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.

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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?

5 comments:

  1. jean-Pierre Antonio10:27 PM

    Take your twelve year old on a trip to a place where people are not so spoiled for choice. Take her to India or Nepal and show her how some people still make their own cloth and then dye it and then turn it nto a garment. If that doesn't work, nothing will.

    Good luck with the wedding! It's this weekend, isn't it?

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  2. Those fashion websites for kids drive me nuts. What's worse, the girly fashion sites or the war-driven games aimed at boys?

    Is your wedding this weekend? I wish you all the best!

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  3. Jacquie4:14 PM

    Although my daughter (also newly turned twelve) doesn't seem to care about name-brands or magazine/web fashions yet, we entered a new phase this weekend when I tried on the dress and shoes I was planning to wear to a friend's wedding, and my daughter stated with a scornful laugh, "Those are really old-fashioned. When did you buy them, thirty years ago?"

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  4. I always buy second hand clothes. I used to never buy second hand shoes but I even do that now given the trials of shoe shops, though I prefer to reheel and repair to be honest.

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  5. hi there, loving reading your blog today, and your bit about fashion is right were im at...in my latest flickr pics i am wearing a dress i got from freecycle.org along with a bag of chopped up wadding bits that some one had listed. she gave me the clothes as a by-the-buy, you like fabric too, and i have cut up one dress to make things for my twins, bit one dress and a skirt look good on me :-)
    i have a 9 year old and so far im lucky, she is as excited by a 'new' black bag of cast offs as i am, and when i take her into town for some thing needed we do all the charity shops. will she continue to be as greatful as me for good used cothes that can be pretty, or will she change with peer pressure and become like all 12 year olds? mind you, if she did say to me she had nothing to wear i'd pull out one draw and say, look , 3 pairs of trousers and 2 of shorts!
    blessings, and congrats on your marriage xxxxxxxxxxx cat xxx

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