Carbon Footprints in the Sand

We have gone over a lot of material over the past three weeks but fortunately for me (so I don’t have to type a billion words), all of the topics we covered interconnect and share the same idea that “we create a lot of waste and need to figure out new industrial and consumer systems”.  In class I learned that 96% of what we create goes to waste, which is a very shocking number but not completely surprising considering that many things we have today are not made to last or are made to be disposable. In the “Closing the Loops” reading I found it interesting that the author compared humans to things like weeds in a field and mice in a cat-less barn; both of which take up resources and produce offspring without being useful or efficient. The same reading also provided a very good quote “…like adolescents who think they are immortal we acted as if we had some sort of magic shield against the consequences of our plundering and polluting.” I feel that this is very true because if people didn’t have this kind of attitude than there wouldn’t be so many disposable items on the market. So we need biomimicry and industrial ecology to combat this waste and make the product lifecycle a closed loop instead of a straight line. Fashion has been inspired by nature from the beginning from prints to the shape of the garment. But the trick is to be able to be inspired by nature to solve issues or be more sustainable instead of only being inspired by nature aesthetically.

I used the Carbon Footprint calculator and was surprised to learn that my greenhouse gas emissions, 22 tons of CO2, is actually less than the national average of 27 tons. I was surprised because I realize that there are a lot of things that I need to improve upon to be more sustainable. However, I think my number is mainly lower than average because of my travel or lack thereof. I haven’t had a need to get on a plane yet this year so that portion of it was left at zero. I also rarely drive my car except if I’m going to go to Tulsa or Oklahoma City; as long as I’m in Stillwater I basically walk everywhere. Although my number is less than average it is still a very large number; and isn’t something that I should give myself a pat on the back for just because the number could be worse. Rather, I should still continue to strive to make improvements towards a more sustainable lifestyle. The Carbon Footprint calculator corresponded well with the “Apparel Industry Life Cycle Carbon Mapping” reading. From the reading I learned that it is the use/consumer phase that makes the most impact, as opposed to the manufacturing or sourcing as one might think. It is actually machine drying that uses the largest amount of energy and therefore emits the highest amount of greenhouse emissions (the more energy, the more GHG). This is mainly because garments are often laundered more than necessary, which I personally try to prevent by wearing my clothes at least twice before I wash them. To correct this issue the article suggested that care labels should be altered so that consumers are better educated, environmental impacts should be considered more at the product design stage, and adjusting the distribution and logistics to maximize efficiency. I agree that all of these are very good and realistic ideas because although consumers produce the most GHG, companies still need to do their part as well. The article also suggested that companies need to use life cycle analysis to measure GHG across the supply chain because you can’t fix what you don’t measure, which is why it was good for us to do the Carbon Footprint Calculator.




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