Clothes and Climate? What about the weather?
Each morning, I make my way to our closet where the little weather station my family gave me for Mother’s Day sits on the shelf. I just love to see the temperature, potential for rain or snow, and the symbol my older son coined as “fast clouds”, a line drawing of a cloud with lines coming off the back, to indicate wind. Maybe I’m a bit obsessed because I grew up in Iowa where the flow of the local report each night was weather first then news and sports. Weather was critical, not just to what we needed to wear or whether or not we could go for a swim. Weather was critical, and still is, to farmers across the country betting sometimes everything they own so that we can have food on our tables and clothes on our backs.
So we understand that the weather impacts our choice in clothes, but what do clothes have to do with climate? More than you might think. It really starts with the fibers. Whether it’s cotton grown using pesticides and fertilizers or polyester, which is made from fossil fuels, our choice in what we wear has an impact on our planet and the people who grow, fabricate, design, and create the clothes we wear. In addition to the carbon dioxide created in making our fibers, we then seem very comfortable shipping cotton from North Carolina to China and back again as a chemical-ridden t-shirt found on some sale table for $4. Logically, we know that if everyone in the process has been paid a fair wage and the planet treated well, there’s no way that shirt costs so little. Something is subsidizing our closet. Most often it’s both people and our planet.
So next time you think about how the weather is impacting your choice of outfits for the day, think about how your choice in clothes is impacting the climate. It’s your choice. You can choose to be “best dressed” by considering both the passing weather and our changing world climate.