not only are you certified as being environmentally responsible, but all of the factories in your production process are certified."

Maher added that because it involves how factories are powered and how much resources they use, in her opinion, "sustainability is complex."

I'm Anne Ball.

Anne Ball adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

What do you think of recycled textiles? Write to us in the comments section below.

Words in This Story

textile – n. a fabric that is woven or knit

consumer – n. a person who buys goods and services

recycle – v. to make something new from (something that has been used before)

compost – v. to change plant materials into compost that is used to improve soil in the garden

glowing - adj. having a warm color

silk – n. a smooth, soft, and shiny cloth that is made from thread produced by silkworms

fluorescent – adj. very bright

optimism – n. a feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future : a feeling or belief that what you hope for will happen

certified – adj. having met the official requirements that are needed to do a particular type of work

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