Reblog: What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

I came across this article on NPR today and thought I’d share it with you – on the realities of our ‘fast’ and cheap clothing, and the cost behind what we pay for it.

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

Fashion is big business. Estimates vary, but one report puts the global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 million spent in the U.S. alone. In 2014, the average household spent an average $1,786 on apparel and related services.

More styles mean more purchases — and that leads to more waste created. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion that disposable clothing is damaging to the environment and the economy. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal,” Lewis says. “The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

How To Deal With All This Textile Waste?

One way developed nations get rid of their excess clothing is by donating it to developing nations. According to the United Nations, the United States is thebiggest exporter of used clothes, and the top importing countries of used clothing are India, Russia and Pakistan.

But with the strong dollar and availability of cheap clothing from Asia, some are worried that demand for exports of secondhand clothing will decline — thus forcing developed nations to find new ways to deal with post-consumer textile waste.

Fast fashion and the disposable culture also hurt sorting companies that export second-hand clothing.

Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections in New York City, collects second-hand clothing collector and sells it to sorting companies. The companies then sort through the clothes, separating those that will be made into other low-grade fiber products and those that will be exported.

Baruchowitz says the most valuable part of a sorting company’s business is in selling reusable second-hand clothing. But if the quality is questionable, more of the garments collected might have to head to the shredding bin rather than the second-hand clothes market.

“It’s very damaging to the environment, this fast fashion culture, and it also affects the secondhand market because these clothes aren’t meant to be used for so long,” he says. “I can’t say for sure, but the secondhand H&Ms would probably be in less demand than a garment that was produced with more quality. I’m getting all this stuff from fast fashion and I’m hearing from clients that it’s hurting them.”

Do Retailers’ Recycling Programs Encourage Consumerism?

Several clothing retailers have announced take-back programs that collect used garments from customers to be recycled, sold or remade into other clothing. H&M, for example, has allowed customers to bring unwanted garments — which will be transformed to recycled textile fibers for new products — since 2013. The company aims to have “zero garments going to landfill.” Patagonia also recycles and sells used Patagonia products in its stores.

It plays into the concept of extended producer responsibility, which means the manufacturer has to take into consideration the product’s afterlife.

But does it actually encourage more consumerism? For many stores, customers can get store credit and vouchers for sending in used clothing.

“If you bring it back to the store and you see something new and you’re going to give me a discount, I’m having a buying moment I may not have had before because you’re having me back at your store. It’s very smart in terms of business,” Lewis says.

The concept, however, might encourage a different type of thinking: If manufacturers have to think about how they’re going to get the most out of the product after it has been worn, Lewis says, it might spur them to start designing products that can be taken apart easily, have better quality, or might be biodegradable, for example.

H&M introduced new garments made of recycled textile fibers two year ago.

Grassroots Efforts To Counter Fast Fashion

A year ago, a few users began uploading YouTube videos of themselves exchanging clothes with friends. It was either that, or they were showcasing how they made new styles out of their old, scrappy clothes.

“Today is fashion revolution day and I decided to take part in this movement by making a ‘Haulternative’ video,” says CutiePieMarza, a YouTuber from England, in her video. She was exchanging clothes with grav3yardgirl, a YouTuber from Texas.

“It’s part haul, part swap … she asked me about a month ago if I would be part of this awesome project,” says grav3yardgirl in her video. “I think it’s something mainly going on in the UK.”

“Haulternative” is an alternative to the traditional “haul” videos, where users post videos of themselves parading their latest buys.

It was an activity that was part of the larger Fashion Revolutionmovement started in the United Kingdom that aimed to bring awareness to the source of our garments — as well as the waste created by our consumerist habits.

“It’s an alternative haul. It’s looking at how people can do a different kind of haul, how people can refresh their wardrobe without having to buy new clothes,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of the movement. “It’s encouraging people to be more conscious when they’re shopping.”

Instead of constantly buying new clothes, the movement suggested people buy from vintage stores, make new clothes out of old ones or just swap clothes. Fashion Revolution Week will take place April 18-24 and participants are encouraged to upload their “haulternative” videos this year as well.

Some companies are experimenting with new ideas. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The 30-year-sweatshirt by Tom Cridland is an example.

San Francisco was aware of this problem in 2002 — and pledged a goal of reaching zero waste by 2020 by encouraging the recycling of clothes, shoes and linen.

“I think for clothing, because we’re a consumer culture, it’s hard for me to say don’t buy anything,” Lewis says. “We can probably slow down how much we buy.”

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Earth Day 2015

In honour of Earth Day, here’s a video showing the beauty in our natural world. Incredible!

Greenpeace released this important and moving video about what we truly ‘need’ – clean air, safe water, protected rainforests and biodiversity. Take a look:

This is also another important video from the Gaia Foundation, about how our modern consumption is taking a severe toll on the sustainability of this incredible planet.

Earth Day is a special occasion for us to stop and think about the beauty of the natural world, take it all in and to think long and hard about how we can preserve it for future generations. Small everyday acts of kindness towards our planet, each other and to the millions of species we co-exist with can help us preserve scenes like the ones we’ve just seen for generations to come. There are thousands of ways to take part in Earth Day and adopt new lifestyle practices. Have a look at the Earth Day Network’s page for some inspiration. Greenpeace is also a great resource. I’m going to enjoy the beautiful sunshine in Budapest today and take time to appreciate the natural beauty around me. Happy Earth Day!

I also came across this excellent article on HuffPost, about new ways to mitigate against climate change, and the new voices in the debate:

Training a Global Force of Climate Visionaries

Global climate disruption caused by human-generated carbon pollution is among the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, full stop. Now, more than ever, the global community is beginning to recognize the scope and scale of the climate crisis. And while the vastness of the problem can be daunting, the good news is that the solutions to solve it are right in front of us, in the form of the people we interact with every day.

To be clear, reaching a strong international emissions reductions agreement at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year is a critical step forward in halting global climate change. But the truth is that the power to act isn’t an exclusive right reserved by world leaders. People all over the world — in different countries, with different political ideologies and occupying different places in society — are realizing their power and taking action designed to change the politics of climate change and to support the transition to a clean-energy economy.

At the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, we seek to find these great leaders and make them exceptional, transforming them into agents of change with the knowledge, tools and drive to communicate effectively around climate-change impacts and solutions. Our Climate Reality Leaders range from teachers to businesspeople to pastors, but they share a common understanding of the urgency of climate action and a desire to become warriors on the front lines of the fight against climate change. Their work is evident everywhere, from family dinners to international summits.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps — a dynamic group of thousands of world-changers shaping the climate conversation — began humbly: in 2006, former U.S. Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore invited 50 people to join him in the Tennessee countryside to learn how best to explain global warming to their friends, colleagues, and peers. Since then, Climate Reality has honed and refined the model for larger international audiences; today, trainings are intensive two- or three-day programs all over the world that feature a blend of educational presentations, collaborative workshops, and ample networking time for attendees to get to know each other.

To date, Climate Reality has held 27 trainings around the world, training a global network of more than 7,500 activists from 125 countries. Each training focuses on the issues and solutions most relevant to the region: in Rio de Janeiro, indigenous leader Mayalú Kokometi Waurá Txucarramãe shared the devastating effects of deforestation, while in New Delhi, Sanjit Bunker Roy talked about his Barefoot College program, which trains illiterate rural grandmothers to install solar panels. At the upcoming training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, speakers will delve into the impacts of climate change on the U.S. agricultural economy and the public-health implications of climate change, all in the context of the state’s significance in U.S. politics.

Climate Reality Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, with as many reasons for taking action. Former engineer Terry Gallagher — who will be a Climate Reality Mentor at our upcoming Iowa training — is now an ordained minister focused on faith-based social-justice action, advocacy and education, who uses his ministry as a forum for helping people engage in responding to climate change. Carol LeBlanc, an IT manager who works with the U.S. federal government, recognized the immediacy of climate change when her former Colorado Springs neighborhood was swallowed by wildfires in 2012.

Exactly because of their diversity of backgrounds, Climate Reality Leaders find the trainings to be highly personal experiences. This is reinforced in part because trainees work closely with Climate Reality Mentors throughout the process — people who have been through the trainings and use what they have learned to guide the next batch of Climate Reality Leaders.

Learning in this way — through intensive, hands-on experiences that can then be shared — not only encompasses the philosophy of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, it also offers a model for broad and systemic societal change, which is critical to solving the global climate crisis.

This post is part of a Huffington Post What’s Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference — whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.

No Comment – Video: She’s Alive

Before you watch this video, I’d like to share these lyrics from Jim Morrison’s eternal ‘When The Music’s Over’:

What have they done to the Earth?

What have they done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

And tied her with fences and dragged her down.

 

The Guardian and Edward Snowden: “What they’re doing poses an existential threat to democracy”

By now you will all have read the story on The Guardian about Edward Snowden, the recently-revealed whistleblower behind the US National Security Agency leaks. 

I wanted to share some quotes from his interview which really stuck with me.

It will be interesting to see what the media and the US government make of this man and this story in the days to come.

I admire his courage, conviction and clarity of thought. I’m also quite scared and apprehensive about the international panic this could lead to, and what it could mean for perceptions (on both sides) of the divide between a people and their government. A story to watch, for sure. I won’t say any more, because I want his words to stand out.

This is bravery on a scale I haven’t seen in a long time, and I’m concerned for his safety as well as the global ramifications of this.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

 

 

I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.

 

 

I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, [but] I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.

 

I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.

 

 

My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.

 

The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night.

 

 

I don’t see myself as a hero, because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.

 

 

What they’re doing [poses] an existential threat to democracy. 

 

Names, not just Numbers: Facing Global AIDS and World Hunger

That’s the name of the new book I’m reading, written by Donald E. Messer.

I started it about 5 minutes ago, and instantly saw something I had to share with you all:

Every three seconds a person dies somewhere in the world due to poverty-that means 8 million nameless people a year.

Over 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night.

Yesterday some 30,000 people died from malnutrition and hunger, of which 18,000 were children.

Today an estimated 6,000 people died from AIDS, 5,000 from tuberculosis and 3,000 from malaria.

Last year at least 2.1 million people died of AIDS and almost 3 million more became infected with HIV.

And most people don’t give a shit!

I think I’m going to enjoy this book! I’ll be sharing snippets of it as they come to me. I hope you enjoy reading them!

Save the Children’s Word Cloud

Save the Children asked the public why nutrition is so important for young children. Here’s a word cloud of their responses, some interesting, some predictable, some that aren’t.