Rethinking grass and 17 more springtime endeavors for nature-full yards. We can all help biodiversity, starting in our own back yards. Plus, there’s a bit in here about how we got the strange notion that monoculture lawns were desirable in the first place. Let’s go 30×30, and help the world meet its goal of preserving 30 percent of natural habitat by 2030.
Acting on climate change can feel a bit nebulous. It’s hard to know what’s worth the effort. But are now living in exceptional times, and so we need to be exceptional. Here are some tangible ideas for helping, from climate activist and author Bill McKibben, who recently talked to the Outdoor Writers of America. Read about it in our newsletter, Nature Rising, a gathering place where we try to figure out how regular people can help the Earth and one another. https://www.naturerising.world/p/we-are-past-one-tesla-and-one-vegan
Changing clothing habits is an easy fix to 11 environmental calamities
They always find me. Even in a new state, the clothing catalogs have wormed their way into my mailbox, trying to allure me with spring fashions. This deforestation theme of mailers used to drive me crazy. But in the grand scheme of carbon and pollution, it’s not the uninvited catalogs that are the big environmental issue, it’s what we order from them.
Clothes are a surprisingly big player in nature’s woes. A couple of years ago, the United Nations even dubbed fashion an environmental emergency.
Clothes are also something that our singular voices have a lot of power to fix.
The Ugly Side of our Pretty Clothes
Carbon: fashion accounts for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Synthetic materials like polyester and acrylic are especially high-carbon, high-heat manufacturing endeavors (not to mention that synthetics themselves are largely made from petrochemicals). By 2030, polyester is projected to make up almost three quarters of the textiles market, while creating carbon emissions equivalent to the output of two Australias.
Water: cotton crops require a lot of water, like 1,800 gallons for a pair of jeans. The clothing industry is the world’s second-largest user of water, after farming. Just the process of dying uses roughly two billion gallons of water each year. That’s alarming, as towns like Cape Town, Jakarta, São Paulo, Cairo, Beijing, and others are approaching “day zeros,” that moment when residents turn on the tap and nothing comes out.
Pesticides: non-organic cotton crops are problematic, because while they take up just 2.4 percent of farm land, they account for 25 percent of all pesticide use.
Plastic: still, synthetic fibers are probably worse. All of those yoga pants, fleece jackets, and sport-wicking T-shirts are made mostly from virgin plastic, and shed microplastics in the wash, which end up in rivers, oceans, and even raindrops.
Dyes: many dyes are made from harsh chemicals, all souped up with salts, alkalis, and heavy metals used to afffix color to thread. Three quarters of all water used by dye mills becomes undrinkable waste, which gets dumped into rivers, and kills ecosystems.
Pollution: other toxins come from PFAs, or forever chemicals, which are used to make waterproof clothing, softer shoes, stain-resistant carpeting, and a lot of other things that you’d probably rather not know about, like food wrappers. PFAs rise from smokestacks and also get dumped into rivers, where they cause problems for animals and people, like hormone issues (a.k.a. endocrine disruption, which leads to diseases like obesity, cancer, and infertility) and altered DNA in future generations.
Human rights: some of the chemicals used in Indian dye houses are toxic enough to be banned in Europe. Workers are exposed to these. Of course, there’s also the better known array of human-rights abuses and child labor problems rampant in the clothing industry.
Crops: many natural materials come from genetically modified seeds, which are expensive for farmers and are believed to create a host of environmental problems.
Shipping: one T-shirt can be the product of many countries, from the crops, to the processing, weaving, dying, sewing, and ultimately shipping on ocean freighters, before being trucked to a storefront or our front porch. That’s a lot of oil, not to mention the harm that the noise from big ships does to whales and other sea creatures.
Landfills: our used-up clothes degenerate and release greenhouse gases, along with plastic toxins that can leach into the ground for hundreds of years. Worse yet, once the fashion has passed, fast-fashion companies sometimes toss their new clothes straight into the dumpster, before they even hit the shelves.
Animal cruelty: those of us who love the outdoors adore down. But most down is a high-cruelty product. Geese are emotionally sensitive animals. They mate for life. Some down comes from conditions too awful to write about (think bi-monthly live plucking for years).
Towels and bedding: yep, same issue as clothes.
Longevity, A More Fashionable Mindset
Many people are working on industry-scale solutions, like creating biologically inspired dyes, switching the fashion grid to renewables, and using regenerative agriculture and organic crops — all while trying to protect the well-being and incomes of vulnerable garment workers, who are primarily women.
But while they’re working on that, there is a lot we can do — a lot we must do.
Un-fasion: let’s decide shopping is not a hobby. It’s not worth it to buy something just because it’s on sale. If we can jettison our cheap, throwaway mindset, we can focus on buying only the most useful items. This isn’t too hard to do. After all, the latest fashion trends don’t look so cool when we know the ecological nightmare left in their wake.
Buy used: there is real power in used clothing, since the damage has already been done.
Swap: bored with an outfit? Trade it with a friend.
Be gentle: treat clothes as if they are special. Mend them. Wash them gently.
Repurpose: once they’re worn out, turn them into cleaning rags, sew them into produce bags, and let imagination take over.
Start a mend co-op: not everyone is good at sewing, but some of us are, and we can do it for others in our community. The co-op could even be a place to swap clothes and stories with neighbors. This idea is good for more than just wearables. Think furniture and small appliance repair, and libraries of tools, crockpots, weed whackers, and other useful things.
Buy natural: when you do buy new, natural fibers like cotton, hemp, linen, silk, and wool are usually a bit better for nature. If you can afford organic, even better. Also, showing consumer support for regenerative fibers will give incentive to more companies to make that switch.
As for down: some companies are starting to use down sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, which means it’s only plucked once the geese are killed. Other performance companies have come up with vegan-friendly alternatives. If you’re getting rid of a down anything, don’t throw it away. Someone will want to reuse the insides. It’s too precious to waste.
A bit about donations: Unfortunately, a lot of our clothing donations go to the landfill. A good deal of them used to go overseas, where they would be worn again, recycled, or reused as rags and stuffing. But that market has dried up. So, try to find charities that resell clothes locally, and only donate what seems resellable. Better yet, first try giving it to a friend or family member.
More resources:For more about the environmental impacts of the fashion industry, here’s a good article from the BBC, and another from the Washington Post. Vogue has some ideas on fixing dyes. And the climate newsletter Hothouse has some good in-depth coverage as well.
For getting the most out of your clothes, here’s a good one from the Guardian.
Atlas Obscura is even hosting a class on innovative mending ideas. It starts March 10.
Have a great week and keep up the good! And if you like what you just read, one way to speak up for nature is to share it!
I rely entirely on readers to support this newsletter financially. Right now everything is free to read, but if you like what you see, consider a paid subscription to help keep the newsletter, and this girl, going during this pivotal time on Earth.
We are all unknowingly involved in this little explored major Earth problem, but it’s an easy fix. Plus what happens when we speak our minds, the confluence of caribou and TikTok, a quiet Gila, news from the abandoned house project, and more. We hope you’ll join us for our new newsletter, Nature Rising, where we try to figure out how regular people can help Earth.
A lot of people we know are concerned about the state of nature, but not entirely sure if they have the time or know-how to help. If that’s you, then please join us for our newsletter, Nature Rising.
Topics range from finding easy ways to help, to interpreting headlines through a nature lens, to exploring the confluence between nature, climate, equity, and peace. Today’s post is about mini-rewilding for biodiversity, what Biden’s climate day means, and more.
Our beloved adventure mobile that we poured our hearts and souls into has moved to a new home. A wonderful couple originally from the Northeast, bought the Toyota as a shell with insulation and some of the interior wiring completed. The truck was complete and operational, so they packed her up and took her up to the Northeast to finish it to their liking. Karuna and I decided; finally, to move to Colorado. We have been wanting to move here, (Karuna to move back here), for a few years now. We were starting to make plans to make the move back in 2016, looking at a departure in 2017. Well, hurricane Irma nailed us, (story and photos earlier in the blog); and that put a large delay on plans. We decided that we would stay around and rebuild the business. We figured on a couple more years in the Keys and our company would be built up a bit and could be sold for a decent little nest egg to start our next venture out west. We had worked very hard for a solid and very tiring two years getting things in order, and better than ever. Just as we were approaching the time that we were gonna start marketing to sell the company, enter the pandemic. Needless to say, the pandemic removed all possibility of selling the business earnestly but we had to make a decision. Sit in the Keys and pay thousands in rents for our house and our shop while our income vanished; or call it a day, pack up the wagon and move on. We opted for the latter, and here we are in beautiful Colorado.
We sold the business for a song, and officially departed the Keys on the 30th of June, 2020. Two trips to move us and our belongings. As all else in 2020, it was a difficult and exhausting move. Our move consisted of our van breaking down and costing us thousands of dollars, two house purchase attempts falling through, having to rent a 32′ box truck and pull a trailer behind it across the country on the second run, and frantically hauling ass across the Northwest to avoid getting trapped with the forest fires. We were finally completely moved out here with all of our belongings in the middle of July. We then decided to travel around in our van for a bit which largely consisted of us being quarantined from most of society. Supply stops here and there, fuel stops, and the seldom take out food order. We traveled north from Colorado, and we visited Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona for a hot second, and New Mexico. Te pacific Northwest is where we started getting chased by the wildfires and we tried to travel south to Oregon to escape them. Didn’t work, and we ended up sitting on the coast in central Oregon under a veil of fog and smoke. We ran east and then south, finding some clear air in Nevada….. Devastating forest fires have wreaked havoc in the west this year; one of the worst years for forest fire destruction in a very very long time. We landed in Boulder in early September to spend time with family, regroup, re-imagine, and refine our next adventure plans. Well, we have been trying to do all of the above, but things have been a bit stressful with the election, the state of our democracy, and to witness so many people subscribing to this horrific excuse for a human who has been the president.
I am not a political person. I have never been interested in politics or really gave a care about who was president. This was a beautiful stance to have with all of this bs; and a true example of the adage that ignorance is bliss. I happen to know who the president is, what kind of person and business person he is, and frankly how ridiculously disgusting he is. I lived and operated a business in the Atlantic City area from the early 90’s until the mid 2000’s and I witnessed first hand his blatant disregard for paying his bills to small businesses for goods and services used at his several casinos. I watched people go out of business when he stiffed them by hiding behind bankruptcy court. When I saw that this clown was running for president, I laughed and thought; “there is no way that used car salesman will get elected”. I guess the joke was on me. Here we are four years later; and as we wait and watch for him to be dragged out of the Whitehouse on January 20th like a temper tantrum throwing baby, we continue to have to endure every last drop of the most vulgar, dishonest, horrible, being to have ever been the president of our country. What is even sadder and equally as concerning is that over 70 million people voted for this maniac. I get why they did the first time, (2016), as he spouted out well orchestrated bull shit by claiming that he was “one of us; a working guy tired of political bullshit.” He claimed he would lower our taxes, get us better healthcare, and low cost or free prescriptions. It sounded great to everyone that had no idea who he really is. He did lower taxes; if you are in the top 1% otherwise your taxes are now higher. He attempted to take away our healthcare in the middle of a pandemic that is much worse in our country as a direct result of his irresponsibility and lack of caring about anything other than money and power, and most everything else this clown has done has only destroyed, corrupted, demoralized, and eroded anything that was good or positive before he got involved with it. What blows my mind is that it just happened again. I don’t understand. I immediately realized that if someone voted for Trump this year, I don’t believe that we can ever be friends. This troubles me greatly but I have very good reason: (here are just a few):
Makes fun of a handicapped reporter, incites racial unrest, and racial violence, is a scumbag sexist (“grab her by the pussy”; just one of countless recorded incidents, has been impeached for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help his re-election bid and then obstructed the inquiry itself by telling his administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony, has caused tens of thousands of deaths from Covid 19 and his utter ignorance for the well being of our citizens, has undone countless environmental regulations that prevented companies from polluting water supplies with their waste products, fracking in wild life reserves, cruelly separating parents and children at our borders, getting rid of competent scientists that disagree with his fantasy world, complimenting and bragging about being friends with one of the most evil dictators on the planet, has illegally received millions of dollars from foreign governments, and now the election….. We have had enough from this piece of shit, and I hope that somehow we can all pick up the pieces and become Americans again. I hope that when the fountain of lies and bullshit is drug out of the white house, (and I so hope is thrown right into jail), that people will start to undo his ridiculous fairy tale conspiracy stories that only exist in the head of that pathetic little man. I could go on and on and on with reasons why this guy is so absolutely unfit, and so impossibly wrong to be our president but I have better ways to spend my life.
I’m sorry that politics have so deeply affected me and my life, but it is what it is. Lets pull together, rebuild again, and remember forever who we are and what we stand for.
Karuna’s nature essay was published in the literary and environmental journal Cold Mountain Review. The Review was first published a few years before she was born. It was inspired by Gary Snyder, and his translation of the Taoist poet Han-Shan. Grateful to now be part of its fabric. The beautiful photos are Steve’s.
For anyone feeling angst in these unsettled times, we hope it will bring some peace — at least in the knowledge that you are not alone. Peace and laughter to you!
We are very excited to announce that our book just made it onto Barnes & Noble shelves. Woohoo! So far, it’s in a limited amount, but if it sells well, then they will stock it in more. So, if you were looking for an excellent gift for someone, buying it from this link will also be a gift to us! And please, we can use some reviews on this site and the big one that starts with an A. Happy holidays. May they be filled with joy, love, and peace.
One of our stories just came out in the Summer issue of National Parks Magazine. Hats off to the publishers, the folks at the National Parks Conservation Association who work tirelessly to preserve our open spaces — as well as to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants who have risked and are currently risking their lives to try to fill basic human needs and find a safe place to live with their loved ones. Read on to find out secrets about Dry Tortugas National Park as well.