COOL CLASSES: “Industry and the Environment: Understanding Environmental Responses within the Textile Industry”

This environmental studies class, which is part of a Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives project this semester, broadly examines how the environment is impacted by the textile industry.

Class name: Industry and the Environment: Understanding Environmental Responses within the Textile Industry

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Elisabeth Evans


Here’s what Evans has to say about her course:

ENVS218 is a course that broadly examines how the environment is impacted by the textile industry. Over the semester, we analyze standard processes used to manufacture fabrics from generating natural and synthetic fibers through fabric dyeing and finishing. As we better understand the heavy demands on natural resources and toxic industrial waste products generated at each step, we, in parallel, learn about industrial innovators trying to transform the textile industry to implement sustainable practices.

As part of a Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives (PACC) project, we are fortunate to be working with partners through which we can engage in additional conversations around the balance between environmental, societal, and historic economic forces involved fast fashion. Specifically, we are working with Rational Dress Society, an experimental artist collective that actualizes projects on counter-fashion, and Hidden City Philadelphia, a public history and journalism nonprofit organization that focuses on engaging Philadelphia citizens in issues related to the built environment.

I have always been fascinated by factory tours in which a consumer gets to visualize typically invisible complex sequences of processes and specialized machinery used to create a product. Because of this, the topic and industry of textiles was particularly interesting to me given that clothes are something that most everyone is simultaneously intimately familiar with due to their utility in everyday life, but also largely uninformed about the applied science, unseen processes, and skilled people involved in manufacturing our clothes.

The course idea seemed like a natural fit for the new environmental studies major at the Bi-Co, given both the extensive global environmental implications of the textile industry and also the access to many incredible archives, sites, and local experts that exist in Philadelphia, which has a long history as a leader in the textiles trades. With these local resources, we are afforded the opportunity to connect traditional classroom learning with hands-on demonstrations. In addition to discussing primary and industry literature about various textile-manufacturing processes, students will participate in workshops on weaving, dyeing, and printing.

Photos of the jumpsuit workshop with Rational Dress Society by Arshiya Bhayana ’22.

Photos of a class trip to historical manufacturing sites in Philly including Globe Dye Works and the Harrowgate neighborhood by Alexandra Iglesia ’21.


See what other courses the Bi-Co Department of Environmental Studies is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience.