Thoughts – Some hope for our Post-COVID19 live

Thoughts – Some hope for our Post-COVID19 live

Like most (all?)  of you, my life got turned up side down when that whole virus thing started. 

Now that the “new normal” is somewhat settling in for at least the next couple of weeks, in my case anyways. As uncertainty is becoming the norm I though I initiate a reflection on what it means for our world and in particular for our western societies, how we see traveling and the environment. I think this is only the beginning of my reflection, but let see where it leads.

Somehow, one my reactions was to look back in history and turn to philosophy to try to make sense of all these rapidly evolving changes.

From a historical point of view, let’s remind us that this is not the only period of great uncertainty or pandemic, that we, as a human race have been facing.   For one, there is reassurance in knowing that despite the horror of history, we as a human race, are still on this planet. Secondly, from those great schisms in history, great innovations have sometimes emerged. For example, agriculture appeared as a way of coping with great famine in the middle east.  New visions of the world have also seen the day following horrible world traumas. For example, the United Nations started after WW2 as a platform for countries to discuss issues and avoid wars. Somehow, I think that there is some comfort in knowing this despite all the human catastrophes happening right now. 

Another element to look at, I think, is the concept of balanced ecosystems.  I think it has been some time now that we have been made aware that our way of life requires more resources than what the earth can provide.  I have recently seen an interview with an astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, who lived for a year in the international space station circumnavigating around the earth. He observed the earth from above and was able to internalise the concept that everything the atmosphere contains is all we have and that all this is just recycled over and over.  Furthermore, I would add that also means that we are all interconnected.

Today, more than ever, with the coronavirus being spread from countries to countries at lightening speed, we are definitely all in this together.

We still do not know what all of this will bring into the future but let’s hope that there will be a better world that will come out of this.  For one, the environment is better.  This has clearly demonstrated that hiding behind economic growth for allowing the destruction of the planet is not an excuse. Other things are more important than economic growth at all costs.  By damaging the environment, really we are damaging us. I sincerely hope that our relationship with our environment will be transformed. What we previously thought impossible, is now possible.  From working from home to teleconferencing and being conscious of our supply chains. The world needs to change.

Let me know what you think and until next time, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Cheers,

Julie

How to calculate your pre and post COVID 19 ecological footprint?

How to calculate your carbon footprint

Bored at home? Watched too many Netflix series? How about figuring out how your pre and post COVID19/coronavirus ecological footprint compare?

Amidst all the chaos, one thing that we are noticing is that our impact on the planet has reduced.  Fewer planes in the sky mean less carbon. Less tourism leaves some time for nature to regenerate. Let’s just think about Venice and it’s cleaner canals.  In cities where the pollution level killed so many people, the sky is now clear. Here is one interesting article on the topic I recently looked at.

As millions of people are in lockdown around the world, why not have a look at our past footprint and our present footprint.  And see if it makes a difference. 

There are many different calculators out there which vary from very simple to very complex. Here is a good review of what is available for Australia.

For my part, as I am not sure how much or where some of my electricity comes and, during pre-COVID-19 life travelled, I travelled via ferry at least twice a week. I am unsure how to calculate this. As such, I decided to use the very simple “ footprintcalculator” that you can find here.

I was amazed to figure out that during my Pre-COVID-19 life, if everyone on earth would live like me, we would need 5 earths whereas now it is 3.5 earths.

Wow. For me, working from home has had the biggest impact on my footprint. That is reducing my footprint by 20%.

There you go. In theory, by changing the way we work, we can have a significant impact on the planet. Clearly, we can do it.   

I understand that not everyone can do it, as this depends on the nature of our work but a lot of office bound employees could make a big difference.  Something to ponder for our post-COVID19 life. 

Where did the difference came down to for you? Do you see how this could help you improve your post-COVID19 footprint? Please comment below!

All the best to you and don’t forget to wash your hands!

Fashion and petrol: a love story – concluding remarks

Fashion and petrol: a love story – concluding remarks
Warning:  If you find that this article is little too long or just want to see the videos , feel free to register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol. Otherwise, enjoy the article below ! 

In the past few weeks, we have learned that petrol and fashion go hand in hand with each other. From man made textiles such as polyester and rayon which are directly derived from hydrocarbons, to pesticide and fertilisers used to grow cotton, to petrol based dyes and transport. We cannot seem to escape the black gold. 

The use of petroleum derived products has several effects on our planet. First up, is climate change. By burning fossil fuels we increase greenhouse gases emissions and contribute to rising sea levels, biodiversity destruction such as coral bleaching, more severe weather events like cyclones.

Secondly, there is also plastic pollution. Plastic is derived from hydrocarbons and has invaded our daily lives. From single use plastic bags to toothbrushes, it seems we cannot live without it. The problem with plastic is that it breaks down in fine and invisible grains but never really goes away. It is plaguing our oceans and affecting wildlife. It can be found throughout the food chain from fishes to bears.

Third up, for the communities producing the goods we love to buy at the shops, there is a risk that water and air become contaminated, increasing the risk of diseases.

The question is, as a consumer, what can I do.   Of course, there are no perfect situations and, as much as we want to put our heads in the sand, we, as consumers do have a massive impact on the planet and our fellow animal species. But that also means that we can have a positive impact and be agents of change in our communities. Fashion is big business and we are part of it.  Remember when everything went directly to the garbage bin?  Now, it is mainstream to put things in the recycle bin. Things do change.  They can change. But we need to make a little effort by making better choices.  The size of our addiction to petrol can be overwhelming, but we can start with something simple.

Next time we need to pack up our suitcase and need to do some shopping before travelling, let’s stop, think and make a better choice. Tackling what is in our suitcase is less intimidating than what is in our wardrobe, so why not stop, think and make a better choice before buying something new to put in the suitcase.

Reducing our petrol addiction starts with small steps. Let’s not throw everything we own to start afresh. Let’s wear what we have for as long as possible and repurpose it.

Next time we need something, let’s start by avoiding polyester and the like.  Because life is about getting better, not about stressing out to be perfect, I invite you to come with me on a journey.  Come along and discover……

Cheers,

 

Julie

Fashion and petrol: a love story – The truth about polyester

Fashion and petrol: a love story –  The truth about polyester
Warning:  If you find that this article is little too long or just want to see the videos , feel free to register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol. Otherwise, enjoy the article below ! 

Fashion is big business. No doubt. Worth $2.4 Trillion worldwide, it is definitely big business. So much so that if it would be a country, it would be the world’s 7th largest GDP economy. A quick google search indicates that France currently occupies this position.  

It involves an astounding number of actors which are all interconnected through elaborate relations. From concept to production, to market and your wardrobe, there is a long way.  Most people, don’t generally realise that there is a very intricate and mysterious beast unpoetically called “The Supply Chain” which crosses many countries and has links to other industry sectors like agriculture and marketing. It is a hard to grasp concept in its entirety for most fashion bands, let alone for the consumer. If you are interested in understanding this concept, this Good on You article is very helpful.

This means that the information we are left with, is the tag on the t-shirt which tells us where it was allegedly made, what material it is –  using words that could really mean anything to you or me, and some symbols about how we should care for it.  Unfortunately, there is a lot more to a piece of garment than this label. One has to dig really deep to understand where clothes come from and what they are made of.

So, where do clothes come from…..  No, not the shop, they generally come from either one of those sources: petroleum (that oil rig somewhere), a crop (same place

as your morning cereals), an animal ( killed for the skin or sheared for the wool), some chemical cocktail or any combination of the above. And that is basically it.  No more…..

For some reason, that is not well translated on a tag.  Most consumers don’t really think about it but polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex textiles are made of the same stuff that you put in your car.  Next time you fill up your car…. Look at your socks and shirt…. Yep, both  can come from an oil rig.

 

 

The nerdy bit ( bare with me, it’s not too long)

For example, to make polyester, two petroleum derived products are used. The process can vary a bit from company to company but in a nutshell. This is how it’s made.

Hydrocarbons are transformed through steam cracking (heating hydrocarbons to ridiculously high temperatures) so that Ethylene is separated and extracted. Etylene is an alcohol also used to make plastic bottles and as a plant hormone in the agricultural industry.

The other component is terephthalic acid which comes from a mixture of tar and petroleum through xylene-oxydation which is an energy intensive process. Xylene is a powerful solvent and is considered toxic. It used in the rubber and leather industry notably.

The actual process by which polyester is made is called polymeristation which involves mixing the etylene and terephthalic acid at high temperatures. Long ribbons of polyester are then extracted from this mix. The ribbons are dried and cut, re-melted and then filaments are extracted. They can be mixed with other products such as cotton or other synthetic fibres.

Some resources to further satisfy your inner nerd can be found here, here and here.

Ok – end of nerdy bit….

 

Not only those fabrics are from non-renewable sources, they generally quickly end up in the landfill thanks to fast fashion and are not biodegradable. Plus, they leach out a poisonous cocktail in the soil and water streams once they end up there.

This is without mentioning that they have been associate with allergic reactions like eczema in some people.

They even start leaching out chemicals and microplastics in your washing machine drain.

So,  instead of reading polyester on a garment tag, one should actually read the following warning: This product is derived from petroleum.

 Garment tags are surprisingly misleading. So next time you read one, replace polyester, nylon, spandex by petrol, then only, it starts making sense…..  And where it was allegedly made, as per the garment tag, has nothing to do about where it all started.  Although, it says on the tag that it was made in Bangladesh, it could well be that the polyester fibre originates from the oil rigs of Saudi Arabia. You will not find this on the tag.

So, in summary, there are quite a few things wrong synthetic fibres but most notably they all have one thing in common, they are derived from petroleum.  As we saw, this has several consequences. Something that is particular to petroleum derived textile and their cousin the plastic bottle, is the fact that they do not biodegrade. They end up in our environment, whether it be the ocean, the forest or the landfill and break down in small pieces that are absorbed through the food chain. Not only do they never really go away but they can leach toxic by-products in the environment.

But it is not all gloom and doom. One way to reduce the use of polyester and the like is to avoid, or at least reduce, polyester and other petroleum derived products in favor of more natural fibres such as organic cotton. Check the garment tag for polyester , nylon, acrylic, spandex, microfiber and try to avoid them. For the ones already in your wardrobe or the garments that you just have to buy, wear them for as long as possible and donate them to extend their useful life. It can be hard to find but in some places, they can also be recycled or repurposed.

One reason why we are so addicted to petroleum textiles is that other natural fibres like cotton do not have the “elastic” property that elastane or spandex which is so widely spread in the production of swimwear and active wear.

There is good news thought and innovation has now made possible the recycling of PET bottles into textile. At least, a second life can be given to those plastic bottles and PET products can be re-used. Problem is, those recycled products can be hard to find on the mainstream market and how we dispose of those recycled products is still and issue. Nevertheless, this is better than manufacturing an entirely new product.

Reducing our petrol addiction starts small. Don’t throw everything your own to start afresh. Keeping your favourite items for as long as possible is a good option.  But  next time you need something, try to avoid polyester and the like. Try to buy second hand or recycled polyester.   

There are options,     Come along and discover……

Until then…take care.

 PS – If you have found this article interesting, please share or register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol ! 

Cheers,

Julie