GREEN IS THE NE W BL ACK How one of our favorite pastimes may be harming our future. Words: Zane Datava Illustration: Sarah Poesen
The exciting world of clothes and fashion becomes more difficult if we look behind the colours, textures, designs and irresistible sale offers. Awareness about the way our clothes are being made, where they come from, and – last but not least – where they end up after serving their time with us – becomes complicated. Just as it was a long time ago when clothes served the pure purpose of protecting from weather conditions, it is also a long time since we really knew where they come from and how and where our clothes are made. The price we pay for the fashion and style is much higher than we would like to know. And who actually pays the full price for our seasonal colour palettes, mood changes and 70% sales? In reality, we have to consider many aspects, starting from the way fabrics and other materials are produced, dyed and distributed – looking at the environmental and social impact of the production process. Even when we seemingly think we are doing a good thing by giving away the clothes we don’t want anymore, we might still be trapped in the circle of over-consumption, which is a reason for negative environmental and social changes somewhere else. Namely, the price tag on the new spring coat is just a very small part of what actually is being paid. It’s often assumed that by giving away things we have owned, we do something good to the world, but often it can be quite the opposite. Especially if we feel encouraged to shop more as we might think that our pre-owned things mysteriously disappear or might be useful for somebody else. That may or may not be true. First of all, our used stuff doesn’t disappear, just like any other trash we create during our lifespan. Researcher Martin O’ Brien, while writing about consumption, suggests we should call nowadays societies ‘societies of rubbish’, rather than societies of consumption (O’Brien 2008, 5). A lot of our activity is connected to waste and its management - collecting, distributing, getting rid of it. This is closely connected with vast consumption on the other hand.
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That being said, what can we do to improve our behaviour and produce less waste? Sure, there are practices we can use to lessen our impact. Regarding clothes that would be buying better quality clothes, using them longer and repairing them instead of throwing them away. If buying new, we should find out how ethical our clothes are and how environmentally-friendly their production method was. Other practices include buying pre-used and exchanging instead of buying. I am not such a bright example myself, I must admit. Even though I have been shopping in second hand clothes stores since I was a teenager - when I was really fascinated by vintage clothes I could find there - I still tend to fall for the traps of quick shopping when there is something particular I need, the sort of items which are not that easily found in the second hand stores. However, I would recommend ‘Gratisbuttiken’ in Svartlamon for buying or exchanging things. Clothes and household items are exchanged every week, and there are clothes swapping events, second hand stores and flea markets. But there for sure are many other strategies about how to approach the issue, so I asked other people about their experiences. Janina Lamøy, the Environmental Manager at PSTEREO festival, says she has managed to live without clothes shopping for almost a year. Most of her clothes come from clothes swapping events, which are held at DIGS, Soil Café and between friends. The purpose of the swapping events is to reuse existing resources. The fact that you get ‘new’ clothes is a positive side effect, and not the main reason of it. If there is something else needed, which you wouldn’t like to get used, it’s wise to wait until the next possibility to get it from somebody as a gift. You can write a list, and ask friends, when there is occasion, like a birthday. Janina recommends not to buy things, but to get experiences instead. If shopping is necessary, there should be put limits on how much one can spend, and always try to buy used first.