According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018 the U.S. generated 17 million tons of textile waste- just over 100 pounds per person. In that same year, the recycling rate for all textiles was 14.7 percent, and over 11 million tons of textiles were dumped in landfills. The remainder was incinerated. The main source of textile waste is clothing, but it also includes furniture, carpets, linens, and footwear. This is a rapidly growing category of municipal solid waste (MSW), and accounted for 7.7 percent of landfilled MSW that year. For comparison, the EPA estimates there were 1.76 million tons of textile waste in 1960.
While a lot of this waste is created by fast fashion companies through overproduction, much textile waste is associated with consumer buying (and tossing) habits. Donating unwanted garments is better than tossing them, although according to the Council for Textile Recycling, only 20% of donated clothing is resold in the U.S.
Luckily, many businesses exist in the Roaring Fork valley to help you make the most of what you already have. From furniture to clothing to outdoor gear, there’s likely a small local business ready to help you.
Claire Wright is the owner of Cosecha Textiles, a business which she relocated this year from San Juan Island, Washington, to Carbondale. Cosecha means “creative bounty” in spanish and is an homage to her education at the University of New Mexico. When asked about her work, Wright shared that “the vast majority is in doing reupholstery. It makes me happy to know that there are so many folks out there that see the value in fine craftsmanship, and see the potential in an old piece of furniture to become more modern or new or reusable.” Claire also teaches workshops and hosts monthly DIY sessions at her studio, to share her craft and repair skills with the community.
The cost of reupholstering furniture varies based on the age of the piece, overall quality, and the material you choose. Claire made clear that her overall mission is to make furniture last. “I really want to be accessible to all people. So if you’re the type of person that isn’t scared and wants to try something, I’m an open book. I’m super happy to give pointers, to provide material at a very low cost, and to help guide you in the right direction.”
There are several local businesses that provide clothing alterations and repair. Just this year, Sarah Meyer, a painter and former teacher at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, took over Mountainside Sewing, a thirty-year old business started by Peg Chain.
According to Sarah, “we do lots of repairs: patching jeans, fixing zippers, replacing zippers… We’re able to custom fit people to clothes that either they’ve thrifted, which is really cool, or that they’ve purchased online.”
One challenge Sarah has faced is the relatively cheap price of new goods.
“How do you make [repair] affordable and also convince someone that it’s actually worth it because we’re keeping [clothes] out of the landfill? Rather than just purchasing a new jacket that maybe would cost the same as it would for me to repair it for you, you’re also paying someone here in the U.S. a living wage to do that. So, it’s an interesting dilemma that people face when they decide if they want to have their stuff repaired.”
Common jobs include hemming ($25 to $35) and zipper repair (starting at $35).
For heavy-duty jobs, Sarah likes to refer customers to Rachel’s Sewing Repair. Based in El Jebel and run by Rachel Marble for over 20 years, Rachel likes to say, “If it’s been sewn before, I can probably sew it again.”
While a large part of her business is maintaining horse blankets, Rachel also specializes in repairing camping gear, chaps, tack, outdoor fabrics, and fasteners. Common repairs include replacing webbing, buckles, velcro, and hardware. Over the years Rachel has repaired airplane covers, grill covers, trampolines, duckies, dry bags, boat covers, waders, bike panniers, hunting tents, harnesses, dog gear, sailboat sails, badminton nets, bags and purses, and more.
Again, Claire Wright: “If there’s any opportunity that we can see to reuse, or recycle or buy secondhand or to pay craftspeople to do real craftwork, whether it be making furniture, or making your clothing, or to support a true artisan, then those choices do make a really big difference.”
A sampling of businesses offering repair services
- Upholstery and cushions, – Cosecha Textiles, (505) 702-6796
- Clothing repair and tailoring – Mountainside Sewing, (774) 245-2768
- Heavy-duty repairs – Rachel’s Sewing Repair, (970) 704-1553
- Shoe repair – Glenwood Shoe Service, (970) 945-8969