De-stuffing with Common Threads

Have you heard about Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative? The initiative encourages Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, and Reimagine. It’s about de-stuffing our lives—the part of our lives related to consumption of outdoor clothing, at least. They were already repairing used Patagonia clothing and taking back worn clothing for recycling, but now they are pulling all of this together into one program. They are even encouraging customers to buy used Patagonia clothing on eBay, both from the original owners and from Patagonia itself.

Cynics are saying that this is a brilliant marketing scheme designed to ensure customer loyalty, but I don’t think they need that. Patagonia customers are already loyal, and Patagonia has long shown their dedication to the environment through the actions of the company itself and those of the people who work there.

Plus, with so much in the world to discourage a person, I choose to believe that this initiative will reduce some amount of the overused stuff of our lives and that it will help us rethink consumption. We don’t have to consume nothing (yet). By reconsidering what stuff we need and how we deal with that stuff during its lifecycle, we can change our own lives and model responsible, sustainable consumption for the people around us—especially for our children.

While you are thinking about stuff, today the latest film is released from Annie Leonard of The Story of Stuff. The latest is called The Story of Broke, about why we DO have enough money in the world to take care of the petrochemical addiction and other issues we’ve created in the stuff economy. Watch the new film. I’m going to watch it and get back to you about it this Saturday.

Remembering the Cloth Diaper Option

As locals in Coquitlam, BC, wonder if their throwaway diapers will stink as they wait for trash day, one letter to the editor reminds them that they can avoid the wasteful garbage stink with cloth diapers.

Just think how such a responsible decision will help to save us from environmental collapse, landfill collapse — or a stinky neighbourhood at the very least.

Joy Silver, Coquitlam

I love reading letters like this. Every town needs someone willing to help everyone remember a better way to diaper babies.

Reduce First

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Recycling Bins

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and most municipal waste agencies focus on recycling. Understandable, since they deal with the waste when it leaves us, the consumers. Before you arrive at the recycling phase, consider whether you can avoid getting there at all. If your goal is to reduce the impact of your lifestyle, you would do better to take each of the Rs in order.


Reduce

How conscious are we about the garbage and other stuff that comes into our houses daily? Before you arrive at recycling, ask if you need to buy that item that is going to be recycled. Can you do without it? Can you choose an option with less packaging, such as buying in bulk? How can you plan ahead for less waste by reducing what you buy?

We buy flour in a 25-lb bag made of heavy paper, but small bags of flour also come in paper bags. We buy rice in burlap bags, so we avoid the small plastic bags. Bulk food is an easy first step.

When you are looking at reducing waste that will need to be recycled, look for items that come in less packaging that is more easily recycled. For example, if you buy batteries two at a time in the grocery aisle, they come in heavy plastic clam-shell packaging that requires heavy kitchen shears to open then must be recycled. If you buy batteries by the dozen or more, they come in a cardboard half-box with light, shrink-wrapped plastic. Of course, if you use rechargeable batteries, you go through this step only once.

To take another example that seems to come up every couple of months, I look at my children’s worn out shoes and wonder how to reduce the need to throw away raggedy sneakers so often. Our answer is to buy the most durable shoes we can afford. This is less expensive in the long run, and we end up with fewer holey soled shoes in the garbage.


Reuse

Before I buy, is there something else I can reuse first? When making a choice, is there something that I can use for multiple purposes?

Flat or prefold cloth diapers can be reused as rags. They make great cleaning cloths. A fitted diaper or a polyester cover can’t really be re-purposed in that way.

To take another example from recent family reality, when I can convince my daughter (older) to wear a gender-neutral winter coat, I know I can then hand it down to my son in a few years. If you have just one child or you can’t convince them to wear the same clothes, send the clothes to a consignment store so another child can wear them.


Recycle

If you have already been through the first two stages, once you arrive at the recycling stage you have less to consider. Recycling costs more financially and environmentally. Recycling isn’t simply about buying a plastic water bottle that has the correct recycling symbol then putting it in a bin when finished. If that is all we do, we haven’t quite connected with the whole concept of Reduce Reuse Recycle.

Reduce and Reuse first. Then be sure to recycle everything that can be recycled.

And, when you have a choice, buy goods that are made from recycled materials to close the loop.

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Recycling Day hosted this month by Recycle Your Day.

Image © Zhong Wei Wan | Dreamstime.com