Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals with Making Amends

Illustrations by Elianna Pannakis and Abbey Lehr 

Written by Parker Lynas, Vianey Sierra, Abbey Lehr and Diego Allison 

The Sustainable Development Goals are outlined by the United Nations to “achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.” The fashion industry has the opportunity to directly contribute to reaching these goals by improving the expansive systems they have in place, such as supply chain management, manufacturing processes and material sourcing¹. Through the various upcycling activities we facilitate, the Making Amends initiative aims to address several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

The Making Amends initiative addresses goal 12 of responsible consumption and production by encouraging and facilitating the slow, collaborative upcycling process; goal 10 of reduced inequalities by providing the physical and digital tools to all students who participate in the initiative; goal 11 of sustainable cities and communities by connecting the local UT community together to explore methods of sustainable fashion design; and goal 13 of climate action by reducing our carbon footprint through sourcing second-hand materials, garments and delivering student materials via bike. 

The fashion industry is consistently ranked one of the top polluting industries, comparable to the energy industry. The industry is the second largest consumer of freshwater in the world and leaves behind anywhere from 17% to 20% of water pollution². Through dyeing, agricultural increases and energy expenses, fashion continually abuses the resources of developing communities in order to undercut sustainable options in countries like the U.S. Environmental concerns don’t stop at water however, cotton makes up only 2.5% of arable land, but uses 16% of global insecticides and utilizes nitrate fertilizers responsible for the annual increase in nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases³. Making Amends offers students who are conscious consumers the means to express their style and creativity without being reliant on the fashion industry’s environmental harm.

Making Amends enables participants to address the above issues by providing students with the digital and physical tools to participate in the collaborative process. Garment donations from our dorm donation drives and sewing tools from Austin Creative Reuse are packed into upcycling kits for participants to check out. Once the kit is received, students will be able to complete a step in giving these old garments a new life. To compliment this process, we have developed an online generator to help inspire our participants and their new designs. The online generator dissects fashion expectations and inspires students to create innovative combinations and silhouettes. 

When participating in the initiative, collaborators will have the opportunity to experiment with various upcycling techniques such as patchwork, dyeing, stamping and embroidery. We hope that by exploring these upcycling processes, collaborators will be inspired to implement these zero-waste and circular design practices into their own life. Now, more than ever, individual actions like these are needed to make collective and systemic change in the fashion industry. 

Small efforts for sustainability within your home or community make a lasting cultural impact within society and creates the foundations for a more eco-conscious society. Sign up for our newsletter today to learn more.

¹ United Nations – Sustainable Development Goals

² Textile dyeing industry an environmental hazard – Rita Kant

³ The Risks of Cotton Farming – Organic Cotton

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