I can’t say enough about this video and web site, The Story of Stuff. Environmental activism isn’t about signing petitions, changing lightbulbs, holding signs and joining Greenpeace. It’s examining our consumer behaviors and gullibility:
I’m reading with utter fascination this article, Dress for Excess: The Cost of Our Clothing Addiction. In trying to do our part to lessen the acceleration of climate change, shopping less is definitely a virtue, and may make as big an impact as becoming vegetarian. So voluntary simplicity and opting out of consumer culture less definitely covers unnecessarily buying new threads. Here are some eye-popping figures and pieces of info:
To clear out closet space for the new purchases, the average American discards 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
(To be honest, I wonder if the figure is bigger in some fashion-mad industrialized Asian countries.)
Cotton is grown on less than 2 percent of U.S. farmland but accounts for one of every four pounds of pesticides sprayed. Currently in the global south, estimates suggest that half of total pesticide use is on cotton.
(Alas, this hardly means synthetic materials are preferable, since their manufacture is unsustainable and the products nonbiodegradable.)
Bleaching the cloth for a single shirt generates as much as 15 gallons of polluted wastewater.
Before being shipped off to a big factory or backroom sweatshop, most cotton thread or cloth is dyed. With the world textile industry using 10,000 different dyes and pigments, it’s little wonder that environmental agencies have some difficulty keeping up with dye pollution.
Dyeing does more environmental damage than any other manufacturing step, and it’s hard to hide. Villagers living near dyeing plants in southern India have reported that drinking water flowing from their taps can be red one day, green the next.
Booming demand for brightly colored cotton shirts and dresses has led to increased use of so-called “fiber reactive dyes” that bind to the cotton fiber, keeping it color-fast. Many such reactive dyes are toxic and can pass right through water-treatment facilities untouched.
The health effects suffered by people working with textiles is also alarming, as is the toxic pollution produced by the industry.
The whole article is a must-read.
Playgreen.org has a good idea — it’s a community wiki about sustainable and green living. The site seems to be in its early stages, but that just means that there’s more for everyone to contribute!
For a little more action, Blue Egg is a magazine and website with beautiful and clear articles about green living — with style. Their blog is here and the entry entitled “iSorry” is a good and funny read for those joined at the hip to their electronic gadgets…
Meditation seems to have a lasting impact on how the brain is wired, even among novices. One study found that an eight-week course in compassion meditation—in which people focus on a wish for all beings to be free from suffering—shifts brain activity in a way that usually gives a sense of well being. Studies have also shown a similar impact from mindfulness meditation, in which a person impartially contemplates whatever thoughts crop up in his or her consciousness.
The hit song that proclaimed, “All we are is dust in the wind,” may have some cosmic truth to it. New findings from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that space dust – the same stuff that makes up living creatures and planets – was manufactured in large quantities in the winds of black holes that populated our early universe.
I loved astronomy while I was growing up, and still do, and was also lucky enough to take a couple of astronomy classes in college, one of which was quite hands-on (telescopes and formulas for calculations – fun stuff). It becomes obvious with just the basic knowledge of astronomy that the earth is truly a lonely island in the vast sea of space, and quite truthfully, we are all made of stardust.
I also have a funny relationship with the song “Dust in the Wind”. I don’t think the song is depressing or sad – though it obviously is supposed to be. I just see it as a song about anicca – impermanance – and that’s just the way it is.
Check the ingredients list of your personal care products, and it’s usually a long list of polysyllabic chemicals you’ve never heard of that are usually petroleum derived. (When in doubt, don’t buy, or check the Cosmetic Safety Database first. And start shopping organic!) Another thing to watch for: products claiming flame-retardant or crease-resistant properties, as these are usually treated with phthalates and other environmental pollutants. The pollutants don’t just go away, they affect human and animal health, get introduced into the food chain, and their concentrations get compounded the higher up the food chain you eat. (Yet another good reason to adopt a vegetarian diet.) Dioxins and contaminants from industrialized countries have already been found in polar bears… meaning the damage is spreading.
Just trying to spread this news around:
I dislike air fresheners. Dislike that they take up space on the power socket. Hate that they spew headache-inducing chemicals into the air. Hate how invariably they come in too much plastic and cardboard packaging. I feel air fresheners (especially those touted for cars, refrigerators, bathrooms, and the home) are wasteful and unnecessary household products, that can only justify their existence with the money spent on advertising, which tricks people into paying money for items that can be easily replaced by (drumroll) a regular box of baking soda. Baking soda that will not cause headaches, or poison your body or the environment.
Why pay to be poisoned? Open a window. Air pollution is usually worse indoors (especially in homes that use a lot of chemical products, vinyl, and/or laminate furniture) than out.
…we did things that put your “green habits” today to shame, and uphill both ways! Our Grandparents: The Real Environmentalists?
I do love doing a lot of things the old way… making tea with real leaves (no tea bags) so I can compost them, boiling water on the fire, finding new uses out of old things. I have to say though… older generations probably did not have to deal with so much packaging and disposable plastic. I have no idea what even a grandmother can do with 1,000 plastic bags. And how does one reuse, say, plastic items that break? (Yep, I’m kinda plastic-obsessed. I’d love to live in a home that didn’t have it and didn’t need it!)