If you listen to the chatter, lately there is a lot of talk about changing to more eco-friendly products. Switching out to plant-based cleaning products, choosing not to use a plastic straw with our drink, bringing your reusable cup to the coffee shop, purchasing clothing second hand or buying new that is made with more sustainable fabrics, even switching to an eco-friendly vehicle to run all of our errands.
All of these choices are indeed great choices for the environment; it eliminates the size of our carbon footprint, however, what has currently been happening is people want to make these changes immediately while the item that they are upgrading to already exists in their home or even our world.
For example, you have read, listened to podcasts and researched that traditional cleaning chemicals are full of potential cancer-inducing ingredients. From the moment you have finished gathering all of your information, you have decided that you do not want to continue exposing your children, your family and yourself to the possibilities by continuing to clean your house with these not healthy for you products. On your latest errand outing, you replace your unpronounceable household cleaning ingredients with plant-based cleaning products. The trouble is that you still have half a bottle or other various levels of these cleaning products in your cabinet. The “green” thing to do however would NOT be to dispose of whatever exists in those bottles down the drain. The “green” thing to do would be to use up what is left in the bottles or to properly research how to eliminate them effectively without pouring them down the drain and into our drinking water system.
The idea that the “greenest” product you own is something that already exists is born out of this challenging of our thinking.
The same cleaning product ideology is used when it comes to our clothes. By now we know that the fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits for pollution. Not only does the manufacturing of clothing pollute, but it is also a significant strain on resources. By 2050, we will need 3x as many resources as in 2000 if we want to continue consuming at our current rate.
“Consumers keep almost every type of apparel only half as long as they did 15 years ago, these inputs go to waste faster than ever before. More than half of the fastest-fashion items made are chucked away within a year of production.”
— THE ECONOMIST, THE ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS OF CREATING CLOTHES
Therefore we know that by buying new clothes each time we are out shopping we are funding and contributing to this global problem. Surveys have shown that we as women wear a garment only seven times before throwing them away. These garments are not t-shirts or jeans that we all wear to live most of our lives in. We are talking about the clothes we buy feeling hopeful they’ll be worn, or even purchasing them with the intention that we will only be wearing them for a single occasion and then they will sit in our closet.
Our favorite t-shirt, for example, takes about 713 gallons of water to make brand new or to put it in perspective enough drinking water for one person to drink over 2.5 years. You are purchasing second-hand means that you will only have to wash and maintain an article of clothing that already exists. Since the average washing machine uses about 30 gallons of water per cycle, with this statistic in mind, a pre-existing t-shirt would need to be run through about 28 separate full loads of laundry to use the same amount water that it takes to create one brand new t-shirt. (Are you beginning to understand why the second hand is the “greener” way to go?).
Buying a second-hand cotton t-shirt means that the 713 gallons of water needed to make it could be used for something else. Buying new is supporting the creation of new resources and use of more resources, rather than profiting from the abundant, pre-existing resources we have.
Which is why the greenest product you will ever own is something that already exists.