Some of the most exciting and inventive work in the design world is focused on sustainability. Below, Lydia Baird shares how she and a peer developed the muslin textile composing system on FIT’s campus.
You and Willa Tsokanis ’16 established a textile composting system at FIT. How did you come up with the idea?
I started as a Fashion Design student, and I was very aware of how much muslin was being thrown out. In my textile fibers class, I learned that cotton is biodegradable. The idea just came to me.
Why is composting textiles important?
Can other fabrics besides muslin be composted?
Any cotton fabric can be composted, but a poly cotton wouldn’t fully decompose. I’m doing research with Professor Ajoy Sarkar, and we’re focusing on denim next. We’ll take three types of store-bought jeans, one 100 percent cotton, one with 1 percent spandex, and one eco-friendly denim that’s naturally dyed. We’re sending the results to a lab that will test for toxic chemicals, carbon/nitrogen ratios, salt levels, and nutrients in the soil.
What’s next for the compost project?
I’ve connected with the composting facility on Governor’s Island, and they’ve agreed to do a pilot this spring, two or three times as big as what we did on campus. Expanding textile composting is going to require municipalities to get involved, not just industry.
What did this project teach you?
I’m beginning to understand the connection between chemistry and fashion. I remember taking my first science class at Middlebury College when I was 18. We had to come up with a lab question based on something around us. It was the most dumbfounding thing to me—my education hadn’t taught me to be curious. To realize that science can be creative caused a huge shift in my life.