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The north textile industry, the ideal network for inventing sustainable and responsible fashion (France)


Article 19-25 years

By Justine Prados

Textiles are the second largest polluter in the world with 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year. Almost everywhere, we are trying to make this industry more ethical. Through its industrial past, the north of France is a particularly fertile ground for rethinking textiles in a sustainable way.


In Roubaix, the old red brick factories line the streets of the Épeule district. Witnesses to the industrial past of what was called "the city of a thousand chimneys", some of them seem to have been abandoned for years. But at 139 rue des Arts, the former headquarters of François Roussel weavings, textiles are still at the core of activities.


In building C, you have to climb to the first floor using large steel stairs to access the Fertile Plateau. It is the third place installed in the last two years by Fashion Green Hub. Created in 2015, this association is an exchange network between fashion professionals around questions of ethical and sustainable fashion.


Coralie Vancoppenolle is the facilitator of the Plateau Fertile: "The idea of the third place is to have a concrete space to share resources, to think together ... but not only to reflect, to be able to create too!" In the upcycling workshop, the monotonous noise of the sewing machines drowns out the conversations of the seamstresses. They produce pieces from scraps of fabric and unsold items collected from partner brands such as Auchan or Blancheporte. On the other side of the door, a large space clad in metal beams welcomes the designer-residents. Big 3D printers are waiting to be started.

Since 2015, Fashion Green Hub has been the driving force behind sustainable fashion in the North. ©Justine Prados

Since 2015, Fashion Green Hub has been the driving force behind sustainable fashion in the North. ©Justine Prados

Today, Fashion Green Hub has more than 250 partners and plans to expand internationally, but the association remains firmly established in the North. The choice of Roubaix is anything but trivial. Historical capital of the mesh, the city underwent painful deindustrialization during the second part of the twentieth century. For Arielle Levy, vice-president and co-founder of Fashion Green Hub, this trauma has forged great resilience in the territory. “It just made sense: there was this textile ecosystem that had already suffered and that made it the perfect place to invent new models,” she says.


           When local and eco-responsible go hand in hand


Today, the Union of Textiles & Clothing Industries (UITH) of the North estimates that the textile industry employs 14,000 people in the department. This is 10 times less "than in the middle of the 20th century”. But in recent years, local and responsible production has become a differentiating factor in the face of competition from Asian giants. To guarantee this added value, UITH Nord created the “Nord Terre Textile” label in 2014. Regional variation of the “France Terre Textile” label, it certifies that at least 75% of the manufacturing steps of a product are carried out in approved local companies.


"We want to remind you that French manufacturing is much more virtuous than imported manufacturing," says Christelle Perz, head of economic development at UITH Nord. Today, local manufacturing halves the carbon footprint of textiles compared to production in China. This is the conclusion of a survey² carried out in December 2020 by the eco-design expert firm Cycleco for the ITU³.

Campaign carried out by the Union des Industries Textiles to promote local production. © ITU

Campaign carried out by the Union des Industries Textiles to promote local production. © ITU

Today, only 25 companies are labeled "Nord Terre Textile". But this certification is enjoying growing success according to Christelle Perz. “We have more and more requests. Above all, we have noticed that the companies that have best resisted the Covid are those that make made in France with locally sourced products”. For her, the great strength of the region is to benefit from an almost complete textile industry: designers, manufacturers, associations, research centers, training of textile engineers.


An observation widely shared by Loïc Baert, Managing Director of Lemahieu. This family business founded in 1947 manufactures eco-responsible underwear in Saint-André-lez-Lille. "What makes the difference is that everything is made on site, so you don't depend on other players," he says.


The company suffered the full brunt of the dismantling of the industry in the mid-1960s in the North. But if she survived, it was thanks to this local fiber. Labeled Nord Terre Textile, Lemahieu now has 130 employees. This is 40 more than in 2018, when Loïc Baert and his partner Martin Breuvart took over Lemahieu. “There is a real dynamic of relocation of production, we notice a big tension on the recruitment market for seamstresses”, details Loïc Baert.

At Fashion Green Hub, seamstresses use scraps of fabric for upcycling. © Justine Prados

At Fashion Green Hub, seamstresses use scraps of fabric for upcycling. © Justine Prados

But the North is not just a breeding ground for small textile companies. It is also the birthplace of many large brands: La Redoute, Kiabi and Blancheporte. For these big, well-oiled machines, the shift to responsible production is often more difficult. It is through research that they advance in this process.


           Towards innovation for sustainable fashion


In Tourcoing, the European Center for Innovative Textiles (CETI) opened in 2012. Its ambition: to support professionals in the sector towards sustainability. In the fall of 2020, CETI collaborated with the Okaïdi brand on a series of cotton t-shirts made from 60% recycled fibers (and 40% from organic farming). CETI carried out the tests and invested in the unraveling machine to recycle cotton. The goal: to assess the effectiveness of a solution before it is transferred to companies for industrial use. “Businesses want to improve environmentally, but innovation is always risky. CETI takes this risk for them and helps them move forward” analyzes Marie-Pierre Chapuis, head of operational marketing at CETI.


The presence of CETI stimulates the search for sustainability for the entire sector in the North. The research center, unique in Europe, is funded by several local institutional players (the European Metropolis of Lille, the Nord department, the Hauts-de-France region). "There is a desire on the part of the public authorities to highlight the region's textile expertise and to bring it back to life through innovation," said Marie-Pierre Chapuis.


Although far from being successful, this dynamic of responsible relocation has the merit of existing. “Two years ago, we would never have put together big and small actors. Today, it is clear that the entire value chain is being reorganized locally in the service of the same vision” summarizes Arielle Levy of Fashion Green Hub.


Creating new possibilities: this is the challenge of the textile industry today. The local level makes it possible to reconnect the players in the sector to jointly rethink production methods. The North is the ideal example of a territory that uses its strengths for the benefit of responsible values. And it could, perhaps, inspire other regions to dust off their industrial sectors and invest in sustainable restructuring.



¹ INA, “ Crises and changes in the textile sector in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region ”, April 16th 1965, <>

² Payet, J. (2021). Assessment of the Carbon Footprint for the textile sector in France using Life Cycle Assessment. Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050; CODEN: SUSTDE). MDPI publisher. Date of submission : January 13th 2021, <>

³ Union of Textile Industries, “Manufacturing in France halves the carbon footprint of textiles while supporting employment”, January 28th 2021, <>

© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 19-25 years

1st Place
Title: The north textile industry, the ideal network for inventing sustainable and responsible fashion
Country: France

2nd Place
Title: Villages at the foot of Luštek landfill inspire the whole Slovakia
Country: Slovakia

Honourable mentions
Title: “Moulay ali natural bathes” ... a natural healing water source that is not rationally used to support the community development of “awlad Stoute”
Country: Morocco

Title: Montijo: An Option For The Future Or An Announced Crime?
Country: Portugal

Avian inhabitants of the housing estates (Slovakia)


Article 15-18 years

Authors: Ella Radimská and Júlia Noščáková

In the last decade, the conditions in urban ecosystems have changed significantly and several bird species have suffered. Not only are species in the wild disappearing, but species living in cities are also under threat. It was confirmed by the Report on the Status of Birds in Slovakia (1), according to which the number of White-tailed Godwits has declined by 100 000 pairs in six years.

The decline in bird numbers is linked to human activity. People living in housing estates want to live more comfortably and so they are changing their dwellings and surroundings. As birds need a stable environment, dynamically changing landscape and destruction of ecosystems are causing life-threatening problems for them.


Pupils of the Narnia Church Elementary School in the Bratislava housing estate have also noticed it. They decided to investigate the causes and make changes to the situation in their environment. With the help of experts, František Cimerman from NGO Živica and environmentalist Tomáš Kušík, they looked for answers and took steps to change the situation. 

One of the reasons for the dwindling number of birds on housing estates is the lack of cavities to build nests in. "Cavity nesters have the 'disadvantage' that if no one creates a cavity for them, they have nowhere to nest. The same is true if someone destroys or closes their cavity. Therefore, those species that almost exclusively nest in cities on buildings - the common swift, the souse sparrow and the common house martin - suffer greatly when buildings are renovated. Common swift and house sparrows lost all their nests when building were insulated - so they have disappeared. Fortunately, bird-sensitive insulation of buildings has been largely successful in Slovakia with our project Protecting Common Swift and Bats in Slovak Cities. With the passage of time, we are even more aware of its uniqueness, because nowhere in the world has anything similar been implemented on such a systemic scale," says Kušík.

Another threat to birds is also increasing light pollution, which disrupts their life cycle, changes their behavior, orientation in space, and migration routes. Housing estates are illuminated all night, including sidewalks, high-rise buildings and parks. Increasing noise levels also has a negative impact on the behavior and life of birds.

In the construction of new buildings, there is again a problem with façades - inappropriate forms of insulation or large glass panes. Birds crashing into the glazed parts of buildings usually result in mortality, and this is a huge problem that requires a targeted and systemic solution.

The clearing of lawns and the disposal of bio-matter (grass clippings, leaves, branches and shrubs) outside housing estates cause food shortages. "This is, among other things, a problem from the point of view of pollinators (which are also food for birds), which do not have enough flowers - nectar and pollen - on the frequently mown grass. This again reduces the biodiversity of the environment and, in addition, the fuel burned for mowing increases the carbon footprint," Kušik stated.

Other species are bothered by the clearing of shrubs, or the destruction of trees and bird nesting sites. For example, the common magpie, the hooded crow, the rook, the eurasian collared dove , the common wood pigeon, the common kestrel, the common blackbird, the long-eared owl, the mallard duck, the goldfinch, the nightingale and others build nests to survive.


Fourth-grade pupils from the Narnia school decided to take action. With Eco-Schools expert F. Cimerman, they created a plan to restore a housing estate's biodiversity and began to implement it. They also presented the plan to the Mayor, Matúš Valo, and received financial support for its implementation from the City of Bratislava's Children's program.

A dark corner with trees was equipped with student-made nesting boxes. In winter, they stocked the bird feeders with a mixture of food from different types of sunflowers seeds. They only added seeds when the feeder was empty. They learned that the plastic feed nets sold in stores for hanging on trees were a common trap for birds, in which they would get tangled, and die. Therefore they hung apples from the trees as a natural food source. They planted herb beds and shrubs with berries edible for humans as well as birds. They are turning part of the lawn into a meadow.

Thanks to the efforts of the students, birds have gotten used to finding food in bird feeders in winter, and are now nesting here.


There are many ways to support bird life in the city. Peter Lipovský, a practical nature conservation expert from BROZ (Bratislava Regional Conservation Association), praised the initiative of the pupils and added further advice: "Birds need to be provided with sufficient nesting places - birdhouses, rarely mown meadow areas and proper feed. There are many examples of good practices in Bratislava - for example, Karlova Ves, where thousands of bird houses have been installed in the facades of houses. There are also meadow areas, which are mowed only twice a year. The situation is getting better in other districts of Bratislava, towns and villages in Slovakia, too. The ideal situation would be if the local governments would deal with this issue on their own and not expect someone to do it for them."

The pupils' project is also supported by parents, the school and residents. They all appreciate the return of the birds to the environment. With their children, they have watched students feeding the birds and hanging their birdhouses. One of the mothers living in the housing estate described it this way: "It is very nice to be able to watch the birds at the bird feeders when we stayed at home. Our movement to the countryside was limited and the morning birdsong that we now hear every day in the housing estates makes everyone happy. It improves the mood and helps relieve the stress of the pandemic."  

Wildlife-friendly school garden. The untended lawn increases biodiversity, and provides food and shelter for insects. Photo by Ľubica Noščáková

Invitation accepted. Birds nesting in prepared safe places. These are three-week-old Black Birds just before leaving their nest. Photo by Júlia Noščáková

Feeder with fruit. A feeder on school premises during winter. Photo by Ľubica Noščáková


1) Stav ochrany vtáctva na Slovensku v rokoch 2013-18 (State of Bird Protection), published by Štátna ochrana prírody (Nature Conservation state authority) in 2020, ISBN: 978 – 80 – 8184 – 084 – 5

© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 15-18 years

1st Place
Title: Avian inhabitants of the housing estates
Country: Slovakia

2nd Place (shared)
Title: Construction waste and dangerous waste – here on our backyard
Country: Israel

Title: Turning off the lights at night
Country: Switzerland

Shimmering Dust (Latvia)

Article 11-14 years

By Darja Skripkina (10), Latvia.

Photo: LETA, Ieva Leiniša

Photo: LETA, Ieva Leiniša

Fireworks usually associated with celebrations. People organize fireworks at weddings, birthdays, but cities use them to attract people to street events. However, it is essential to understand the impact of fireworks on the environment and the awareness of the Latvian citizens.

Over the past two years, the need for fireworks in Latvia has been topical, and the possibility of refusing fireworks at the state or local government level has been discussed. The public began to think about the value of fireworks and the benefits of a short moment of joy. Also, important worry is the impact on public health and the environment. In 2019, the initiative "For Holidays without Fireworks" was published on the portal [14] This petition may start a new tradition of celebrating Latvian holidays.

The Story and Promotion of the Initiative

“The first reason for beginning this initiative was the idea that during holidays we spend so much money on entertainment and forgetting that this money could serve other social purposes, such as charity” — said Maija Priedite, author of the petition "For Holidays without Fireworks". 

At the end of 2019, she called society to support the idea of completely banning the spending of taxpayers money on fireworks. In February 2021, the initiative has already been supported by more than 12,000 residents. 

Answering the question about her contribution to the promotion of the idea, Maija admits: 

“I didn`t do much. I posted the information on my personal social network Facebook profile, but it didn't get any publicity. At the end of 2019, when the initiative was published on everything happened by itself. Now petition is being considered by the parliament of the Republic of Latvia”. [17]

The Dark Side of the Shimmer

Even without considering the social aspects of fireworks, it is clear that together with radiant beauty, fireworks negatively affect the environment. It impacts the air, water, soil and people health, as heavy metals, other toxic chemicals and dust particles enter the environment during fireworks (Figure 1). [4][5][6][7]

Figure 1 Environmental pollution resulting from the use of fireworks

Figure 1 Environmental pollution resulting from the use of fireworks

Dust particles damage the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During holidays, the concentration of these substances in large cities is more than ten times higher than the norm. [8] Also, there are other reasons for avoiding the fireworks during the holidays, such as:

1.    animals, including pets, are frightened and do not know where to go at this time; [8][10][11]

2.    pyrotechnic explosions in the atmosphere lead to carbon dioxide emissions, for example, in the United States on Independence Day, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions can be equated to the amount during forest fires on 1093 hectares of land; [8]

3.    safety — despite the popularity of pyrotechnics, these products can cause various injuries. [8][10]

The opposite opinion and readiness of the society to change

In February 2019, the residents of Riga were asked to express their attitude to the need for fireworks at state and city festivals in Riga. The survey data shows that the majority (72%) of respondents supported the fireworks in Riga. Critical attitude to the organization of fireworks was expressed by 24% of the study participants (including the answer "categorically do not support" was noted by 9%). [15]

In turn, representatives of the pyrotechnics industry note that both in terms of environmental impact and for financial reasons, it is still too early to abandon fireworks. [14] During the consideration of the initiative “For holidays without fireworks”, it was reported that festival fireworks cost a citizen of Riga 0.15 euros per year per person. Also, there are no cases of inpatient injuries in hospitals over the past 2-3 years, and environmental pollution is not even comparable to the pollution of mineral fertilizers during the cultivation of flowers. [17]

Classmates didn`t participate in the Riga city survey. Therefore, it was decided to run a survey to determine their attitude to the need for fireworks. The survey involved 17 respondents, most of whom (70.6%) support fireworks (Figure 2). Its means that the opinions of classmates and adult residents of Riga almost coincide. [16]

Figure 2 Opinion of respondents about the organization of fireworks [16]

Figure 2 Opinion of respondents about the organization of fireworks [16]

Also, during the survey, it was found that 58.8% didn`t even think about the impact of fireworks on the environment. At the same time, it should be noted that 64.7% are ready, and 23.5% may be ready to give up fireworks after learning about their harm. [16] It means that by telling classmates about the negative impact of fireworks on the environment, it is possible to change their attitude. As well, they can tell it further to their families. It can convince people to abandon, for example, private holiday fireworks and thus reduce the harmful effects of fireworks in general.

Are there any alternatives?

Even though environmentally-friendly pyrotechnics are being actively developed today[9], it is rational to think about giving up such a relatively expensive and short-time entertainment in favour of laser performances.

Such multimedia performances can be changed, supplemented, placed in several places so that more people can see them. Laser performances can be accompanied by music, held on the water or in the sky, on buildings or fountains. In addition, in the future it will be possible to use electricity from renewable sources. Even now, about 50% of the electricity produced in Latvia is provided by hydroelectric power plants. [18] In Riga, for example, the International Light festival "Staro Riga" is trendy, and this year Latvian cities were also beautifully decorated with light installations for Christmas (Figure 3). [12][13]

Figure 3 Liepaja "Christmas balloon"

Figure 3 Liepaja "Christmas balloon"

A century ago, a prominent Latvian poet Rainis wrote: "What changes, endures". Times, technologies, people's attitudes are changing. However, some values do not change. One of them — the well-being and health of our nature. Considering the results of the research, we can conclude that the moment has come when each of us, even a school student, can think and evaluate whether shimmering beauty is so necessary for our holidays.




















© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 11-14 years

1st Place
Title: Shimmering Dust
Country: Latvia

2nd Place
Title: The dark and murky messaging of the major watch brands
Country: Switzerland

3rd Place
Title: What the pandemic packed for us
Country: Slovakia

Honourable Mention
Title: Love protects Sinjajevina
Country: Montenegro