© 2010 Gwendolyn Hustvedt
[email protected]
Ref:P206
Sustainability in Fashion: Bringing the Triple Bottom Line to the
Campus
Abstract
Home Economics is an excellent starting place to introduce sustainability topics to
the college campus. This case study focuses on the role that clothing and textiles
faculty at one US university play in bring sustainability into the clothing and textiles
curriculum as well as to other areas across campus.
Country
USA
Author Details
AUTHOR
Title of author
Surname
First Name
Name of Institution
Address of Institution
Dr
Hustvedt
Gwendolyn
Texas State University-San Marcos
601 University Dr.
San Marcos, TX 78666 USA
[email protected]
E-mail address of author
Author biography
Gwendolyn Hustvedt is an Assistant Professor of Textiles at Texas State University.
Her research focuses on the lifestyle of health and sustainability (LOHAS)
consumer. Past projects include a survey of consumer willingness to pay for animal
welfare certification and consumer sensitivity to biotechnology in the fiber supply
chain.
Category
− Consumer
− Education
− Home Economics
Theme
UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014 themes− Environment
− Sustainable consumption
− Sustainable urbanisation
UN Millennium Development Goals − Ensure environmental sustainability
Type of Contribution
− Case Study
− Illustrated story with photographs
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G Hustvedt
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Sustainability in Fashion: Bringing the Triple Bottom Line to the
Campus
Gwendolyn Hustvedt
Introduction
Sustainability has become an important topic on college campus in countries
around the world, both as a source of activism and as a curricular issue. Taking a cue
from industry, campuses recognize the importance of the Triple Bottom Line: putting
social and environmental productivity on par with economic productivity and suggesting
that all three are required for a venture to be truly sustainable.1 Families are being
impacted by the increasing pace of globalization and the environmental, social and
economic damage that modern lifestyles can create. The central concern of the Home
Economics professional is quality of life for families. Home Economics educators are in
an excellent position to help meet the increasing demand for education related to
sustainability for families and consumers. In fact, sustainability education provides an
important opportunity for Home Economics professionals to demonstrate the vitality of
their applied art by placing the issue of sustainability into a context that is relevant for
families and consumers.
Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability
While some sustainability education efforts focus primarily on environmental
sustainability, the interconnection of social and political realities with the environmental
impact of the modern life is undeniable. The United Nations Decade of Education for
Sustainable Development (2005-2014) was established to help integrate sustainable
development into educational programs around the world to “help people develop the
attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves
and others..”2 One of the seven themes for Education for Sustainable Development is
changing consumption habits to make them more sustainable. In their paper 'Toward
Sustainable Consumption: Two New Perspectives', Heiskanen and Pantzar suggest that
J Elkington, ‘Towards the sustainable corporation: Win-win-win business strategies for
sustainable development’. California Management Review, vol. 36/no. 2, Winter
1994, pp. 90-10.
2
UNESCO, ‘Education for sustainable development’, 2005-2014, viewed on 2 May
2010, < http://www.unesco.org/en/esd/>.
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environmental issues are “…caused by social and economic behaviour” and that these
behaviors “are mediated through technical systems and affect the natural environment,
which in turn has social and economic impacts.”3 The conclusion of their paper on
sustainable consumption is that families become hostage to consumption patterns that are
embedded in the past and are difficult to change. Home Economics in the US has played
an important role in the development and introduction of household technology and needs
to play a role in understanding and changing cycles of household consumption wherever
they have become unsustainable.
Home Economics on the Campus
This paper is a case study focusing on the ability of Home Economics faculty to
address sustainability issues on campus in a holistic manner. Texas State University-San
Marcos (Texas State) is a large public university in Central Texas that began as a
Teacher’s College. The University’s heritage of focusing on secondary education means
that while the university has only recently begun pursuing status as a research university,
it has a stellar reputation in the area of teaching. In this student centered climate, the
faculty in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) are respected across
the campus as educators and the undergraduate programs in Family & Child
Development, Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher Certification, Fashion
Merchandising, Human Nutrition, and Interior Design are large and growing.
Partly because of a supportive administration that seeks to build the research
efforts of successful teaching departments, the FCS Department has also received
external grant funding comparable to or exceeding other departments on campus. This
administrative support includes willingness to highlight FCS faculty achievements and
facilitate relationships between faculty from all areas of campus. For example, when
Fashion Merchandising faculty received funding related to consumers of sustainability,
the administration broadly publicized the achievement. This climate of parity and respect
may be unusual for Home Economics faculty at more research-intensive universities,
where curricular achievements related to sustainability may go unnoticed or
interdisciplinary initiatives may receive only token support. Texas State, however, has
3
E Heiskanen and M Pantzar, 'Toward sustainable consumption: Two new perspectives',
Journal of Consumer Policy, vol. 20/no. 4, 1997, p. 411.
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been an excellent laboratory for the expansion of Home Economics ideals and ethics to
reach students across the campus.
Fashion Merchandising as a Sustainability Leader
The sustainability education provided by the Fashion Merchandising program is
the focus of this case study. It should be noted, however, that faculty in the areas of
Human Nutrition and Interior Design also have achievements in this area. The Fashion
Merchandising program has 350-400 majors and 50-75 minors at any given time. The 4year 120-credit hour program requires a Business Minor from all majors and focuses on
the product development, visual merchandising and retail aspects of fashion. Time
intensive construction and fashion design skills instruction were removed from the
program in the 1990s to help cope with growing numbers of students and to provide
improved career prospects for graduates, as evidenced by increasing industry recruiting
of students. While there is currently no graduate program in this area, the faculty of five
tenure-track assistant and associate professors and two full-time instructors teach and
conduct research with both undergraduate students and graduate students from other
disciplines.
Textile Science
The integration of sustainability into specific Fashion courses is more or less
successful depending on the type of course. The introductory textile science course is a
large freshman level course that can introduce sustainability issues to all the majors in the
FCS Department. The course is typically only 50% Fashion Merchandising students with
the rest of the students taking the course as a departmental elective. Here is a list of
sample lectures that contain sustainability material and examples of the type of
information provided.
1. Protein Fibers:
a. Social Sustainability of hand labor to extract silk
b. Environmental Sustainability of disposing of wool scouring waste
2. Cellulose Fibers:
a. Environmental and Economic Sustainability of producing cotton
conventionally
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b. Environmental Sustainability of mono-cropping versus rotation cropping
using hemp as an example
3. Synthetic Fibers:
a. Environmental Sustainability of polyester versus olefin based on density and
recyclability with an emphasis on olefin as ocean waste
4. Dyeing and Printing:
a. Environmental and Social Sustainability of over dyeing denim and denim
distressing in terms of worker exposure to caustics and water pollution.
Other Fashion Courses
Many other Fashion Merchandising courses include environmental or ethical
issues as part of the learning objectives for the course. Students in Textile Product
Analysis study manufacturing issues and are educated about the social impact of
manufacturing timeline and sourcing decisions on workers in factories around the world.
Fashion Merchandising Administration focuses on Human Resource management and
includes discussions of the ethical responsibility of managers in fashion towards their
workers and the responsibility of all workers to understand and utilize their employer’s
social compliance division. The Consumer Behavior course includes discussions about
green consumer and consumer interest in corporate social responsibility.
Fashion Economics provides an opportunity for in-depth discussion of the impact
of American fashion consumption on the rest of the world, with a particular emphasis on
economic or environmental exploitation. This course uses as a text “The Travels of a TShirt”, an in-depth exploration of the US cotton industry, factory conditions in China and
the impact of the used clothing trade on Western Africa4. Using discussions rather than
lectures allows the students to explore all sides of the issues and creates room for students
of various economic, ethnic and political backgrounds to expand their initial reactions to
the topics to include an understanding of other perspectives. The students are broken into
small groups at the beginning of the semester and the small groups are each named after a
country in Africa where large quantities of American used clothing is sold. The groups
are encouraged to listen for “their country” in the news and consider the impact of
4
P Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the
Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, 2nd edn, Hoboken, New Jersey, Wiley,
2009.
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various economic and environmental issues on the families in “their country”. Here is an
example of some of the discussions in the Fashion Economics course.
1.
What role does religious intolerance play in the formation of trade alliances,
focusing on the Silk Road and the Byzantine Empire?
2.
What is the role of corporate monopolies in the development and distortion of
international textile trade, focusing on the British East India Trading Company?
3.
What role did civil society play in the failure in the Southern United States of the
1934 US Textile Workers strike and what is the lasting impact of this failure?
4.
What explains the attitude of the Chinese government towards independent trade
unions?
5.
Are unannounced factory inspections an effective method of reducing worker
abuse?
6.
What are consumer concerns surrounding genetic modification/biotechnology and
did the industry tactic of treating these concerns as invalid speed or hinder the
adoption of biotechnology?
7.
Is donating used clothing an appropriate response to a natural disaster?
8.
Why are men’s clothing more valuable in the Mitumba market in Western Africa?
Interdisciplinary Courses
Besides courses taught in the Fashion Merchandising program, including courses
taught to other Home Economics majors, the faculty in the program teach sustainability
in an interdisciplinary across the campus. For example, a fashion faculty member who
researches sustainable consumer behavior was invited to make the opening presentation
for a team-taught doctoral seminar on sustainability. The PhD students in the course
came from the sociology, biology and philosophy departments. The team of graduate
faculty teaching the course felt that it was important to include a consumer centered
approach in the discussion. The opening lecture introduced the conflict between the
political economics perspective of maximizing utility as the primary motivator with the
consumer as the primary unit of measure and the Home Economics perspective of quality
of life as the primary motivator with the family as the primary unit of measure. Readings
were selected for the students that help them explore the production capability of families
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and the loss of family based production skills in developed economies.5 Other readings
stimulated students to consider the failings of a market based approach to sustainability
and the weakness of ‘consumer sovereignty’ in the face of asymmetric information on the
economic, social and environmental impact of the products in the market.6 While the
remainder of the semester was spent discussing theories from sociology, hard sciences
and geography, placing the family and quality of life front and center had a significant
impact on the direction of the conversation.
Texas State has an Honors program for gifted undergraduate students that allows
faculty to offer the typical courses in an enriched environment, such as an Honors section
of Organic Chemistry, or an interdisciplinary course on an unusual topic, such as
Baseball and the American Experience. Sustainability related courses are popular with
the Honors students and the program was excited to offer a course in Sustainable
Textiles. This course was designed to provide a basic textile science education for
students from a variety of disciplines (English to Economics) as well as challenging them
to consider the issues of sustainability created by textiles and clothing. The text for the
course was a publically available report compiled by the University of Cambridge on the
sustainability of the U.K. textiles industry.7
The culmination of the Honors course was a design project intended to introduce
textiles to students who had never before considered the source or structure of clothing.
The project was called “Choose Your Own Apocalypse”. After a brief discussion of the
enduring popularity of post-apocalyptic English language fiction, the student selected an
apocalyptic scenario as the backdrop for their design process. Apocalypse was chosen
because the disruption of the normal flow of goods and services caused by man-made or
natural disaster provides an opening for the expression of creativity. Apocalypse also
served as a focus for sustainability related anxiety and allowed students to express their
optimism or pessimism about the impact of human on the environment through action
C Leviten-Reid, ‘What happened to home economics? An essay on households, the
economy and the environment’, in The Progressive Economics Forum. 2003, viewed
on 2 May 2010, <http://www.progressive-economics.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2007/07/clreid.pdf>
6
U Hansen and U Schrader. 'A Modern Model of Consumption for a Sustainable
Society', Journal of Consumer Policy, vol. 20/no. 4, 1997, pp. 443-468.
7
JM Allwood, SE Laursen, C Malvido de Rodriguez, et al. , 'Well Dressed? The Present
and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom',
Cambridge UK, University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing, (2006).
5
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rather than words. The first step of the design process was to completely dismantle a
textile product of their choice. Some students brought in typical clothing (sweatpants,
shorts) while other students selected items with symbolic meanings for their apocalypse.
A student using The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood bought a used wedding dress
while a student inspired by the Kevin Costner film Waterworld dismantled an umbrella.
The design process focused on creating something from the dismantled textiles that
would be useful in the post-apocalyptic environment, from flippers to swim a water
soaked world to an enveloping sunshade needed to cross a desert. An exhibition of the
designs sparked conversation about the role of textiles in everyday life both pre- and
post-apocalypse (see the exhibition catalog in the Appendix).
Extra curricular Connections
Besides coursework, both within the Family & Consumer Sciences and across
campus, the faculty and students of the Fashion Merchandising program have engaged in
sustainability issues on campus. The annual Earth Day event at the lake on campus that
is the headwaters for the San Marcos river find student members of the AATCC student
chapter handing out eco-detergent samples and flyers about line drying. The annual
Fashion Merchandising Career Forum that hosts students from across Texas for a one-day
career fair with seminars includes an eco-bag design contest where students are
challenged to turn a typical non-woven cloth shopping bag into something more
attractive. Student organized fashion shows feature sustainable clothing and service
activities educate the campus about the recyclability of cotton textiles into paper or blown
insulation.
Conclusions and Suggestions
Incorporating sustainability into the Fashion curriculum involves a multi-pronged
approach. Besides including economic, social or environmental sustainability in
coursework and student learning outcomes, sustainability can serve as an entry point to
bring Home Economics into a campus-wide discussion. Starting small with student
activities or presentations in classes in other disciplines can open doors to engage in an
interdisciplinary dialogue with other professionals on campus who are also engaged by
sustainability. Stepping forward as consumer advocates or consumer educators with a
track record of helping families improve their quality of life builds our credibility as
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Home Economics professionals and provides an opening for us to weigh in on this very
important topic.
References
Allwood, JM, SE Laursen, C Malvido de Rodriguez, et al. , 'Well Dressed? The Present
and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom',
Cambridge UK, University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing, (2006).
Elkington, J ‘Towards the sustainable corporation: Win-win-win business strategies for
sustainable development’. California Management Review, vol. 36/no. 2, Winter
1994, pp. 90-10.
Hansen, U and U Schrader. 'A Modern Model of Consumption for a Sustainable Society',
Journal of Consumer Policy, vol. 20/no. 4, 1997, pp. 443-468.
Heiskanen, E and M Pantzar, 'Toward sustainable consumption: Two new perspectives',
Journal of Consumer Policy, vol. 20/no. 4, 1997, p. 411
Leviten-Reid, C‘What happened to home economics? An essay on households, the
economy and the environment’, in The Progressive Economics Forum. 2003, viewed
on 2 May 2010, <http://www.progressive-economics.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2007/07/clreid.pdf>
Rivoli, P The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the
Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, 2nd edn, Hoboken, New Jersey,
Wiley, 2009.
UNESCO, ‘Education for sustainable development’, 2005-2014, viewed on 2 May 2010,
< http://www.unesco.org/en/esd/>.
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G Hustvedt
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Appendix: Photos and Links
Figure 1: Students at Line Drying Exhibition at Earth Day Fair
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Figure 2: Honors Class Discussing Eco-laundry
Figure 3: Eco-Bag Designers from Texas State University and Incarnate Word University
Links
Well dressed: The present and future sustainability of clothing and textiles in the UK
Honors Design Project Exhibition Brochure
Consumerism and Sustainability Lecture for Doctoral Seminar
Texas State Fashion Merchandising Career Forum Eco Bag Contest Guidelines
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