Opportunity Threads is paving the way with environmentally friendly production methods in Southern Appalachia’s traditional textile region. The worker-owned co-op focuses on fair labor, the dignity of workers, and sustainable environmental practices.
Opportunity Threads (OT) is a worker-owned cut and sew cooperative in rural Western North Carolina. As textiles left many southern communities in the late 1990’s, so did manufacturing and employment opportunities. This has required new ideas in the textile industry, and Opportunity Threads is a part of this movement.
Molly Hemstreet, founder/general manager/and a worker-owner, describes how the support of CCHD has been instrumental due to a lack of funders who support worker-owned cooperatives. According to Hemstreet, there is a need for the industry to come back “in a different way,” with both profitability defined differently and a focus on community centeredness and sustainability. They have successfully grown a strong business in an important industry in North Carolina. OT says that, “We are taking the pieces of a puzzle we see in our struggling Appalachian communities and putting them together to create lasting social change: advancing skilled workers, reusing abandoned manufacturing space and restarting idle machines to produce high quality textiles for a burgeoning fair-trade, ‘green’ market.”
OT has a holistic approach and works for a triple bottom line with positive economic, environmental and social impacts for both clients and workers. OT is paving the way with an environmentally friendly method in Southern Appalachia’s traditional textile region. The worker-owned co-op focuses on sustainable production and uses organic cotton and reusable materials. OT strives to be a zero-waste facility. They describe how “this model of worker-ownership has the potential to change the lives of many workers, both native and immigrant, in our region as they build assets and hone skills.” Their emphasis on fair labor, the dignity of workers and sustainable environmental practices supports the renewal of textile work in southern Appalachia in a fair and just way, both for the community and the environment.
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