The Good News and the Bad News

Last Sunday when I posted Clothing Solutions, I said that I would update you at the end of the week with some good locations for dumpster diving with clothes. I’m sorry to say that I failed my mission.

I looked in a number of both local and chain clothing store dumpster including second hand stores and besides loads of boxes and pallets, I didn’t find very much in them. It’s possible that I had bad timing. I did a couple of runs at different mall centers at different times. While some dumpsters were filled to the rim with boxes, some were completely empty. For the empty ones, I though the trucks had probably just run in that area and for the others I’m thinking that’s possible that around the end or first of the month is when people most likely throw out the old clothes to make room for the new ones. Other than university/college dorm dumpster, apartments and a local thrift store, I have no places to add to my list. I won’t be giving up though because this week in the last week of the month and I’ll be making some more rounds.

I do have some good news though. One, if my timing is not off, it’s possible that people are not as irresponsible with their leftover clothes as I had been lead to believe. I don’t doubt that people on a non-business level are thoughtless, but fashion chains might just have enough sense to ship the un-bought clothes back to the warehouse to sell later or maybe even donate. We’ll just have to see.

Two, when there are multiple dumpsters at places like a mall center I usually just go down the line and look in all the dumpsters for a future reference type deal. One thing that there is never too little of is boxes. If you plan on moving anytime soon there is no need to go and buy boxes, in all sizes, because there are thousands of them just waiting to be reused. Every dumpster you look in will have at least one box. Wooden shipping pallets are also in abundance.  While I looked in a variety of different dumpsters for different businesses I saw some unique things that people may want sooner or later.

I looked in the Salvation Army dumpster today and although I didn’t find too much in it, beside it was 6 or 7 mattresses and a couple of couches and chairs. Why they were there, I’m not too sure. Maybe they were too torn up to be of any use (I thought it would be weird to go and lay down on one to check, so I didn’t. Maybe next time.) This is not the first time that I’ve seen them there, so if you’re looking for a mattress or want the springs for a project, I’d start there. I’ve also seen mattresses at a furniture store that I always pass by on the way to class.

Food is also in every dumpster I have looked in. For those freegan newbies, you’re in luck because foods along with boxes are the most common trash products I find.

If you having a balding dog and want to make them a toupee, a dog grooming shop would be a great place to look. I found a dumpster for one and it was full to the rim. It might be an interesting hobby for after my retirement.

I found a trash in a dumpster that suggested that the business may be remodeling. I found some ceiling tiles, rubber base molding that I almost considered taking, but they were big and I didn’t know for sure if I could use them, so I left them.


Clothing Solutions: Part 3

Here are those clothing solutions I promised.

First, you can go dumpster diving and get those usable garments that whatever person threw away instead of doing the generous thing and giving them to to someone else. I go dumpster diving as I need stuff and since I don’t often need new clothes, then I find myself at a disadvantage  here. I assume that clothes would send their extra clothes back to their warehouse, but after studying others experiences, I have found that that may not always be true. I would say now that the best place to go would be actual stores. Writing this article has giving me motivation to go and try my hypothesis myself and I shall have my conclusion by the end of the week.

The second thing you can do is to thrift shopping. This I have done and I can say that you can find something excellent finds if you look.

For those who are unwilling to either then the below are so options for you. You can by your things from companies who are doing the right thing or buy fabrics who will have less of an impact on the earth’s health.

Some companies have taken the road less traveled.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has defined eco-fashions as “identifying the general environmental performance of a product within a product group based on its whole life-cycle in order to contribute to improvements in key environmental measures and to support sustainable consumption patterns.”

One approach has been to use sustainably grown cotton, hemp, bamboo, and other fiber crops that require less pesticides, irrigation, and other inputs. Organic cotton is grown in at least 12 countries. Organic cotton only represents .03 percent of cotton sales.

Another approach is the use of polymers created from plant-based materials. One such material trademarked by Cargill, Ingeo, is made of corn by-products that are fermented and transformed into polylactide. This polymer is spun into fibers and woven into fabrics that, under strictly managed circumstances, could be composted (polylactide, marketed under the name NatureWorks PLA, is also fashioned into wraps, rigid food and beverage containers, coated papers and boards, and other packaging applications). Versace is one of the haute couture designer clothing firms that have used Ingeo in their collections

Other retailers large and small are taking different steps to appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer. Tesco, the largest British retailer, has commissioned a study by Oxford University toward developing a Sustainable Consumption Institute to establish a system to label every product sold by Tesco on the basis of its carbon emission footprint.

Eco-friendly fabrics generally have the following characteristics:

  • Minimum use of chemicals and pesticides
  • Best land manangement practices
  • Sustainable farming practices
  • Eco-friendly certification (i.e. EU-Eco label certification)
  • Animal friendly
  • Production adheres to fair trade practices

Here’s a list of eco-friendly fibers to look out for and also I’ve added a link where you learn more about them. Next time you’re shopping for clothes, look out for clothes that are made from the following fibers (or other eco-friendly fibers):

Hemp – An amazing natural fiber. Some say hemp could have 25,000 uses. Hemp provides enormous benefit to the natural environment. This is true when used in products and when growing the hemp plant.

Jute – Similar to hemp, jute is a type of vegetable fiber used for thousands of years, with outstanding potential for the future.

Ingeo – Trademark for a man-made fiber derived from corn.

Calico – Fabric made from unbleached cotton. Also referred to as muslin.

Hessian Cloth – Coarse woven fabric made from jute or hemp.

Organic cotton – Cotton grown organically (without pesticides etc)

Bamboo Fiber – Bamboo fabric is very comfortable and 100% biodegradable.

Lyocell Tencel® – Brand name for a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose.

Ramie – Ramie fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers. Ramie can be up to 8 times stronger than cotton, and is even stronger when wet.

Organic Wool – Organic wool is wool that has been produced in a way that is less harmful to the environment than non-organic wool.

Organic Linen – Linen that is made from flax fiber. Could also refer to be linen made from other organically grown plant fibers.

FORTREL EcoSpun – Fiber made from plastic containers that resembles fleece.

Milk Silk – Silk made from milk

Soy Silk – Silk made from soybeans

Nettle fiber – Made from stinging nettle (commonly known as a weed)

Spider-web fabric – Fabric made from spider webs. Still in the experimental stages.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Clothing Waste Endemic: Part 2

Don’t forget to check back and read my next post Clothing Solutions

Clothes. We need them. Even if nudists, eventually they’re going to want to leave their house and when that day comes they can either get arrested for indecent exposure or they can buy some clothes. What kind of clothes will they buy? Will they buy clothes that with each step of the clothing life cycle they generate potential environmental and occupational hazards or will they choose the road less traveled by making the better decision for the environment?

I guess for some it’s a tough decision. I usually wear t-shirts, jeans, and converses. I don’t pretend to understand what the big deal is about wearing nice clothes. When I have to work, I dress better, but I don’t want to and I don’t like to. Why other people do, I’ll never know.  Some people say it gives them confidence, some say they just like it, whatever the reason, there’s a responsible way to do it and there is an irresponsible way to do it. Most will choose to do it the impractical and therefore irresponsible because that’s what fashion is and by fashion I mean the trendy kind, the kind that lasts like five minutes before you throw out your closet to replace it with something that makes even less sense.

Both globalization and consumerism are the main reasons for our clothing overload. Globalization has made it possible to produce clothing at increasingly lower prices, prices so low that many consumers consider this clothing to be disposable. Some call it “fast fashion,” the clothing equivalent of fast food.

The fashion industry is constantly evolving. That creates a couple of problems for both environmentalists and anti-consumerists.

  1. It means that people are always throwing away clothes to make room for new ones. Most people don’t donate their clothes which means they’re just adding the waste in the landfills. According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of the municipal solid waste. But this figure is rapidly growing.
  2. As prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing. Which means that even if people donate their clothes, it won’t matter because why buy used clothes if you can new ones for the same price? Which means the clothes will just go in the landfill no matter what because there are no people to buy them.
  3. The knock offs of these fashion forward clothes are made from man-made fibers such as polyester. The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants.
  4. Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA.
  5. Globalization, driven by improved technology and reduced trade barriers is rapidly increasing the connections between people around the world. There are new opportunities to address poverty but also increased awareness of human rights and environmental issues. Many developing countries are offering major manufacturers tax breaks, low cost land and labour to build factories in areas known as Export Processing Zones. This creates new employment opportunities and income for poor families and export income for the country but sometimes working conditions are exploitative.
  6. Much of the cotton produced in the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labor costs, where the material is milled, woven into fabrics, cut, and assembled according to the fashion industry’s specifications. China has emerged as the largest exporter of fast fashion, accounting for 30% of world apparel exports, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics database.
  7. According to figures from the U.S. National Labor Committee, some Chinese workers make as little as 12–18 cents per hour working in poor conditions.

The Manufacturing provides a whole other set of problems.

  1.  Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; unfixed dye then often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives – often heavy metals – also end up in sewers and then rivers.
  2. Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds.
  1. And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all ‘easy care’, ‘crease resistant’, ‘permanent press’ cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).