4 Ways to More Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion has a broad definition. It ranges from buying from and donating to second-hand clothing stores to decreasing the environmental impact of agro-chemicals in cotton production. The question is how can we be more conscious consumers and choose products that are ethically-made and environmentally-friendly?

 

  1. Shop from thrift stores and second-hand clothing stores.

Did you know it takes about 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans? This number doesn’t even include the water used in washing the pair over its lifetime. Instead of buying new and wasting another 1,800 gallons of water, try thrifting your next pair. From Boston Garment District’s wide variety of thrifting opportunities to consignment shop chain 2nd Time Around’s high-end selections, there are so many local thrifting opportunities to check out in the Boston area!

 

  1. Sell or donate used clothes that you no longer wear.

A good way of getting rid of things you don’t want is to post on the Tufts Facebook Buy and Sell page or the Tusk Marketplace. Through these platforms, other students can purchase items second-hand from you—so you can make money while you downsize your wardrobe. You can also bring your clothes to sell at stores like Buffalo Exchange or donate to others like Goodwill. In April, check out the annual Eco-Reps clothing swap where students can donate and trade clothes for free!

 

  1. Think twice before buying more clothes.

In the age of fast fashion, we are quick to buy trendy pieces and abandon those no longer in style. Clothing sales have been skyrocketing — the fast fashion industry is expected to hit $2.1 trillion by 2025. These days, consumers buy 60% more clothes that they keep for half as long as people did just 15 years ago. Also, synthetic fibers like polyester emit 3 times more carbon dioxide than cottonduring their lifecycle. Rather than spending money on larger quantities of cheap clothes that create huge environmental impacts, consider investing in a few, long-lasting, high-quality pieces of clothing. Remember that you can find quality pieces at thrift stores without spending a fortune!

  1. Ask your favorite brands how your clothes are made.

Fashion Revolution Week calls attention to social justice in the fashion industry. This April’s Fashion Revolution Week commemorated the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,138 people were killed in 2013 due to unsafe working conditions. Many people have instagrammed and tweeted at the brands that make their clothes with the hashtag #whomademyclothes, building awareness of these disconnects between fashion producers and consumers. Small actions like these can pressure clothing companies to be more conscious of, accountable for, and transparent about their sustainability efforts, treatment of workers, and production methods.

Watch the following ENVS Lunch & Learn Presentation to look at the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing and some of the cutting edge innovations from science and technology that are leading to breakthroughs in more sustainable production.

 

Reusable Plates of Boston 2017

On Tuesday, June 6th, President Monaco hosted the second of three President’s Picnic at the Boston Campus. These annual zero-waste events bring together the Tufts community to celebrate another year of hard work. The zero waste initiative at each of these picnics encourages attendees to BYOP — Bring Your Own Place-setting — which reduces waste created from disposable dishes, cutlery, and cups.

Condiments and drinks were served in bulk, rather than individual packets, to further reduce packaging waste.

Recycling interns helped sort recycling and compost at special Zero Waste Stations.

Attendees who brought their own dishes could also win special, sustainable prizes! This year, the first fifty won a reusable paper towel.

Attendees did a fantastic job helping us keep this event zero-waste. We hope everyone enjoyed the great food and company and will continue these sustainable practices into the future!

Click for recaps from the Medford President’s Picnic and the Grafton Presidents Picnic.

Reusable Plates of Grafton 2017

On the beautiful day that was last Thursday, June 8th, President Monaco hosted the third President’s Picnic at the Grafton Campus. These annual zero-waste events bring together the Tufts community at each campus to celebrate another year of hard work. The zero waste initiative at each of these picnics encourages attendees to BYOP — Bring Your Own Place-setting — which reduces waste created from disposable dishes, cutlery, and cups.

 

At Grafton’s events, attendees were able to wash their reusable dishware after the picnic at a Dish Rinsing Station.

With direction and support from Facilities, everything at the picnic was recycled or composted to reduce waste. This was made possible by the use of only reusable, recyclable, or compostable plates and utensils.

Drinks and condiments were served in bulk to avoid the wasteful packaging of single serving packaging.

About half of all attendees brought their own dishware entered the chance to win a raffle prize of a reusable picnic set for two!

Thank you to everyone who came and helped make this event a zero-waste picnic. We hope everyone enjoyed the great food and company and will continue these sustainable practices into the future!

Click for recaps from the Medford President’s Picnic and the Boston Presidents Picnic.

This week at the Cummings School: Mixed Recycling

After switching to mixed recycling on the Medford/Somerville, SMFA, and Boston campuses, Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability are excited to announce the Grafton campus is transitioning to mixed recycling beginning this week. When the transition is complete, the full campus will have transitioned to mixed recycling. The old glass/metal/plastic and paper/cardboard bins will be replaced with mixed recycling bins that can be identified by their UFO-shaped lids, blue bags, and mixed recycling labels.

A dual stream waste station at Tufts Medford campus before the switch which includes a bin for glass/metal/plastic and a bin for paper/cardboard.

A waste station with mixed recycling and trash co-located.

Before this year, Tufts utilized a dual stream system, which required separating glass, metal, and plastic containers from paper and cardboard items. With the switch to mixed recycling, all of these items will be collected in one bin.

What is Mixed Recycling?

“Mixed recycling” means that the items you normally sort into the blue and green-lidded recycling bins (paper/cardboard and glass/metal/plastic) can be disposed of together. The recyclable materials collected will remain the same but will not need to be separated.

The UFO-shaped mixed recycling lids will allow people to dispose of items in a variety of shapes (e.g. bottles and cardboard).

 

Why is Tufts Moving to Mixed Recycling?

  1. It’s more convenient!

The ability to put paper/cardboard and glass/metal/plastic recycling in one bin will make recycling simple and easy, providing the Tufts community with two primary options for disposing of waste: “Mixed Recycling” or “Landfill” (along with composting for food waste in some locations). For example, you might recall mixing your recyclables at the recent President’s Picnic.

  1. Our waste stream is changing

The switch to mixed recycling is a direct reaction to the changing needs of the recycling industry: with increased demand for more efficient packaging and changes in personal habits, the makeup of the nation’s waste stream is changing. At one time, paper made up to 70 percent of the weight flowing through recycling programs, but now it accounts for less than 40 percent in many cities. More complex, lightweight materials have begun to replace paper; Tufts’ mixed recycling program will accommodate the disposal of these changing materials more efficiently.

  1. Mixed recycling will support Tufts’ waste reduction goals

Transitioning to mixed recycling supports Tufts’ larger plan to improve solid waste and recycling efforts in line with the President’s Campus Sustainability Council’s goal of reducing total waste by 3% per year. This system makes recycling easier for everyone and encourages people to recycle rather than send trash to the landfill whenever possible. Every Tufts community member is asked and expected to help the university meet its waste goals by educating themselves about their campus’s move to mixed recycling.

 

Learn more about what goes in the new mixed recycling bins – and what doesn’t – in this short online workshop.

 

Why might the US reasonably be expected to pay into a Green Climate Fund?

This morning one of my interns came into my office and asked about the Green Climate Fund that President Trump claimed was unfair to the United States when he withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. Putting aside that he didn’t seem to understand the numbers, it does beg the question, “Why should America have to pay anything when China is emitting more than us and all these other countries also have a role to play?” I provided her with this allegory:

Consider this thought experiment:

John owns a house with a lawn. His buddy Rex owns a garage next door where he changes oil in vehicles. Every day for the past twenty years Rex has been dumping used motor oil on John’s lawn. At 2 quarts of oil a day (he works slowly), even if he takes 4 weeks of vacation in France every year, over 20 years that adds up to a lot of oil on John’s lawn. John even pours some quarts of oil onto his own lawn once in a while, it’s easy after all. In fact, a few years ago some of the other folks on the block had oil to get rid of so they started leaving it at John’s house too. They weren’t mechanics so they only dumped a little every week.

In the last week Jim from across town started his own garage and started carting his oil over to John’s house, dumping 5 quarts of oil a day (he was a faster worker than Rex). John’s lawn suffered. The oil spilled over into his neighbor’s yard, making them sick. His dog’s hair fell out.

Rex, meanwhile, had built a ditch around his property so the oil he was adding to John’s yard didn’t run back onto his garage’s parking lot. He was doing well. After all, he hadn’t had to pay an environmental fee to get rid of his oil. He lived in a big house farther down the street so although the smell of the oil was annoying he could get away. He’d also used some of his profits to try out some new-fangled synthetic oil, which just evaporated when removed from the car! He even started teaching other folks how to change their car’s oil more efficiently.

Eventually John realized that this oil was affecting him – 97% of the doctors he went to said it was the cause of the weird rash on his skin and his neighbor’s ailments. The vet said the oil caused his dog’s hair to fall out. John decided something needed to be done. He gathered up all the people who had been dumping oil on his lawn and said “this is not sustainable, I am living in a house surrounded by a lake of oil! My grass won’t grow, it smells terrible and I have this gross rash! Oh, and my neighbor is sick and can’t afford medical care. We need to stop putting oil here.”

So what would be a fair solution?

Your initial thought might be, “Well, stop dumping any oil at all!” But there’s no infrastructure set up in the town (after all everyone had just been dumping it on John’s lawn) and it would take time to build it. So, they convinced John to let them keep dumping it, at least until there was an alternative. The new, synthetic oil had been gaining popularity so they decided to develop a solution that would allow everyone to wean off of the oil over time. But how should it happen? Should everyone stop at the same rate? Rex was a lot wealthier than everyone else, and was dumping a lot every week, should he reduce the amount he was dumping faster than, say, Sally? What about the (unnamed) neighbors’ medical bills? Should the dumpers help them out? The neighbors hadn’t dumped any oil and yet were suffering the most.

If you look at the amount of oil dumped last week it looks like Jim is the biggest culprit so you might say he needs to be the one to reduce his dumping. Or you might say everyone needs to cut their amount in half – just to be fair.

However, if you were to look at it over time, you might choose a cap – everyone can only dump 40 quarts of oil a year. And even though that’ll impact Rex more than anyone else you decide that’s okay because Rex is rich and can afford the more expensive synthetic oil.

Or you might look at the total amount of oil dumped over the past 20 years and decide, “Wow, Rex dumped WAY more oil than anyone else, even after he knew it was bad for the lawn.” You also might decide he should pay for some of the clean-up. Maybe even the neighbor’s medical bills.

But he doesn’t think that’s fair because he’s already worked hard to be more efficient and switch to synthetic oil. Plus he doesn’t have the money to pay for the cleanup or the medical bills (don’t they have insurance for that?) – after all he’s spent most of the money he’d earned building his new house.

What do you think would be fair?
So how does this relate to the Paris Climate Accord and the Green Climate Fund? Consider this diagram:

This is a snapshot. This is the equivalent to last week’s oil dumping in our fictional town. China is like Jim, the biggest dumper.

Then consider this graph:

This shows how the US and the EU, like Rex have been emitting carbon for a lot longer than China.

Lastly, consider this graph:

GDP is a proxy for wealth showing that the US, like Rex, has been in business for a long time and is much wealthier than China, who like Jim, recently joined the industrial revolution.

This graph kind of says it all:

Interested in reading more?

Check out these graphs of global carbon emissions: https://wri.org/blog/2014/11/6-graphs-explain-world%E2%80%99s-top-10-emitters

The Stockholm Environment Institute has developed an equity share approach to addressing the competing needs of countries to develop and to reduce emissions. See their report here: http://sei-us.org/projects/id/124

You can also watch a video of Sivan Kartha, the lead author, explaining the basis.

Design your own solution with the World Resources Institute Equity Explorer! http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/10/climate-equity-tale-4-countries

 

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