The Regional Fiber Manufacturing Initiative (RFMI) is developing a manufacturing system to regionalize the production of textiles, support local economies, and contribute to climate solutions.
The RFMI is:
- Engaging experts to identify and address the gaps and design solutions for regional infrastructure to support producers and brands
- Securing capital and resources for existing supply chain partners
- Identifying and cultivating supply chain entrepreneurs by offering technical assistance in the fields of engineering and finance
- Attracting and providing tailored education to aligned individuals, family offices, and investor groups who are interested in supporting a regional fiber manufacturing ecosystem
The initiative is led by a stewardship committee and chiefs of staff, and informed by five committees of local and international experts to focus on core issues of:
- Material Production, from soil to fiber
- Manufacturing, from fiber to fabric
- Consumer Connections, from fabric to wearer
- Business Services, providing enterprise and legal support
- Equity and Justice, highlighting levers for change throughout the soil-to-soil cycle
Since its launch in early 2020 the RFMI has:
- Mapped the ecosystem of fiber and textile manufacturing in the Western US, and published our findings that identify where capacity exists and where it does not
- Explored and highlighted case studies of how regional cooperative networks to reshape the textile industry
- Developed a database of 35+ investable fiber opportunities in the Western US
- Prioritized investable opportunities based on business viability, entrepreneur fit, environmental impact, and manufacturing impact
- Initiated support for three promising textile entrepreneurs offering critical services for the farming and ranching community
- Created its committee structure and enrolled committee members
The RFMI steering committee developed a grounded understanding of the existing textile ecosystem in the Western US, focusing on the supply and processing of wool, cotton, and bast fibers, as well as natural dyes, hides and leather.
Then, the team outlined the footprint and scale of existing facilities, capabilities, and any plans to expand. From there, the RFMI was able to highlight specific gaps in regional infrastructure across the Western US that affect existing enterprises and create a reliance on outside processors.
Based on interviews and stakeholder engagement, the RFMI has identified many opportunities for building soil-to-soil systems in the West. We can design near-term solutions to close the current gaps for early stage processing of wool and bast fibers, as shown above. Note that the summary does not include leather: hide tanning (including sheep, goat, cow, and deer) exists at industrial scale, however natural tanning only exists at the artisanal level.
To dive deeper into the RFMI ecosystem mapping process and findings, read the full article on our blog.
To learn more about how fiber becomes fabric, download our illustrated guide to fiber processing from field to finished product.
Moving atmospheric carbon into our soil at measurable rates is essential to solving the climate crises. This is the urgent responsibility of our generation.
For carbon drawdown benefits to make a significant impact on our global emissions budget, we have to thoughtfully design how and where we will process the fiber that is grown on carbon farming landscapes.
During Fibershed’s 2013 collaboration with the Silver Lab at UC Berkeley, we analyzed every part of growing and making a wool shirt in seven different scenarios. Every facet of regionalizing the supply chain made a considerable difference on the footprint of the shirt.
Through the Life Cycle Assessment we discovered what it takes to make a “carbon negative garment”:
- Sinking carbon through agricultural practices on fiber-producing landscapes must be paired with shortening the distance traveled in supply chains
- Manufacturing and processing mills must operate off of renewable energy
- Workers need housing that allows them to live within walking or biking distance from their livelihood
The big picture from all of this data gathering and number crunching won’t surprise most of you. We are far from the first organization to spell this out. We stand on the shoulders of community organizers and local economy visionaries around the globe.
We share in the knowledge that creating local textile cultures is the responsible direction. And yet, it’s an uphill battle to reclaim textile sovereignty within our current culture and economic system that prioritizes cheap labor at any cost.
To regionalize our fiber system, we need finely crafted business models that are operationalized by a trained and diligent workforce. This is the work that the Regional Fiber Manufacturing Initiative will organize and nourish.
The goods that we consume create a higher carbon footprint than the energy it takes to build, supply power to, and move people around in our towns and cities. This means that addressing the rate of consumption and consumption choices are both critical tasks in tackling the climate crisis.
The City of Oakland, California, was the first in the country to analyze consumption emissions, and we see this as a growing and necessary trend for cities and suburbs across the country.