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By Amanda Abrams
By now, the word is out: Fashion, particularly "fast fashion," is killing our planet. Low-cost, cheaply made clothes that are designed to be worn briefly until styles change are terrible for the environment.
Over the past decade and a half, consumers have been buying and discarding considerably more outfits. Between 2000 and 2014, global clothing production doubled, with shoppers purchasing roughly 60 percent more garments; at the same time, the number of times a piece of clothing is worn before it's tossed out dropped by a third. The fashion industry is now solely responsible for 10 percent of the Earth's carbon emissions and 20 percent of its wastewater; it's the second largest polluter of water in the world. And in the end, very few of those clothes are recycled: most of them end up in landfills.
Those figures are downright dismal — especially for an industry that markets itself as being about positive feelings and fun.
But the numbers are no secret, and today a wide range of advocates and organizations are working to hold the industry accountable to improving its track record. Within the field, a few outlier brands have made massive changes in how they do business, and others are banding together in groups such as Textile Exchange and Sustainable Apparel Coalition to identify new operating models.
That means consumers have a growing opportunity to make educated decisions, sort the polluters from the companies that are trying to improve, and ultimately push the industry toward greater sustainability.
The $1.3 trillion apparel industry is complex, though, with inputs that start in the field and may well travel halfway around the world before hanging in your closets. What elements should buyers prioritize?
"It seems so overwhelming, but it's not as complicated as it seems," Elizabeth Cline said. She's the author of a popular book about fast fashion and recently released The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good. If you're planning to buy a new piece of clothing, the place to start thinking about environmental impacts is the label, she says. After all, the largest portion of the clothing industry's environmental impact is in the manufacturing phase, not retailing or shipping.
Buyers who dutifully lug canvas bags to the grocery store and would never dream of sipping out of a single-use water bottle might be surprised to learn that more than 60 percent of textiles today include synthetics made from fossil fuels. They're part plastic, that is. And because plastic is cheap and easy to manufacture, it's hard to avoid; even a T-shirt or a pair of jeans might have synthetic material mixed in.
But not all polyesters are the same. "If you're shopping for synthetic material, look for recycled content. It uses less energy, and no new sources," says Cline. In most cases, that means the fabric — or shoes, in some cases — started out as plastic bottles that were melted down and turned into new materials. Recycled nylon is another new option; Econyl comes from post-consumer waste and has become increasingly popular in clothing.
Most natural materials can't be recycled; the fibers tend to shorten with processing, so they have to be mixed with virgin material to be viable. But post-consumer cashmere — that is, sweaters made from discarded garments or leftover factory scraps that are then re-spun — has become a thing, purportedly saving grasslands in countries such as Mongolia and China from the ecological destruction caused by cashmere goats.
If you're shopping for cotton or wool clothes, look for a tag that says they were produced organically. That's key: Cotton is grown using huge amounts of pesticides, and wool often requires harsh scouring agents, bleaches, and dyes.
The makers of rayon, also known as viscose, have often billed the fabric as "natural," and indeed it does come from wood or bamboo. But the raw material may be sourced from old-growth forests, and it requires powerful, poisonous chemicals to be transformed into usable fibers. So when buying rayon, keep an eye out for garments labeled Tencel or lyocell (the former is the brand name; lyocell is the generic fabric); while their manufacture does require chemicals, they're safer than those used on regular rayon, and the wood used as a raw material is certified as sustainably sourced.
Another key component of sustainable shopping can happen in front of the computer. The apparel industry's supply chains are notoriously opaque; materials may move from the fields of one country to a spinning mill in another, a knitter in a third, and a manufacturer in perhaps a fourth nation. "Each step requires specialized equipment and significant investment," said Donna Worley of Textile Exchange. "It may take six or seven stops and six to eight months before a bale of cotton becomes a pair of socks," and the same is true for other fabrics.
In response, Cline said, get thee to Google. "Start looking for brands that are rethinking the way they manufacture clothing," she said. That means much more than just powering their headquarters with renewable energy; increasingly, it means radical transparency about the supply chain they're utilizing. Trailblazing companies like Everlane and Allbirds highlight all of the factories they work with on their websites, opening them up to further scrutiny.
Analysts say that younger shoppers tend to be far more concerned with how their clothes were made than preceding generations — and manufacturers are highly aware of it. That's consumer power, and an increasing number of brands are responding. Even companies such as H&M and Gucci have made significant efforts to reduce their environmental impact, though they're still in the minority. Online ranking tools like Good on You can highlight various brands' efforts.
But some consumers are electing to abandon disposable fashion altogether and are taking advantage of new disruptive business models. Online secondhand retailers like Thredup and the RealReal are thriving, as is subscription fashion service Rent the Runway, which was valued at $1 billion earlier this year.
And then, of course, brick-and-mortar thrift shops are located in most towns and cities. Many are packed with inventory and humming with business, given the high turnover rate of clothing today. They, too, can be part of a sustainable fashion strategy.
But the first and most important step, says Deborah Drew, associate and social impact lead at the World Resources Institute's business center, is simply reducing one's consumption. Drew encourages people to not redo their wardrobes every few weeks. "Instead, they should buy more timeless pieces they can keep," she said. "Really try to be conscious about what they buy and what impact it has on the planet."
After all, Drew explained, "[while] improvements in technology are great, if we're still producing at such a volume, it's outweighing all the good of these new technologies and fibers. We're simply overwhelmed by the volume."
Reposted with permission from YES! Magazine.
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Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
By Nicholas Joyce
The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.
Telehealth Versus Traditional Therapy<p><a href="https://www.cigna.com/hcpemails/telehealth/telehealth-flyer.pdf" target="_blank">Private insurance companies</a> like Cigna and Aetna, have come around; they now provide coverage for what they see as a "legitimate" service. And <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-wells-2019-consumer-survey-finds-majority-of-consumers-open-to-telehealth-adoption-continues-to-grow-300906438.html" target="_blank">surveys show</a> consumers are receptive to telehealth counseling: no driving to an appointment, no searching for a parking space, no worries about childcare while they're away, no need to switch providers if they move, and no problem if the specialist happens to be far away.</p><p>Online therapy opens doors for clients who wouldn't otherwise seek help, <a href="https://www.worldcat.org/title/empirical-examination-of-the-influence-of-personality-gender-role-conflict-and-self-stigma-on-attitudes-and-intentions-to-seek-online-counseling-in-college-students/oclc/941976505" target="_blank">particularly patients</a> who feel stigmatized by therapy or intimidated by a stranger sitting across the room from them. Often, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/1094931041291295" target="_blank">people open up</a> more easily in telehealth sessions. Firsthand accounts have detailed <a href="https://www.romper.com/p/i-tried-online-therapy-for-a-month-this-is-what-happened-13630" target="_blank">positive experiences from consumers</a>.</p>
Overcoming Prejudices About Online Counseling<p>Now COVID-19 is forcing most traditional psychotherapists to adapt their practice to <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202003/covid-19-etherapy-in-times-isolation" target="_blank">online counseling</a>. After experiencing the medium, they are <a href="https://www.wecounsel.com/blog/why-every-therapist-in-private-practice-needs-a-telehealth-option/" target="_blank">overcoming their prejudices</a>. Many will convert some or all of their caseloads to telehealth after the pandemic ends. Most of our clients seem to be good with it: responding to a satisfaction survey, 85% of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.</p><p>All this allows a continuity of care for clients that before was impossible; there is, however, a caveat. Because of the coronavirus, some of my clients at USF who live out-of-state have moved back home. That means, legally, I can no longer serve them. Even though they are still USF students, my license is valid only in Florida.</p><p>For telehealth to work effectively, our national system of licensing and regulation law needs to adapt. Although the federal government temporarily halted HIPAA regulations to promote telehealth during this time, not all states are allowing out-of-state practice. The coronavirus may not be here forever, but spring break and Christmas holidays always will. We need seamless telehealth across state lines.</p>
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By Tanika Godbole
Southeast Asia is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste from land to the ocean, and Thailand is among the top five contributors. In January, Thailand placed a ban on single-use plastic, and was looking to reduce its plastic waste by 30% this year.
Food Delivery<p>One of the biggest contributors to the plastic problem is food delivery. As people have been housebound, their tendency to order food delivery has risen, resulting in increased usage of plastic containers and wrapping material.</p><p>Grab, a Singaporean food delivery app, saw a surge of 400% in orders. Other such apps like Line Man and Foodpanda Thailand, too, have seen a rise of 300% and 50% in their orders, respectively.</p><p>Waste from a single delivery could contain several plastic items such as containers, seasoning packets, beverage holders, chopsticks, spoons, forks and so on.</p><p>"Plastic containers for food are often contaminated, the waste separation and collection are not systematic, and there is no regulation on waste separation and enforcement," said Wijarn Simachaya, President of TEI.</p>
Waste Management<p>While countries across North America, Europe and Japan also contribute high levels of plastic waste, they have relatively efficient waste management systems in place.</p><p>The Thai government had released a "Plastic Waste Management Road Map," to phase out the use of plastic by 2030. One of the initiatives of this plan was the single-use plastic ban that has been enforced since January.</p><p>According to data released by the Department of Environment and Quality Promotion, an average person in Thailand uses about 8 plastic bags per day, which adds up to 200 billion per year.</p>
Widespread<p>Some say the pandemic has merely brought to the surface an already existing problem for the country. Experts believe that greater awareness and lifestyle changes among the masses could help address this issue.</p><p>The effects of plastic waste are long term. The pollution affects the oceans, aquatic life and also humans.</p><p>"Plastic pollution may also be contaminating the air that we breathe every day. Plastics do not biodegrade, therefore once they are introduced into an animal's system, they will stay there for a long time. Therefore, consuming these plastics leads to malnutrition, digestive blockage and slow poisoning effects due to plastic's heightened toxicity," Simachaya told DW.</p><p>While the pandemic may have been a setback to Thailand's struggle to eliminate plastic waste, Simachaya believes a change in awareness and habits will lead to a gradual decrease in plastic waste.</p><p>Thailand is slowly starting to ease lockdown rules. While it is too premature to say whether the plastic waste levels are expected to go down, some delivery outlets have started offering bio-degradable containers and cutlery. Some online shopping companies are also giving the option of receiving packages without the use of plastic.</p>
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