Rebecca Burgess, Founder, Fibershed
Fibershed received a $30,000 grant from the RSF Local Initiatives Fund to conduct a six-month study to assess the operational and market viability of a Northern California wool mill.
I started Fibershed in response to travels in Southeast Asia in the mid-2000s. Viewing the supply chains that are responsible for creating the clothing that we import into the United States and observing the impacts – fresh water pollution and labor abuses in production facilities – was a devastating wake-up. In contrast, I observed villages in Laos, Northern Thailand, and Vietnam that were still using traditional cloth creation processes.
And, it was in these small villages where I observed multi-generational families thriving, children being afforded the opportunity to go to school with the earnings that were paid directly to the weavers for their textiles, and clean and abundant water sources that were stewarded by these communities. The contrast between the effects of industrial global capitalism and the longstanding textile traditions of indigenous communities was stark.
Fibershed is a response to the human and environmental exploitation in the apparel supply chain. Its purpose is to bring the means of production in proximity to those who wear, just as the food movement is a response to industrial agriculture that invites us to get up close and personal to that which we eat. We are trying to build a regenerative fiber system starting with the soil by working with ranchers and farmers to produce wool using environmentally beneficial methods, and by developing a regional value chain, so that our natural fibers are washed and prepared within our own state.
Working with a mission-aligned financial partner like RSF is incredibly important to me. For me, RSF stands for a “right relationship with money.” For this “right relationship” to be the norm we have to develop an economy that has its feet on the ground and understands where true success derives from – balance, equity, and parity. Biological systems thrive when these conditions exist, and thus, so do economies. RSF has been an instrumental guide in helping usher in the regenerative fiber economy through hands-on consulting and financial support from the RSF Local Initiatives Fund. For me, financial support is more than dollars, it can also be an invitation to collaborate and guide.