Social action to promote clothing sustainability: the role of transformative learning in the transition towards sustainability

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Quinn, Lisa
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"Sustainability is a journey, not a destination" is an adage which certainly holds true for those seeking to live a sustainable lifestyle. Perhaps the essential factor inducing and guiding this movement towards a sustainable consciousness is learning. This study explores a select group of individuals’ continuing journey towards a more sustainable way of life, focusing specifically on clothing sustainability. Mezirow’s transformative learning theory provides the theoretical foundation for this exploration, offering an explanation of the learning process underlying these journeys. According to Mezirow’s critics, however, his theory does not adequately delve into the relationship between transformative learning and social action, such as that taken to promote and support sustainability. This research sought not only to understand the learning process in the context of sustainability and the thoughts and actions of those committed to clothing sustainability, but also to bridge the gap between transformations and social action. Thirty-two individuals participated in Phase One of this two-part study, engaging in an interview and a survey. Seventeen of these individuals, those demonstrating either a steady commitment to a sustainable way of life or a strong desire to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, participated in Phase Two, which included a life-grid interview. A small subset of this group also took part in a journaling exercise. Drawing on these data sources, this thesis provides insight into transformative learning, namely the key introductory points for sustainability during the lifespan, the types of experiences triggering learning for sustainability, the essential role of instrumental learning in transformative learning and social action, and the complexity of the frame of reference. It also provides a greater understanding of social action, identifying the variables of social action, the different layers of barriers participants encountered in putting their learning into action, and the vital importance of a strong support network to both learning and action. Finally, this thesis proposes a model for depicting the relationship between transformative learning and social action.
transformative learning, clothing sustainability, sustainable clothing practices, sustainable apparel, sustainable lifestyles, life grid