Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Fashion is Ephemeral, Pollution is Not
This is a picture of baled second hand clothing waiting to be shipped off to a country where need is more important than being up to the minute.
I found the following information on Treehugger - see more through the link on the sidebar. The article talks about a study (life cycle assessment) done in Britain by the Salvation Army (SATCOL), the University College Northampton and Environmental Resources Management. This study:
"calculated energy consumption for 1 tonne of recycled clothing by quantifying the energy, fuels and materials consumption for the year 2000/2001. The major energy consumer within the operation comes from their internal transport system for collection and distribution of donated items and they calculate that the energy required to recycle a tonne as being 1697 kWh, while the energy to create 1 tonne of cotton garments from virgin materials is 66648 kWh and 91508 kWh for a polyester garment. To calculate the net energy savings the study deducts the energy used to reuse or recycle 1 tonne of clothing from the energy used to manufacture it from virgin materials. The astonishing result is that:
The reuse of 1 tonne of polyester garments only uses 1.8% of the energy required for manufacture of these goods from virgin materials and the reuse of 1 tonne of cotton clothing only uses 2.6% of the energy required to manufacture those from virgin materials."
A little bit dense with the verbiage, but the point is clear. Wearable clothing ending up in the landfill is only part of the problem when we discard last year's trendy t-shirts. The other half of the equation is the magnitude of the pollution caused by the manufacture, shipping and retailing of the next new look. And we haven't even mentioned the child labour and human rights violations in third world sweatshops.
So as Wendy Tremayne so succintly put it on Threadbanger; "Fuck fashion." When you need some new duds check out the thrift and vintage stores. Remodel what you already own. And think classic. Think quality.
Easy for me to say. Last night I watched as my step daughter sat transfixed in front of the computer, digitally trying on endless outfits via her new favourite website. This morning she spent an hour and a half trying on different combinations of her own clothes, recently purchased in a birthday money binge. Nothing was right - increasingly frustrated, she ended up saying, "I have nothing to wear!"
She just turned twelve. Little I say or do seems to make a dent in her conviction that being fashionable is the most important thing in life.
Friends tell me this is not uncommon in girls this age. But I know that young people face a highly sophisticated and precisely targeted barrage of marketing. How can we counteract this? Is it even possible?