A loved one recently sent me a link to an essay written by a weatherman who essentially states that global warming is a scam perpetrated by Al Gore. While I prefer to err on the side of caution and support the idea of global warming (I tell the older generation “get back to me in 50 years” to which they respond “I won’t be here” and I say “yes, but I will be”), I am also open to information from all sides of the equation. At this point, I promote the idea of conservation, regardless of whether global warming is an actual problem or not.
My maternal grandparents met on a Sierra Club hike back in the 1920’s, I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and I spent several years living in Berkeley, CA, so the idea of conservationism, radicalism, and generally speaking out about personal beliefs is hardly new to me. On the contrary… I’ve had plenty people tell me to shut up since I was a little kid.
Last year I started attending locally hosted Green Drinks events. What I find difficult about networking with other green businesses, especially at these events, is that so many of them are construction-based industries. I know there are many, many vintage clothing sellers like myself out there, but how many of them consider themselves “green” businesses? I know I certainly do.
I believe clothing should have a generational lifespan, being worn for more than just a season, and perhaps by many people. The idea of buying something only to wear once–even a wedding dress!–is abhorrent to me. Until the advent of industrial weaving factories in the 19th century, clothing that was too worn out to wear was recycled over and over again in a multitude of different ways. Kimono were originally designed to last at least three generations, as silk textiles stored and treated well have a lifespan of around a hundred years.
An excellent example of textile recycling is a traditional folk song, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, put into book form by Simms Taback. Read it with your kids/grandkids/neighbor’s kids! Better yet, volunteer at your local library and read it to kids there. I’m sure they’ll have a copy.
Another look at the concept of clothing recycling is Salaula, The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia by Karen Tranberg Hansen. Ever wonder where your donations to Goodwill go if Goodwill doesn’t sell them? There’s an entire industry devoted to moving used clothing from the US to other nations. This book takes a look at how this has historically been handled in Zambia and how it has affected the native culture in both positive and negative ways.
I could go off in several different tangents at this point, connecting to cotton production, pesticide use, industrial weaving mill conditions, mill closures in the US, the loss of skilled hand weavers in Japan, etc. but I’ll save those connections for another post.