Becky Migas of Women in Sustainability (WIS)
is thinking about how our clothing choices affect the planet, and she wants to help others learn what it means to be environmentally aware in our clothing choices. “Fashion is where people talk the most about sustainability,” she says. “How do we think about the clothes we wear, and what happens in their lifecycle? There is so much waste in our landfills from the fashion industry."
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 13 million tons of clothing and footwear were generated by the fashion industry when last measured, in 2018. Of that, only 1.7 million tons were recycled; the majority ended up in landfills.
To Migas, fashion is the perfect gateway to a more sustainable lifestyle. “Fashion is a very tangible thing,” she says. “We wear it every day, and it’s something we can be a part of to promote change. It’s very easy for people to get that connection.”
A Women in Sustainability event.
That’s why WIS is hosting a panel discussion
on Wednesday, March 16, on sustainable fashion and how to create responsible companies. The event will cover topics around the fashion life cycle; creating, sourcing and producing sustainable fashion; and sustainable business best practices from the perspective of a startup business all the way to the corporate level.
Women in Sustainability was formed when Migas partnered with another environmentally minded acquaintance, Beth Birchfield, to host a networking event in 2019 with the hope of building a community to support and empower each other. They were asked to stage more events, so they launched a Facebook group
called Women in Sustainability Colorado that began to grow.
“Beth and I found that we were learning about the sustainability efforts people were doing, and we wanted to share those voices,” says Migas.
Women in Sustainability co-founder Becky Migas.
They had an entire series of events booked for 2020 when the pandemic hit. Like many event planners, they quickly switched to hosting events online, which opened up surprising new doors. “It’s been a way for us to connect like we never imagined,” says Migas. “We connected with people all across the United States that we never would have otherwise.”
Pandemic life also allowed for a slower pace and for Migas to take the time to visualize what she and Birchfield wanted WIS to be. “We realized the community was there," she says. "We wanted to create an organization that can create change.” The Facebook group led to a website, and WIS became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization last year.
This year marks the launch of a new membership program
. The combination of being a nonprofit and a membership group is designed to make involvement as accessible as possible. “There have been so many groups I’ve wanted to join over the years, but I couldn’t afford them,” says Migas. “We want to keep membership costs low so everyone can join. The nonprofit status provides funding so it’s not all on our members. We can apply for grants and have opportunities for sponsorships.”
A Women in Sustainability event.
A big part of WIS is inclusivity; that includes all voices — and men, too, despite the organization's name. “Everybody is welcome, and we want everyone to feel safe in our space," Migas says. "We also look at inclusivity in terms of industry. We want all industries to be able to sit around a table together and have conversations on how we can systematically create change.”
WIS is guided by four pillars: community, advocacy, resources and education. But for Migas, the most important is community. “People always come first," she says. "We want to find ways to care for the people who care for the planet. What do they need in order to do their jobs? We can create a better future when we put people first and recognize that the environment, the economy and social justice are all at the heart of it. It’s that hierarchy of needs. When people have their needs met, they have better opportunities to care for the planet.”
Migas says the Facebook group page remains a very active place for the community to have conversations and share information. “We see a lot of posts about fashion and people asking questions about how to responsibly dispose of things, or how can they just do better. Fashion is a subject of interest to a lot of people, so it’s important for us to talk about it.”
She says she hopes the upcoming event will leave people feeling that it’s possible to incorporate sustainability into their business, whether it’s a business they own, or one that they work at where they can partner with their bosses. “We’re excited to be part of the conversation and help people think about sustainability through fashion and what they’re doing in their everyday lives,” she concludes.
Women in Sustainable Fashion Panel Discussion, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, Mothership Boulder, 3450 Penrose Place, Suite 250, Boulder. Find tickets, $40, and more information at womeninsustainability.org.