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
Good news is soaring across the world’s headlines today. Wisdom, the albatross, and her mate, Akeakami, just hatched another chick. For the full story, check out our Nature Rising newsletter: https://www.naturerising.world/p/a-monumental-matriarch.
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.
That’s all for now. For news from the Valley and and more, see the original post for this article at https://www.naturerising.world/p/one-small-step-wear-the-change.
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!
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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!
For the link: click here.
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.
We have decided that this summer is the time for an amazing road trip adventure! An adventure that we plan on documenting, from the beginning of the journey; motor home search and purchase, until the end; our arrival and time in Homer. We are not certain of the exact parameters of this project yet; maybe a travel book, maybe some sort of destination guide, or perhaps just a project that we enjoy while in Homer or on the way. I guess we will see, and we invite you to join us if you like.
Motor home search and purchase:
When we started to discuss our adventure, we were back and forth between our mode of primary travel and lodging. After having several lengthy discussions, debates, and agreements; we think that for us and our destination it will be best to drive a motor home. A motor home will afford us the comfort and stability of our own space, (won’t have to pack and unpack again and again as we would if we were car camping/ hotel staying), and we can centralize all of our asset’s and be mobile or static in a moment if necessary. (Unlike a travel trailer that we would have to “dock” and mobilize). Our mobility while staying at destinations will be an off road/ on road enduro motorcycle that will probably be in the 250-400cc range. Easy to carry on a hitch platform, very fast and easy deployment, and decent accessibility. This of course is in addition to our bicycles and long boards. Now that we have established that we want to acquire a motor home; we have been back and forth between a mini motor home, and a larger class c. We were looking at the Toyota models from the late 80’s into the early 90’s, but then we found out that my parent’s friend is selling a pretty sweet class c with two slide outs. As we mulled over the pro’s and con’s, it seems that the fuel economy is not a large difference so it really comes down to comfort and usefulness. The toyota models, although very attractive with their nostalgic and mini allure; are older vehicles with marginally powered engines that are most certainly going to need love to get them in top shape for a 6000 mile each way journey. Unfortunately; our day job work is extremely busy after the hurricane and I am a bit short on extra time to take on a project like this. (We have a “WRX wagon bugeye project happening as well as a “camper Boat” project so we need to slim down the roster. 😉 All of this taken into account, we are looking for a sweet class c that we can set up in for the long haul, comfortably, and carry our local transportation easily. We are looking for a class c with slides and we really need to find one for 15k or less. We will keep you posted on the friend of my parents, as it is a beautiful 30′ class c with two slides that is worth an easy 25k. The owner is selling it for 19k; still a little out of our range but we will see what happens….. (we emailed him asking for his best deal – we’ll let you know as soon as we know)
Every fall these fierce little flyers come back to the Keys, where they spend the winter, or just stop off for a meal before heading to locations further south. This one’s been hanging around for a week or so now, often pausing for a lookout on the Jamaican dogwood tree (the leaves are sparse, but returning nicely after hurricane Irma). Merlins eat the cute little songbirds mostly, and sometimes dragonflies. A reality check, but such is the cycle of life. When they are not here, they’re generally up in Canada for mating season.
Photo: Radar of Hurricane Irma making landfall over the Florida Keys. The red pin is our house on Cudjoe Key. Phone screenshot was taken from our evacuation site in Sebring.
The trip odometer read 6,965 miles when we pulled into our driveway on Cudjoe Key. It was Sunday. We had just returned from an epic road trip that included traveling to Wyoming to witness the solar eclipse. Three days later, we pulled out of our driveway as evacuees. We never imagined that our tiny Key would soon be infamous as the epicenter of one of the most powerful storms on record.
The eye made landfall over our house, and 12 hours later hurricane Irma centered her eye over our evacuation site in Sebring, Florida. The aftermath is an experience to behold: the largest evacuation in our country’s history, millions without power, a swath of destruction, and a coming together of kindness and resilience.
We were fortunate to be able to return just a few days after the hurricane had passed, reporting for local media. Over the coming days, we will post some of these experiences, and the tales of those we meet along the way, as well as recovery resources for those living in the Keys. If you’re interested, please follow the blog and feel free to contact us: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 1, 2016: The Sand Key Lighthouse 7 miles off of Key West is often full of seabirds, including pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, cormorants and terns. The structure itself has been part of several amazing history tales, including an 1846 tragedy, when a hurricane obliterated it along with the keeper and his family. Today the snorkeling here is among the best in the Keys, thanks to its super-shallow structure and vibrant marine life. Often seen here is everything from sea turtles to parrotfish, barracuda to anglefish. Read about both in our Key West & the Lower Keys Travel Guide, available on amazon.com.
Sept. 24, 2016: We had spent a good part of the afternoon outrunning building thunderheads and dark walls of rain. The little skiff went about 80 miles that day, keeping us safe yet in suspense through building waves, miles offshore. When we made the final turn for home, an ominous rainstorm blocked our path. We’re going to just have to go through this one and finally take our punishment, we thought, as we prepared our gear for a deluge. But as we drew closer, the storm rapidly broke up, welcoming us home with a rainbow to nowhere. Any weather bugs out there know anything about this phenomenon?