Sunday, 9 June 2013

I Shop Second-Hand, And It Helps Save The Oceans.....
















With yesterday being World Oceans Day, I was hoping to get a chance to write a post for it. But, it was a whirlwind day, and alas- I am a day late.


I hope that you will continue to read on, anyway.... ;)


Our oceans are our non-renewable source of water, which (in case you weren't aware) we humans desperately need in order to live.


Our love for all things cotton has had an enormous impact on our oceans. All of the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers needed to cultivate our precious cotton all eventually wash into our oceans and other bodies of water. Not to mention all of the water that is used to actually GROW all of the cotton to feed our insatiable hunger for it.


WE love cotton in our clothing, our bedding, our furniture. We love the feel of it, the smell of it (there are many an air freshener spraying fake cotton smells into our atmosphere), and the price-point is generally good for us.


BUT- it is harming our earth in the (not-so) long-run. MAYBE we could consider some alternatives.












One way to save our oceans AND purchase our much-loved fabric, is to buy it second-hand. This not only saves our oceans, but saves space in our landfills as well.


Not sold on that? Well, there are other ideas...






I stumbled upon this article from the Globe and Mail recently and would like to share some other alternatives on basic cotton use. 





BAMBOO

What is it?

Bamboo plants are a group of grasses that grow to tree size very quickly. Bamboo fabrics – popular among environmentally conscious shoppers for its soft, breathable and anti-static characteristics – are made using the plant’s soft leaves and fleshy insides.

How is it made?

Bamboo leaves are picked and their insides peeled, then compressed to make bamboo cellulose. Sodium hydroxide is added to the cellulose and the blend is left to soak for a couple of hours followed by further crushing. The mixture dries out for a day before several other chemicals are added. The final step is to weave it into yarn.

What makes it green?

Considered a pesky weed in parts of Latin America and Africa, bamboo is a renewable resource considered eco-friendly thanks to the plant’s ability to grow using few resources or space and can be found on every continent except Europe and Antarctica.

What’s the downside?

The chemical method of turning this plant into fabric requires high resource levels and chemicals such as sodium hydroxide (otherwise known as lye) and sulphuric acid, which, if handled poorly, could have detrimental effects on the environment. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an American consumer protection agency, reported some vendors were selling rayon goods disguised as bamboo because “extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming,” according to the agency website. There is also debate over whether the chemical process strips bamboo of its anti-microbial qualities, or ability to kill potentially harmful microorganisms.




HEMP

What is it?

Available in clothing for more than 15 years, this material has had a speckled history thanks to its confused association with marijuana – not to mention its formerly rough, sometimes itchy feel. But recently consumer interest in hemp, Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, has grown as a result of hemp-based food products and new techniques to process the plant to make it softer and moisture wicking. It is strong, mildew-resistant, warm and blocks UV, or ultraviolet, rays better than many other fabrics.

How is it made?

Traditionally, hemp is harvested and left to dry for several days before employing a technique called retting, where water and mould are used to separate the fibres. Water retting is the most common: The plant is suspended in water to help separate the fibres. Using dew, or dew retting, is common in places with limited water resources. The moisture creates mould, which breaks down the plant over a couple of week and begins fibre separation. Industrial hemp processing uses steam, enzymes and ultrasound to separate the fibres.

What makes it green?

Hemp requires few resources to grow – approximately 10 per cent of the water needed to grow cotton – and it can survive in many global climates, such as Canada's. No herbicides or pesticides and very little fertilizer are necessary.

What’s the downside?

Hemp is illegal in the United States, though not in Canada, as its growth and production here was legalized in 1998. There has been a push throughout the U.S. to legalize the plant and to legally differentiate it from marijuana, a different variety of the Cannabis plant that has high levels of the psychoactive chemical THC. But its stigma runs deep. As well, some hemp textiles are created using chemicals. Canada is taking advantage of this plant’s growing popularity with hemp seed revenues reaching an estimated $30- to $34-million in 2011, according to the Government of Alberta. At its highest level in 2006, hemp was grown on more than 48,000 acres throughout the country.




ORGANIC COTTON

What is it?

Cotton – once known as the rich person’s commodity and the poor person’s crop – is well known for being one of the most resource intensive and unsustainable crops to grow in the world. Organic cotton tries to reverse this trend by using environmentally friendly growing processes in order to leave the smallest possible imprint on the landscape.

How is it made?

Organic cotton is made without pesticides, herbicides or non-natural fertilizer, and organic cotton farmers use techniques such as crop rotation and mixed cultivation to ensure that the environment is best served by their crop. Organic cotton farmers attempt to prevent soil erosion with green fences and other soil management techniques.

What makes it green?

Organic cotton producers use none of the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers traditionally found in regular cotton. Organic cotton farmers, when possible, use natural processes that return nutrients to the soil, minimizing the impact of the crop while reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to biodiversity. A chief argument against regular cotton production is that it intensifies poverty because of the environmental degradation it creates, which, if added to the massive subsidies the U.S. gives its cotton producers, means that fewer farmers in the developing world can get a good price for their crop. On the flipside, a 2005 study by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland, reported organic cotton can improve farmers’ lives and a farm’s soil fertility.

What’s the downside?

Despite the fact that it is organic, cotton is still a resource intensive crop to grow. Depending on where it is grown, it can take up to 2,953 litres of water to grow the equivalent of a single organic cotton T-shirt, according to the National Resources Defence Council. Growing organic cotton also requires up to 50 per cent more land to grow than regular cotton does.





RECYCLED POLYESTER

What is it?

Polyester (most commonly the polymer Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET), is made from melted plastic. But polyester is made using oil, which is not a renewable resource. One solution is to recycle the plastic into clothing and other goods.

How is it made?

Most recycled polyester is made by melting the plastic (whether clothes or bottles) and pushing it through moulds that turn the plastic into strands thin enough to be made into yarn.

What makes it green?

Recycling polyester takes 40-85 per cent less non-renewable energy and emits 25-75 per cent less greenhouse gases than making it from scratch, according to a study conducted at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Recycling post-consumer polyester products such as bottles and clothing also means that thousands of items will be saved from landfills and oceans.

What’s the downside?

Despite the fact that recycled polyester saves energy compared with virgin polyester, it still emits more greenhouse gases and uses more energy than all of the other materials profiled here. Another issue comes when polyester is recycled because it often degrades, meaning that at some point the material will most likely be discarded or burned. Recycling polyester also fails to address the global problem of our dependence on non-renewable energy in manufacturing.







As much as I agree with that article- I am also very interested in how organic cotton DOES actually harm our oceans and other sources of water. Because there are no pesticides/ herbicides/ non-organic fertilizer used, it actually requires A LOT more water to grow. I've been reading about how the production of organic cotton in Kazakstan/ Uzbekistan has all but dried up the Aral Sea....but THAT is a post for another day.....










I'll end with Ecocentric's 10 Ways: So You Want To Save The Ocean:


Eat Organic Food: Less chemicals in your body is a lovely reason to eat organic, but so is less fertilizer running off of farmland, into local waterways and finally into the ocean.  Lots of fertilizer = dead zones; and ocean life – except for bacteria – hates dead zones.


Wear Organic Cotton: Cotton may or may not be the fabric of our lives, but it’s certainly the dirtiest.  Cotton uses 15 percent of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single crop.


Shrink Your CO2 Footprint: The CO2 power plants and cars release into the atmosphere doesn’t all stay in the atmosphere, in fact about 25 percent is absorbed by the ocean.  This has led to rapidly increasing ocean acidity, with potentially dire consequences for sea life.  Now might be a good time to check out the EPA’s nine steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint.


Fight for Global CO2 Reductions: Groups like 350.org are calling for major global initiatives to help stop carbon emissions from continuing to trash the planet. The group is specifically calling for a “Robin Hood Tax,” a fractional tax on speculative banking transactions that would generate billions of dollars to tackle climate change and poverty.


End Foreign Fisheries Subsidies: What’s the best way to end overfishing?  Stop the handouts.  Massive foreign fishing fleets are staying afloat not because business is great, but because of government subsidies that allow too many boats to prowl the ocean’s fisheries.  The solution?  Make them operate in the world of supply and demand just like the United States fishing fleet. (If you're familiar with agricultural subsidies then you know they present a similar set of problems on land, but that’s the topic of another -- or many other -- posts.) Oceana has some thoughts on what we can do.


Make Sustainable Seafood Choices: Red, yellow, green…sustainable seafood cards are helpful, but in a pinch remember a couple of quick and easy suggestions: eat low on the food chain (think sardines, not tuna) and always ask your restaurant server where the fish came from.  Awkward?  Sure, but if the server keeps hearing that customers aren’t selecting the orange roughy because it’s not sustainable, the chef will take note.


Don’t Get Your Omega 3’s from Fish Oil: As we discussed on the blog back in January, Omega 3’s are a very good thing, but getting them from fish oil is unnecessary, and even contributes to serious declines in important lower food chain fish species like menhaden. Instead, eat up your walnuts and flaxseed, and try Omega 3 supplements made from algae, which is what oily fish like menhaden get their healthy fatty acids from in the first place!


More Ocean Reserves: Conservation areas give nature a break from all of our demands, but less than 0.5 percent of marine habitats are protected, compared with 11.5 percent of global land area.  Since 71 percent of the Earth is covered by the ocean that seems a little unfair, no?  There may be a lot of marine protected areas in United States waters, but we need to establish many more “Yosemites of the Sea.”


Reduce Plastics Use: Every piece of plastic that’s ever been made, unless it’s been melted or recycled, is still around in its original form. Much of this waste has found its way into the ocean and other waterways, and it’s not only ugly but it’s bad for marine life as well.  Check out the Plastic Free Guide to learn how to go plastic-free – you might be surprised at just how much plastic there is in your life.



Mimic Nature with Green Infrastructure: We have a lot of impermeable surfaces in our cities and towns. This means that rainfall and snowmelt end up carrying pollutants off of parking lots, roads and roofs into storm drains, often directly into our water ways and ultimately the ocean. Green infrastructure can help by creating more permeable surfaces like rain gardens and constructed wetlands that reduce the flow of polluted runoff.












So, if you can't commit to buying all second-hand, please try to incorporate at least one or two items on at least one of these lists. Our precious oceans will thank you.




I apologize for the occasional 'heavy' post, friends. But I DO need to rant now and then. ;)  I promise my next post will be all about some more gorgeous thrifted outfits. :)




Blessings. 



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