Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

NYT: How Fashion Giants Recast Plastic as Good for the Planet

In The New York Times, some quotes:

An explosion in the use of inexpensive, petroleum-based materials has transformed the fashion industry, aided by the successful rebranding of synthetic materials like plastic leather (once less flatteringly referred to as “pleather”) into hip alternatives like “vegan leather,” a marketing masterstroke meant to suggest environmental virtue.

Underlying that effort has been an influential rating system assessing the environmental impact of all sorts of fabrics and materials. Named the Higg Index, the ratings system was introduced in 2011 by some of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers, led by Walmart and Patagonia...    

But the Higg Index also strongly favors synthetic materials made from fossil fuels over natural ones like cotton, wool or leather. Now, those ratings are coming under fire from independent experts as well as representatives from natural-fiber industries who say the Higg Index is being used to portray the increasing use of synthetics use as environmentally desirable despite questions over synthetics’ environmental toll... 

[S]ome of the data underpinning the index comes from research that was funded by the synthetics industry that hasn’t been fully opened up to independent examination. Other studies incorporated into the Higg Index are sometimes relatively narrow in scope, raising questions about their broad, industrywide applicability...

Experts say one of the few sure ways to minimize environmental impact is simply to buy fewer, longer-lasting pieces. 

-  "How Fashion Giants Recast Plastic as Good for the Planet.  An influential system overseen by retailers and clothing makers ranks petroleum-based synthetics like “vegan leather” as more environmentally sound than natural fibers." <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/12/climate/vegan-leather-synthetics-fashion-industry.html>

18 comments:

  1. Yes buy fewer longer lasting pieces. Buy quality. Wool, cotton, natural materials. You will help the environment and look more classier.

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    1. And they naturally biodegrade.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes to the above. If it will not compost, avoid it. Seek out organics if you must have cotton. Better still, linen. I am probably too obsessive about this, but I do not even buy trousers hemmed with monofilament (most are). (Although I tend to use my trousers a very long while and rarely by new ones.) Minimize the use of hydrocarbons by avoid shopping bags (even produce bags) and plastic containers. I love many things that come in plastic jars or bottles. It is not hard to learn how to make them as well or better.

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  3. Well, fashion industry is promoting different things, but do we need to follow? The best movie I have ever seen on plastic was "Plastic Planet" by Werner Boote from 2009, no plastic is good for us, neither for environment. No matter if it's a plastic t-shirt, plastic cutlery for toddlers or plastic furniture.
    I am 46 now and have been lucky to grow up in the plastic-free in almost every aspect household/environment. My Grandma never switched from her wonderful white and blue ceramics and china into a plastic containers, plates, cups, whatever one needs. Same with clothes, we had fewer but only natural fabrics clothes. Now I became so obssesive that even our dog, instead of fully polyester bed, has a beautiful natural feather (recycled) pillow, covered with thick linen or wool in the winter time lying on his wicker bed. And a ceramic bowls for food and water. Plastic in the clothes is harming us even more, human hormonal system is totally ruined thanks to so much plastic in clothes. I am devastated seeing small babies wearing those (ugly) plastic shoes in the summer time, being transported in a plastic stroller, drinking and eating from plastic bottles, plates and cuddling with plastic toys...Sad world, I am wondering how much support got the "fashion industry" from plastic industry.
    Isabel

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  4. Faux leather .... ha! Eventually these items fall apart, sooner than later. Give me the real thing.

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  5. I think there are more dimensions than just the material when it comes to an evaluation like this.
    For me it appears as if #vegan is pretty much the same as fast fashion: people don't really care about the long term as long a they can virtue signal.

    Is a synthetic garment bad and should you avoid it if you can? You bet, but if you wear it for a few years it's probably ahead of burning through a dozen of vegan pieces in the same time.

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  6. The real thing will out!

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  7. If plastic is already in existence and has already completed its initial purpose and cannot be reused, I suppose it is better to find a new use than to put it in a landfill. I like my former milk bottle Adirondacks. However, that purchase was an aberration. They were very inexpensive and stand up well to being out all the time. The better course is to vote with your wallet and avoid plastics as much as possible. The problem with that approach is usually that things packaged in or made from other materials are quite often far more expensive. Nonetheless, there is plenty of excellent clothing made from natural and compostable materials, including materials made using environmentally responsible practices, and there are plenty of affordable, durable, timeless choices. I have also pretty much given up milk in plastic jugs for oat milk in waxed heavy paper cartons, which I drink in my extremely comfortable linen shirt! Wrapping anything in plastic sounds yucky. Wrapping myself in plastic sounds worse than yucky.

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  8. Yuck. The only thing synthetic about any of my wardrobe would be the tags, zippers, buttons, etc. All of this hysteria and crazy schemes to show everyone how environmentally friendly you are is such nonsense. I would never wear fur and try to buy wools from kind sources. Leather is a by-product of the meat industry so there's that. I was taught to buy good, buy for life, avoid trends. Better to have a few expensive pieces than a closet full of cheap. --Holly in PA

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  9. This sounds very familiar to "performance cotton"; it's getting harder and harder to find anything that is 100% cotton.

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    1. Oh golly, not just cotton. A lot of fabrics are adulterated and those that aren't, aren't always of good quality.

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  10. My experiences have resulted in different opinions.
    First, expensive things do not necessarily last longer than less expensive alternatives. The less expensive thing may not be as fashionable, to be sure, and we are certainly speaking of fashion here.
    Certain fibers that are man-made from whatever basic material can sometimes increase the wearing quality and durability of clothing and other fabrics. All the basic materials are ultimately as natural as anything can be.
    So-called natural materials, while mostly renewable, require a surprising amount of technology, human labor, and sometimes even a lot of transportation before it arrives at your doorstep carefully packaged in plastic and cardboard. These days, as many of those costs, especially labor, as possible are incurred where the cost is the least, usually overseas (not necessarily China), which creates a certain social financial cost oblivious to most people. On the other hand, it makes the product affordable too more people. This is true of most products. And it's been true for a long time.

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    1. Wish you could do Fireside Chats....

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    2. Nah, not a good idea. I will talk your head off, though, if it's just one other person. If there are two others, however, I can't seem to get a word in edgewise. But if there are three or four gathered together, well, you probably know the rest.

      Anyone here go in for fur? I'd think that those living in the far north, like in Connecticut, would find fur garments very practical in the winter.

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    3. Yes, I do. Once you get it on in a cold climate, you will never switch it to any other jacket. There is a reason why Milanese women are wearing furs in their chilly AND humid winters. I was always wondering about hypocrisy of people which don't mind to wear a shearling jacket or shoes but they get foam on their mouth when others are wearing mink. I know, I know, we don't eat mink. I would not purchase it if it was manufactured only for me however. I was planning to make a fur lining for my waxed Barbour in order to wear it winter time, looking for a beautiful second hand fur coat to remake it. Faux leather and faux fur is a disaster for the environment.

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    4. Thanks for the nice comment. Outdoor writer Calvin Rutstrum proudly posed in his book "Paradise below zero" wearing native-made fur garments. That particular book was written with a focus on the far north. But another book, "Snow walker's Companion", barely mentions furs (I think--can't find my copy). Fur was never much used by the military because of the impossibility of acquiring any in useful quantities. The Army Air Corps did use shearling, though, and Air Force leather jackets are well-known.

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  11. Cotton and leather are both environmentally costly in different ways: water usage in the case of cotton plants, and various byproducts in leather tanning, for example. My personal solution has been to make the fine clothes I purchased over the years last as long as I can, repairing rather than replacing. I also buy clothes and shoes from thrift shops, and I can often find mint condition, or unused items, along with New Old Stock with cuts and styles from an earlier time. I am also getting to the point where I am all right with a small amount of man-made fibre in clothing.

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  12. Sorry fashion industry, I will continue to wear my natural fiber clothing. Never been a fan of anything polyester, and I think plastics have contributed to a lot of health issues over the years. No thank you.

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