On the Road to a Sustainable Future

The idea of sustainability in fashion is a topic I was not previously concerned about when buying clothes. I often select a cheaper piece, so I can have more options in my closet. Reading the Fashion and Sustainability article, I found myself almost feeling guilty. I go from trend to trend, wanting the ‘new’ thing every season. My old clothes get tossed aside, sold in garage sales or given to goodwill. This endless cycle of consumerism, unfortunately, is what controls many Americans.

To combat the cycle of waste into the environment, many people try to switch from plastics to “better” options. The Ted talk by Leyla discussed how often people will opt for a paper bag in opposition to plastic. At first glance, this seems like the better choice; however, if the paper is not recycled properly it ends up being a bigger piece of waste than plastic. People tend to want the “easy quick fix” to being sustainable. The problem with that method is there are so many factors at play in determining whether solutions will actually have long term positive effects. The poverty reading attempted to blame environmental degradation on poverty. The Yes side of the argument stated that if the rest of the world could become like America, then there would be less problems. They indicated that poverty is a “social condition” which implies poverty is a choice and not the world’s fault. In actuality, we also have poverty in America. Maybe not mass starvation, but certainly poverty that causes people to experience a lack of basic necessities or security. It can be passed from one generation to the next but also happens often as a result of a job loss or a divorce or decline in health. Many times I feel it is related to lack of education.  For instance, my mother was born into a poor family. Her mother only went to 8th grade and her father finished 3rd grade. They worked hard all their lives but they were never able to rise much out of the poverty level. Perhaps their education as well as their parents lack of education played a role in their poverty. Interestingly, though, out of ten children in my moms family, three have college educations and one attended college one year. Two also went to technical schools gaining skills that set them on a different financial track. All ten have at least a high school diploma. You could say that education played a major role in their rise out of poverty. It has certainly been proven that a lack of access to education in other countries causes poverty and such wicked problems as human trafficking.

Ted’s TEN is a company that does more than just recycle, they repurpose items through upcycling, disassembly, and monomateriality. The upcycling method is more than just conserving the materials, but looking at this new product as adding to the value of the old product. The disassembly method serves to separate the materials in products and recycle each of the materials in their own way that is best for the environment. The monomateriality method is to create new materials that are made up of one material, so the disassembly goes a lot smoother. This company seeks to save clothing and make it part of a closed loop, to avoid landfills altogether. This is a great example for other companies to follow in order to reduce the waste of the fashion industry.

The “Story of Stuff” video discussed how when Americans keep buying new clothing items or goods in general, they are supporting the cycle of overconsumption. In America’s own way, we are adding to the waste in landfills and toxins emitted from factories to produce these goods in record speed. This cycle continues to deplete the resources of the world, taking land away from locals and forcing them to work in these dangerous factories just so Americans can have their gadgets or new trends. I had never thought about how many lives are affected by the choices Americans make regarding our desires. We truly are selfish and do not realize we are putting people making these products for us in danger.

Activity three is helping me to find out more about the wicked problem of wastefulness of the fashion industry. In one of the articles I read it said, “the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world… second only to oil”. This statistic is crazy because all this waste could have been avoided. Learning about this wicked problem is helping me consider what I can do to help, how can we stop this pollution epidemic?

My sustainability journey thus far has been very enlightening.  I had no idea there was so much harm being done to the world and those around us. I have turned a blind eye to the pollution, overconsumption, and destruction America has been causing. Now that I know of these harmful factors I feel the need to tell others who are still unaware. How can these problems be resolved if most people do not know the full consequences of their actions? We must educate the world of how their actions are hurting the world’s resources, and together form a solution. It starts in my circle of influence and spirals outward.

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