Thursday, March 2, 2017

Simple Suggestion #108 revisited... Naturalize your wardrobe

After a shopping trip for some cotton camisoles went nowhere on the weekend, I got into an interesting clothing-related conversation at work yesterday. A couple of my colleagues were commenting on North Americans' clothing, and how surprised they were to see people going to church in jeans and t-shirts, or walking the streets in sweat pants. According to one of my friends, in Zambia, people get gussied up just to go to and from work because it's important to look good even if you're a labourer for most of the day. For many people, a good wardrobe is a must, and wearing the same clothing over and over isn't a good choice.

But the industry that drives people to always wear the latest fashion isn't sustainable. The earth would be much better off if we had fewer clothes of better quality and wore them until they wore out, never mind what's trendy. After sorting through bags and bags of donated clothing at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul over the years, I came to a place where too much is TOO MUCH. My wardrobe is very simple, and I'm sure people have seen every item I wear many times over, but does that really matter? Not when the health of our planet is at stake. If everyone on earth buys a new spring, summer, fall and winter wardrobe, it won't be long until our planet is uninhabitable!

It's also a good idea to live in natural fibres as much as possible. For one thing, they breathe better, and for another, when they get to the end of their lives (or mine), if they end up in a landfill, they will biodegrade in a way that polyester and other artificial fibres don't. In the earlier days of humanity, everyone wore clothing that was hand-made from plants or fleece and skins of animals, but now we're covering ourselves with petroleum-derived materials that shed microfibres into our ecosystems. And our ecosystems are us... as this new video from the Story of Stuff people makes clear.

These days, almost everything we wear is processed in one way or another, so it takes extra effort to find clothing made from wool, cotton, hemp, and other natural fibres that aren't chemically treated in ways that wreck our environment at their beginnings, or aren't made by people trapped in poor working conditions. But if we can find it, clothing manufactured using sustainable, people-friendly methods is often of such good quality that it lasts longer than the unsustainable equivalents, if you can even call them equivalents. Another option is buying natural-fibre clothing second-hand instead of creating consumer demand for new items.

I've spent part of my afternoon today looking at "sustainable clothing" websites, and there still aren't enough retailers for natural fibre fair trade apparel as far as I can see. So, as the video says, we need to let the clothing industry know that we want more sustainable options, and it probably wouldn't hurt to let some of the more sustainable clothing producers out there know that we appreciate their efforts. The powers that be can't read our minds, but it seems they notice when we vote with our pocket books. Right, Ivanka Trump?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

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