A Great Way to Celebrate Earth Day

What can we do? Quite a bit, actually.

Greetings, fellow earthlings! It’s time for our annual reminder that the Earth is our home and we need to take care of it. The fact that we had to designate this one day out of a whole year to do so says quite a bit about our lack of caring for this big blue marble of ours. If we don’t start prioritizing Earth on a daily basis, the day when it stops sustaining us altogether will rapidly approach. And before that, things will get rather horrific, because global climate change may be caused by us, but it impacts every single thing, and as we all compete for the ever-dwindling resources, such as drinking water, things are going to get ugly. The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees never asked for any of this. Humans suck.

Are you sick of being lectured about this when you feel utterly helpless to turn things around? I’m right there with you. I’ve long since given up on the idea that the politicians that we have elected actually have any intentions of acting upon our collective desires. And it seems that the moment you become part of the one percent you check your integrity, your decency, your humanity, and your conscience at the door. I can’t imagine myself or any of my friends willfully and aggressively doing things to destroy the planet, all in the name of personal short-term gain, but those obscenely rich f*****s seem to live for it.

This rant will do absolutely no good whatsoever, unless it educates a person or two. I’m not holding my breath. It’s better to enjoy air while we still have it. (There may come a day when we wax nostalgic about breathing relatively clean air. What a concept.)

I know that many of us get irritated when people don’t recycle, but according to this article, 91% of all the plastics on earth do not get recycled, even if we do place them in recycle bins and berate those who don’t. That’s disheartening.

But it’s time to set aside our personal guilt and start focusing on forcing corporations to straighten up, because, according to this article, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global emissions. The bulk of them are in the fossil fuel industry. No big surprise there. If we could get them under control, much of our environmental problems would be solved. The 7.9 billion people on earth should be able to crush 100 companies. It’s just that we’re too busy infighting to get focused. We should be able to fix that, with a little education, no?

If we could just pick one problem at a time, and bend our collective will toward it, we could move mountains. It’s just hard to figure out where to begin. The more we discover about our planetary abuses, the more discouraged we become.

Here’s one problem I’d love to focus on. I just read an article that taught me quite a bit that I never could have otherwise imagined. Chile’s Atacama Desert: Where Fast Fashion Goes to Die is a story that’s so tightly packed with scary information that I’ll give you just some of the most salient points here:

Each year, 59,000 tons of clothes that can’t be sold in the US, Europe, and Asia wind up in Chile, supposedly for resale throughout Latin America. 39,000 of those tons actually wind up abandoned in huge piles in the Atacama Desert. These clothing dunes could take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Most landfills won’t accept them, because they contain chemical products.

I hopped over to google maps to see if these mounds could be seen from outer space. Not quite. But I did zoom in on this one dump, which is more than a mile long, and it looks like a scar on the desert. Its remote location means that most of us don’t have to think about it.

For some more horrific imagery of these clothing dunes, check out this YouTube video.

To create this fast fashion that goes out of style almost instantly, a huge amount of water is wasted. It takes 7,500 liters of water to make one pair of jeans. That’s the amount one person drinks in 7 years. The fashion industry is believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to the fossil fuel industry. A half million tons of microfibers from fast fashion wind up in our oceans each year, via our washing machines. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the carbon emissions on our planet, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. This industry is also notorious for dumping chemicals into waterways.

What can we do?

Quite a bit, actually. We have been conditioned into this habit of consumerism by the  fashion industry. There is absolutely no reason why clothing styles need to change every season, other than the fact that this industry wants your money. They have taught us that we need to be on trend. It’s the only way to be accepted. Because of this, annual clothing production has doubled between 2004 and 2019. I am willing to bet it has taken off even more during this pandemic. I know I’ve bought a lot of crap clothing online that I wouldn’t have normally, simply out of sheer boredom.

Back in 2012, when I was in my late 40’s, I went back to college. Many of the students in class were in their late teens. One girl would come in wearing a different outfit every single day. When I asked her how many shirts she had, she said around 400. This nauseated me. What a waste. So much stuff that in 10 years she won’t fit into or even want. All of that used to be water and money. She and the planet could be so much further ahead in life than they are. It broke my heart.

It’s official. I’m going to get back into the habit of buying used clothing at thrift stores rather than going retail. I’m not going to buy trendy clothes (not that I’ve ever been a fashion plate). And I’ll only buy things when I have worn out the things I already own. I’ll buy basic things that remain in style, take care of them, mend them as needed, and wear them for decades. I will avoid synthetic material so I don’t have to contribute to the microfiber problem. It’s the very least I can do.

And if you can, support the work of EcoFibra Chile. This company makes insulation panels out of the clothing dunes. These panels create jobs, clean up landfills, and can reduce the need for electricity for heat and cooling by as much as 35 percent.

Now, if we could only figure out a way to make building blocks out of these clothes, it would help with the worldwide sand shortage which makes it harder and harder to find concrete (which is a story for another day). It would also help with the affordable housing crisis. And I bet the blocks would be colorful. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It can be done. Let’s see more of this.

Happy Earth Day.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

6 thoughts on “A Great Way to Celebrate Earth Day”

  1. Have been trying to purchase bamboo fabric clothing thinking all are more eco-friendly but it’s not so simple or easy. https://www.euronews.com/green/2020/11/30/bamboo-eco-friendly-fabric-or-environmental-disaster
    Never thought I’d have to constantly research each company I buy from to verify their claims that their products are organic and eco-friendly, but here we are. So many greedy companies are misrepresenting their products and taking advantage of those trying to be part of the solution. The energy and money spent weeding them out could’ve been spent addressing core issues. We need enforceable laws that hold all companies accountable for any negative contributions to the eco crisis, but in todays socio-political chaos it’s going to take more than a little education or a once a year Earth Day. We need an effective daily reminder at this point. There’s so many issues that you could dedicate one post a week and still only scratch the surface. Still, every scratch would help peel away some layers of ignorance, that too many have, about a crisis that every living thing is threatened by. We are in a war and I won’t be celebrating until the majority of people actively join the fight. A Hopeful Earth Day to you.

  2. Durable cotton for me–for decades. Some items have lasted many years and that’s fine with me. Now I see that I got this one right. Style vacillations be damned, and same for idiots who don’t like my looks–or expect me to wear anything not comfortable. I was fortunate to work in places that didn’t fuss about clothes, and even luckier now to be retired. I wish all could be so lucky as to wear stuff they like that is also practical. Perhaps this post will help with that. Else a couple millennia from now people will be wondering about all those weird mummified textiles in the desert.
    The complex where I live used to have a recycle bin, but that was taken away because people threw the wrong stuff into it. It was right next to the dumpster and that didn’t help. I have a relative who can drive (for neurological reasons I can’t) and they and I recycle our stuff together. I am appalled at how much plastic the place won’t even take. If said relative dies before I do, which is likely, I’ll have to find some other way to get the stuff to the recycling center. I suppose I can network up a solution when the time comes. If I myself am still around. Meanwhile, I am below the national average for trash weight, so there is that.
    I’m no chemist, but someone said, “The difference tween polyester and napalm is a spark.” Someone who isn’t feeling as lazy as I am can research that out.
    Never did like the feel of the stuff anyway.

    1. Perhaps we can create a Society to Prevent Polyester. And I tell you what I wouldn’t be surprised if that napalm polyester thing was legit because I remember one time I was in a choir and we were required to hold candles and they put Styrofoam cups on the bottom of them so that the drips wouldn’t get on her hands. But my styrofoam cup caught fire and it dripped onto my knuckle and it burned all the way down to the bone and I still have a very visible scar from that, and it happened about 40 years ago. Some of these synthetic things are no joke. And I’m still wearing a lot of the stuff that I had since my twenties. Nothing outlandish just your basic stuff. I was never a fashion plate. And if it fits and it’s comfortable I’m happy.

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