Welcome to the very first edition of Green Stories. We’ll be looking at people who are making a difference in the environmental space, profiling their views and discussing their work.
First up is Vince Schutt, founder of Enviromentum. He’s a data geek and focuses on helping people adopt environmentally responsible behaviours through motivational interviews.
This is part 4 of a multi-part interview and we’re talking about pre-ripped jeans.
Pre-ripped jeans are a climate disaster
A: Buy it for life!
V: Exactly, how many watches will you wear? If you do wear a watch, are you going to buy one once a year, every 10 years, or are you going to buy a watch and pass it down to your child and they pass it down to theirs and so on?
The fact of the matter is that this durability question applies to every single product. For example, pre-ripped jeans are a sustainability catastrophe.
This pair of jeans that I’m wearing right now, I’m wearing second hand. And even second hand, I’ll probably be able to wear it for another 4-6 years maybe. And once done, I can put it back into the reuse economy.
If I had a pair of freshly purchased pre-ripped jeans, then how long are those really going to last me? A year maybe? They are already damaged. Further damage is going to be much more likely.
When I studied nuclear science, we had to see what temperature and pressure do we have to keep the reactor at. You keep it at a certain temperature to prevent it from failing. You can’t get too hot, or the metal will deform and almost melt, and you can’t keep it too cold then the pre-existing flaws could brittle fracture and it could fail that way.
Whenever you have a flaw in a materials, metal or jeans or whatever, the material is going to break down much more quickly. It doesn’t matter if it’s jeans or an Apple computer.
If these ripped jeans last a year on average, and all I bought was pre-ripped jeans, I would need 5 times as many, which means the GHG impact from my jeans to cover my legs went up 500%.
But that’s not all. I wouldn’t want to wear my jeans when it’s winter because it’s really cold. So now I need extra pairs for the winter. So now we need to amplify the impact because I need more practical pairs of jeans.
The hidden costs
V: Pre-ripped jeans also cost more due to fashion trends. For every dollar you spend, which goes to say Forever 21, what are their shareholders doing with that money? Are they going to lead a life of never using that money, or spend it on environmental causes or be the greenest person ever? But let’s face it, they’re probably going to get that house and that golden seat.
Those things are part of my GHG impact as somebody who’s buying something more expensive. Remember I said, one of the only things that’s ever reduced GHG emissions is economic recession.
This has been quantified in a book called “How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.” They actually ask what is the GHG impact of my dollar spent?
Some of these pre-ripped jeans will go for $300. And we haven’t gotten to the end yet.
When you wear the pre-ripped jeans, you are creating a culture of fast fashion that is hostile to people who take on that culture.
Now there’s cultural implications that lead to additional GHG. You can’t put it into the reuse economy. So, if you do change jeans, it`ll go to the trash. This is an organic material, cotton, and it’s going to bio-degrade, releasing methane, a much more potent GHG and then we’re having more GHGs.
And then you’re drawing on waste services 5 times as much, realizing that clothing is one of the largest sectors of waste.
If everyone sorted things the way they should, clothing would be the leading source of material going to landfill. And that needs to be addressed.