Greening Back to School and the Upcoming Holiday Season

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Watson, the environmental outreach coordinator and educator for King County Government, on Healthy YOU! Radio ( ). As always, Tom was a wonderful font of knowledge and passion about all things green and good for our environment (and therefore us). He shared a couple of wonderful resources with me that I would like to pass on to you, AND he gave me a GREAT IDEA! We were talking about greening the holidays and back to school shopping rituals. One of the subjects that came up was clothing. It was interesting to hear that 100% cotton is not always the best choice because the pesticides that are used on the cotton stay in the cotton fibers and are harmful for the workers who are growing the cotton as well as for the residents who live near the cotton fields that are being crop dusted with airplanes. Remember that as we talk about environmental sustainability the formula Recycle, Reuse and Reduce is our mantra. When we talk about shopping for clothing in a sustainable way for back to school and the holidays how do we use this formula?

  • Recycle: shop at your favorite local thrift shop. Play the Macklemore song to get you in the mood and go have fun bringing love and light back into an article of clothing that has served someone well but they might have gotten tired of or grown out of. Remember that if you are buying a $6.00 tee shirt on sale at a big chain store that there is a high probability it was manufactured in a third world country by someone who should be in school and not in a dilapidated fire hazard building making you shirts cheap enough to cast off every month or two.
  • Reuse: clothing swaps are great social events these days. Something that you are tired of could be just the thing to bring a twinkle to your friend’s eye. Another way to reuse your clothing is to bring some artistic re-life to it…wash it with a different color rinse, make it into a different article of clothing, cut it, crease it, shorten it, patch it, dye it…the possibilities are endless when you pull out your inner artist.
  • Reduce: Ahhh…here is where my GREAT IDEA came up. I read an article a couple of years ago and was inspired by a woman who sewed a “little brown dress” for herself. She wore it every day for an entire year with different accessories to get her through the seasons. I have not forgotten that story. Tom told me about a woman in Paris who had a closet so full of designer clothing that she couldn’t buy one more thing and decided not to…for an entire year. We are all probably somewhere in the middle of these two women. I know that my closet and I do not NEED any more additional clothing.  So I am not buying another article of new clothing for a year…and possibly more. The challenge I hold out to all of you: Do you NEED any more NEW clothing? Can you use the 3 Rs formula and find yourself content and in social and environmental harmony for a year? Syd Singer got me to stop wearing bras 3 years ago (they inhibit lymphatic drainage and increase risk for breast cancer) and I have never looked back. Tom Watson might just have gotten me to stop buying new clothes…at least for a year for sure!

Great Resources:

  1. You can go to this site for a number of fantastic resources. One is the upper left button in the top blue bar that reads, “What do I do with?”. This gives you resources for recycling many items from clothing to batteries to electronics. In the right hand section of the front page it has a junk mail reducer tab. You can prevent the inevitable holiday catalog dump into your mail box by being proactive on this site. Remember, challenge your whole family to reduce consumerism this year for the holidays. Our economy is built around supply and demand. If you do not demand lip stick that is made with lead and mercury, they cosmetic industry will get right on researching and developing a product you will buy that is greener. Vote with your dollars everyone…it’s the biggest leverage point we have for change in our country.
  2. The Environmental Working Group is fantastic for giving you a data base (Skin Deep) for ingredients in your skin and hair care products and cosmetics and another data base for your household cleaners. It’s a wonderful resource for finding products that won’t harm you, your family or the environment.

Here’s to your health and the health of the dear planet who sustains all life!

Dr. Keesha

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