Sustainable Living?

This is another Femme post. I hate to be stereotypically anything, but I do love my chocolate, shoes, handbags and skin care products. My husband and I frequently discuss our slow creeping moves towards more sustainable living through our food and food-shopping choices. This has gotten me thinking more about the other products I consume daily and how they impact our world.

Everything is a trade-off. The vegan who chooses to not wear leather and to eat a primarily soy, wheat and corn based diet inevitably supports the use of petrochemicals through the making of plastics (can’t use plastics made from caseine!) used in packaging, clothing and shoes and through the use of petrochemicals as fertilizers for all those non-animal foods. The aim is to really make the best, most informed decisions with the least amount damage total.

This is, perhaps, where the stereotypically crunchy-granola lifestyle is ideal with regards to my frequent purchases. Body care can be simplified- homemade soaps or local soap makers can do the trick (and they often offer deoderants, shampoo bars, and lotions). (Bliss Soap and Ballard Organics are currently in use in my home). Age-proof potions are a bit of a stretch going with local, simple soaps and lotions. Purses, shoes and clothing are the hardest, mainly because most of these things are made in countries with oppressive governments, low wages and rampant poverty. Getting Purses, shoes and clothing that is durable, sustainable from material and manufacture to shipping is nearly impossible. Even if I were to go to my local fabric store, those fabrics are still likely part of this insideous chain. Toxic chemicals can be a part of the plant growing process to make the fibres, or the fibres can come from chemicals in a huge plant. Then there is the dying process. Then there’s the shipping to wherever and back and forth until it gets to JoAnn Fabrics in Tacoma (or Cincinnati, or Chicago). And sure, you can make your own skirt (or purse) easily enough, but when was the last time you purchased a hand-made pair of shoes?

The best thing I can figure is purchasing from re-sale shops. This is especially hard for me with regards to shoes, though. By the time most pairs of shoes get to re-sale shops, they’re pretty worn and in need of repairs. Worse, though, is that the original materials were so poor that there is very little worth saving, if it even could be saved. When SEVEN BILLION SHOES are manufactured in one year in China alone, one can only be struck as to how many shoes don’t even make it to resale, but just end up in land-fills. We throw away tons of stuff every day (we have a disposable society, don’t you know!) We really shouldn’t have to throw away and purchase that many shoes. They’re going somewhere, and I know they aren’t just being manufactured for the sake of manufacturing alone (though, I could be wrong.) Thinking about shoes remind me of the WONDERFUL movie Kinky Boots, where the fine, hand made shoes that were standard a century ago (that would last years, years and more years) have given way to the cheap, rubber soled (petrochemically laden) shoes from China.

So the question (that I just can’t answer yet) is how do I consume my Femme-centric, high class things and look like a “professional” and still move towards sustainable living?

More thoughts on this will come at a future date! For now, I’ll continue to sniff my Ylang-Ylang smelly-lotioned skin (thanks Kiss My Face C’s the Day!)

One thought on “Sustainable Living?

  1. Your calculus should be informed by the massively disproportionate cost of burning petrochemicals. A full wardrobe of polyester, rayon and the like is likely less than one 55 gallon drum of their constituent monomers.

    How long does it take you to burn 55 gallons of gas? I go through that every week, now that I am commuting to Boston. And of course, there’s all the fuel consumption that goes into producing and shipping crops and the like.

    Synthetic clothing, in particular, is almost all more environmentally and socially friendly than ‘natural’ clothing. There are two exceptions: Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly cloths, and Goretex is environmentally problematic.

    Hemp is friendly because it can grow almost anywhere, is an annual, takes very little from the soil, and requires little processing to turn into cloth. Cotton is, as far as I know, pretty bad because of everything that has to be done to get to cotton thread. I don’t know details about other cloth plants.

    Polyester, as a hydrocarbon plastic, is great for the planet. They’re easily recyclable and/or treated to be biodegradable, the fabric gets produced in (relatively) well-paying factories, and their durability means they get re-used more than just about any other things we make out of plastic.

    Rayon, Nylon, and Lycra are all slightly more problematic due to their incorporation of Nitrogen; they burn into toxic (for us) gas, and the microbes that really like eating those kinds of molecules are a little harder to come by, and much work still needs to be done to have a good process. Nonetheless we’ll figure it out sooner rather than later, so these are ok.

    Goretex and any polyfluorinated (e.g. teflon) plastic is the worst plastic from an environmental perspective. There are no known organisms that can consume atoms that are fluorinated past a certain degree because of fluorine’s extremely ionic properties. However, that makes them extremely durable and easy to separate from other plastics, so it is in theory quite recyclable.

    However, pfe plastics have many desirable properties that none others do, including resistance to microbial adhesion that makes them indispensable in medicine. Basically I think if you buy yourself a Goretex winter coat or sports gear, you have the obligation to find a good fate for it, whether that be reuse or donation or whatever.

    I hope that helps answer this question.

    So: Poly before natural, natural like nylon, and nature before goretex.

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