Plastic is cheap. We all know that, we express it every day by the vast quantity of bags, electronics and toys that we recycle or ultimately throw away, but by the time the world wakes up to the problems of overabundance will we have done our best to live as lightfully, creatively, artfully, and environmentally friendly as we could have?
Take a look at the details.
How many buttons are on a typical men’s shirt? 15, give or take. If they are shiny and colorful, chances are that they are made from plastic, most likely polyester – a substance of the petrochemical industry that is molded to the right size and shape, then sewn into place. Plastic buttons are functional, yet worthless at the same time and will persist for a hundred years or more, long outlasting the life of you or your button-down shirt, before they start to degrade into smaller and smaller particles.
We don’t place any spiritual value on a plastic button and somehow they, like plastic bags, find a way to express themselves in our daily affairs decorating cuffs, collars, purses, openings of any kind – not to mention the dreaded plastic zipper that once broken renders the entire garment valueless.
Buttons at least can be replaced.
What can you replace them with? Nature has plenty of materials in store:
- metals (sterling silver, stainless steel)
The range of color will be more toned down, in accordance with nature’s palette, but the textures, interest and intrigue will be well worth it. Wooden buttons you can carve by hand, plastic ones take a machine.
Less obvious, yet alarmingly abundant, is acrylic and microfleece fabrics. As a society we take them for granted as materials to be purchased at a low price, these are universal products. Plastic wasn’t designed to be composted, it persists in the soilscape (worse yet, the oceans) for decades upon decades, releasing the infused dyes along with each rain washing.
Most of us are unaware that our clothes are polluting the very water we rely on for drinking, or ironically washing our clothes.
It is hard to stop a bad wash cycle, but it can be done.
It starts with simply refusing to bring new plastic into our closet.
Then take into account all that you already have and get rid of (properly) the worst offenders. Those that bleed excessively – a handwash test in a white sink will show you what stays in and what goes down the drain. Eliminate the word “poly” from your life! Forget nostalgia, people didn’t know what they were doing back then, they couldn’t foresee the mess they were creating.
Vow to seek out natural fibers: organic cotton, wool, flax, hemp, leather and literally design from the ground up. Take those basic fibers and enjoy their earthy, melodious colors. Add natural dyes sparingly for accents in your clothing and let your personality be the first thing that people see.
Life is not a fashion show, nor do we have to look all the same.
Eliminate plastic from your wardrobe and you will begin to stand out because you refuse to fit in. Reconsider your relationship with plastic, what is cheap is often not good, not now, nor in the future. Don’t be misled by its waterproof abilities either, for the case of footwear, plastic soled shoes prevent you from being grounded, a rite of passage that many of us have yet to rediscover.
How are we to properly care for the earth when we distance ourselves physically with non-breathable materials – on our skin and behind the mute walls of our houses? To lose that primal connection to nature and this fascinating place we call home would be a sacred thing to let go of.
Return to items made by hand, those ones that can be passed down because they are well built, their art and function is timeless.
Imagine that a set of buttons could last generations, passed from one family member to the next, from shirt to dress to pants…
If we are the beginning of a sustainable future, then we had better learn to buy, act, recycle and refuse responsibly. As long as plastics continue to pollute, we must find other means to express ourselves in cloth. There was beautiful clothing before synthetics – adopt an eco-minimalist attitude and start crafting it today.
If you don’t, who will?
Do you need help making the leap to a sustainable future? It isn’t as hard as you think and we can help you along the way.