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Ryerson University could one day see sustainable campus wear hit its shelves.
That’s according to a group of senior-year environment and urban sustainability (EUS) students, who said seeing their capstone project one day become a reality would be “extremely exciting.”
Yasmin Singh, a fourth-year EUS student, said it could be a long time coming for the university.
“We go to Ryerson, and we know our campus the best. We know what needs to be changed,” she told the Ryersonian.
Singh is a member of a group of five EUS students enrolled in the EUS801 course, co-taught by geography professors David Atkinson and Claire Oswald.
Though the idea of pitching locally-produced, single-fibre T-shirts initially began in class, Singh and her groupmates are excited for the opportunity it may present to work with other students outside of the classroom.
“We are hoping to collaborate with fashion students as well,” said Pravina Palanisany, one of Singh’s colleagues, who is also in her fourth year of the program.
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Unlike most T-shirts on the market, which are often used once and discarded, the group is hoping to pitch single-fibre clothing, which is reusable and recyclable. It can be broken down more easily since it is not a mix of materials.
So rather than following a linear process of usage where the consumer wears a T-shirt for a day and it remains a T-shirt, sustainable wear has a circular lifespan, meaning that same piece of Rye-labelled clothing could be broken down and used as a tablecloth the following week.
Discovering that much of the clothing found in stores today is linear was surprising, said Singh as she reflected on the group’s research. “We just always thought it would go round and round. It helps us validate why we should be implementing more sustainable clothing.”
Keeping the manufacturing process as local as possible is also important to the group. They hope to purchase the single-fibre material from Toronto, keeping the stitching and printing process in the city as well. They have already organized initial talks with a Toronto-based sustainable clothing manufacturing company.
After doing more research by speaking with stakeholders – including campus store director Kelly Abraham and geography professor Michal Bardecki – the group surveyed students to gauge the demand and concerns of their peers.
Among the most common – but unsurprising – concern was cost.
“We pretty much knew that most people would think that it would be expensive,” said Palanisany.
She added that an important part of the project would involve the group educating students that the T-shirts don’t “have to be expensive just because it says eco-friendly.
“It all starts with educating and the marketing aspect.”
For Palanisany, the driving motivator is the transparency about what sits on the shelf.
Like Singh, she admits that “there is no way we can be 100 per cent eco-friendly. But we want to stress that we are transparent about our product.”
Should their plan be successful, the group hopes to attach label cards to the T-shirts that identify the manufacturer and its single-fibre material.
“I’m sure every person wants to represent their university, so why not just have it come from a good place?”
Singh admits that the group’s pitch is ambitious but important. “We do understand that there is more than one or two aspects to sustainability, and we can’t accomplish all that in the production of the T-shirts,” she said.
But the group hopes to stand out in terms of the quality of their shirts. “I’m pretty sure you’ve bought clothes and they shrink literally in the drier,” Singh said, adding that she hopes students will see the value in paying more for something that lasts longer.
The group is still working to finalize a design.
They wrapped up their presentation to their class and professors in mid-April, and plan to work on the project throughout the summer and into the new school year.