Trashy Textiles is a web page launched on November 3rd , 2021 by the WasteLess committee of Environment Lethbridge (WasteLess). It provides an innovative, educational online platform on the impact of trashing textiles and makes the case for reducing the 1,000 tonnes of clothing, footwear, plush toys, towels and bedding that are thrown into the Lethbridge landfill each year. Practical steps that can be taken by individuals to reduce textile waste are identified along with links to online resources that will help to implement the actions. Messages are presented in a simple lighthearted way and accompanied by clear, graphic representations of key concepts. Supporting information on topic areas can be unzipped and references for factual information are accessed by a click.
WasteLess, formed in December 2015, develops resources and participates in events that inform the Lethbridge community about waste and inspire action to waste less. WasteLess is composed mostly of volunteers as well as Environment Lethbridge staff with an interest in waste reduction and with skills and experience in science/technical research, education, communications, community engagement, web design and development, strategic planning, and project management. Liaison is maintained with staff in the City of Lethbridge Waste and Recycling Services.
Trashy Textiles is the third in a series of webpages developed by WasteLess. Waste in YQL was launched in November 2017 and WasteLess Food in 2019. WasteLess supports and complements City of Lethbridge policy on waste reduction. Citizens of Lethbridge are among the most wasteful people on the planet. In 2013, Lethbridge produced 1,190 kg of waste per person each year, well above the Canada and World averages. Implementation of Curbside Recycling in 2019 reduced residential trash going to the landfill by one quarter. Curbside Organics Collection planned for implementation in 2023 is expected to reduce residential waste by half. After organics, textiles are the highest category of residential waste thrown in the landfill. Reducing textile trash will help Lethbridge meet its long-term target of 610 kg of waste per person per year by 2030 (see City of Lethbridge Waste Diversion Policy available here).
The process for developing the Trashy Textiles webpage began with committee members researching and summarizing available information on the lifecycle environmental footprint of textiles, including for production of various types of fibres, manufacture of textile products, distribution to consumers, use and care of textiles by individuals and households, and disposal of textiles that are no longer wanted or needed. Information was also acquired on the longevity of various textiles and ways to reduce the environmental footprint associated with purchase and care of textiles.
Specific to Lethbridge information was compiled on the amount of textile waste going to the landfill and local options for waste reduction and diversion. Lists were prepared of repair and alteration businesses, second-hand shops and organizations that take donations of used clothing and household items. A survey was developed and administered by Environment Lethbridge through social media channels to obtain a snapshot of behaviours locally in purchase, care and disposal of textiles. Demographic information from the survey helped define the target audience for the Trashy Textiles webpage – women aged 18 to 30, many who have young families.
From the wealth of information acquired, WasteLess members in a group card-sort exercise distilled key topics and messages and defined the structure of the Trashy Textiles webpage narrative. Writing of the narrative was accomplished through a contract with an experienced communicator who has knowledge of environmental issues and of the local community (Melinda Weston). The narrative was accompanied by suggestions for graphics to help convey its key messages. A graphic artist (Simone Bowes) was contracted to develop graphics and an original iteration of the webpage under the supervision of a WasteLess committee member with expertise in website development and design and particularly in communicating complex scientific information in a manner that is easily understood (Chris Clark).
A prototype of the Trashy Textiles webpage was reviewed for accuracy and clarity of messages and revised based on input from committee members. It was then tested in half-hour sessions administered by four committee members with volunteers who were not familiar with the webpage. A test guide was provided for observing and recording the volunteer’s experience in navigating the webpage generally and with specific tasks requested of them. Revisions to the webpage were made based on test results. Footnotes and list of references were standardized and checked for accuracy and accessibility.
Principles of sustainable web design were applied in development of the page. The graphics are mostly inline SVGs, keeping the image file sizes small and reducing the number of network requests. The site is also hosted with GreenGeeks, which offers hosting powered by renewable energy.
The Trashy Textiles section of the Wasteless website launched on November 3, 2021. The site launch was promoted using a combination of social media combined with a press release to the local media market.
Local media in the Lethbridge market picked up the press release of the launch across multiple formats, including television, radio and online outlets including CJOC, Global News, Bridge City News, Lethbridge Herald and My Lethbridge Now.
On social media, the website launch was promoted primarily through Facebook and Instagram. In the first week, seven posts were made across the two sites, resulting in a reach of 3682 people on Facebook with 379 engagements and 741 people on Instagram with 50 engagements. In addition, 121 people viewed our Instagram story for the website.
For the month of November, website stats indicate that the Wasteless website received 969 unique page views.
Statistics can’t tell the entire story of the success of the Trashy Textiles webpage. We received numerous comments and feedback from individuals who had visited the page, many of whom had taken the content to heart.
“Awesome! I’m proud to say my T-shirts and pants last 10 to 20 years, a few to 30 years! And I change into “work clothes” when I work outside and back into “inside clothes” when I am done. I also wear an apron when I cook and even put a napkin under my chin when I eat because something always falls on a new shirt right away. Grr. Old shirts and pants turn into rags and jeans are donated to quilters if I can find them.”
“Excellent messages and taken to heart. I lost 30 lbs over the first covid year, and had to get some new clothing that fit – and I did donate good used clothing to the local Share Shop and to Value Village in Lethbridge, but really, the most important step is simply reduce. The Fashion industry does have a lot of work to do to address this issue – and GHG emissions are central to this huge concern. Anyways, the website is effective – simple, straight-forward – and needed.”
“Hey, this is really good. Interestingly, lots of trashed textiles end up in Africa. I see them for sale on clotheslines. I love the old T shirts especially, so not Mozambique (as in Houston Rocks etc.). Then jeans are next, all kinds including bell bottoms and straight legged. From what you say on the website its only 1% that ends up here. Sad commentary on consumerism. FYI. I am convinced that [my daughter] has every outfit she bought since high school. Her closets are bulging but she says, you never know what you might need and rags me for giving away some of my “power suits” from the 80’s.”
“Thanks, terrific site. I like the humour. I’ll share.”
“A delightful website, well done! I will never trash my Teddy, but as we don’t have a dryer and hang all our clothes up to dry, they last forever. Plus, as you know, we are NOT fashion mavens! It is unfortunate that scale, technology and economics has not yet enabled true recycling of old clothes. As and when and if this happens it could be a game changer.”
“Good information. I forwarded to some family and friends who are interested in this topic.”
Efforts to continue to promote the Trashy Textiles website will continue into 2022 and as the website has only been live for less than a month, we expect these metrics to increase.
Website Development – Chris Clark, Assistant Professor of New Media, University of Lethbridge
Web Design and Graphic Art – Simone Bowes (BFA New Media ‘20)
Narrative – Melinda Weston
Members of the Environment Lethbridge WasteLess Committee – Kathleen Sheppard (Executive Director), Cheryl Bradley (Chair), Braum Barber, Michael Bartz, Leslie Burke, Lorne Fitch, Erin Hanrahan, Annette Kerpel, Brooklyn Kolb, Hannah Lee, Nancy Lee, Nichole Robinson, Kevyn Sander, Alex Singbeil