Sometimes even if we think that we are living simple lives, we have to really look into numbers to make sure we are not being deluded into idealistic thoughts of ourselves and how we live our lives. Before my family left Zarraga, Iloilo in June 2016, we have started organizing Free Markets through the Balagon Cultural Creatives. Knowing we were soon to move, we started looking into what we should give up, and what should come with us to Dumaguete. After several free markets, we finally had to actually pack for the move.
Hardly going to malls, and buying clothes and books only from thrift shops, I was surprised at how much stuff we still had to give away. I thought, where did these things come from? Aside from the many things of soul brother Haresh Tanodra, which of course we could not give away, four years in Iloilo proved that we were still not living our life as simply as we wanted to. What looked to others as a spartan way of life still looked to me too much.
So no matter how it hurt, we decided to donate 300 environmental books to USJR’s Earth Bus. We still have a good number of books left but we felt we had to keep some for ourselves and the kids, as those might be the only things we leave to them when we die, as we have no real property to speak of.
Later, when preparing to pack for my volunteer stint in Cambodia, I told myself I would not buy any clothes during my placement. It’s a very big challenge since I hardly buy any new clothes, and enjoy thrift shopping once in a while. Almost everything I brought are used or overruns bought from thrift shops, others are gifts and hand-me-downs, and a few things bought new in the last two to three years. I gave away a lot of my things and left a few pieces back home. I told myself whatever clothes would fit in the 30kg luggage would be it for the duration of my placement. Finally, last weekend, I was able to do an actual inventory of the clothes I brought with me:
As you can see that most of my clothes are from thrift shops. Why do I wear thrift shop (or what we call in the Philippines Ukay-ukay) clothes? Can’t I buy brand new clothes? I started buying thrift shop clothes in 2000 when in Baguio City, I came across mountains of branded quality clothing being sold for a song. But in 2008, when my family moved to Cebu, we started changing our lives to be more authentic with the green advocacies we involve ourselves with. We gave up television, rarely went to the mall, and bought mostly, if not all, used clothing and books. We started using natural and organic products, and became more mindful of our then vegetarian diet to include more fresh produce than manufactured food.
Going back to clothes, the wholesale used clothing trade is valued at more than £2.8 billion globally. There is a huge debate about the used clothes industry, but my motivations are purely environmental and the economic reasons are to me just co-benefits. This is something I could write more on a separate blog post. What I want to stress here is that there are so much stuff in the world already, and I don’t want to be part of the system that keeps on churning new products and putting it into the system. If I can use something that is already there, why buy new and stress nature further? This was also the reason why I proposed the Tao-Tao Free Market to the Balagon Cultural Creatives.
Researching more on clothes and textile wastes, I got these shocking stats:
The average American throws away about 65 pounds of clothing per year, and along with other textiles that get tossed, like sheets and bedding, the total comes out to 14.3 million tons of textile waste per year. That’s almost 6 percent of all municipal waste. While some of those textiles get recovered, most of it remains in the landfill, posing a variety of problems.
The documentary True Cost illuminates about this issue further. See the article review for a sneak peak.
Multi-national clothing companies even destroy perfectly good un-bought clothes before disposing them. This is definitely not good corporate citizenship! Globally, landfills are filling up with fast fashion clothes that are discarded after being worn a few times. Just think of the landfill space, the toxic leachate, the dioxins and furants emitted when they are burned. I feel we just have to prolong the life of clothes that are already there and not add more.
My niece who is studying in Texas mentioned once that after every term in her university, mountains of clothes are thrown outside the dormitories, perfectly good clothes that she said her cousins in the Philippines could use! And yes this is what my family does. Most clothes are handed down to younger siblings or cousins, prolonging its service life. There are many instances wherein I also got clothes from this niece of mine. There is no shame in this. I feel quite proud of having made use of something that could have otherwise be discarded.
So what is my 100 pieces challenge? Since I brought with me in my placement a luggage full of clothes, 122 pieces to be exact, I will try to live only on 100 pieces of clothing until I finish my placement in 18 months time. The idea of a capsule wardrobe just won’t work for me, and I have perfectly good reasons why. Another blog post should be written just about that. But for now I’m living on 122 pieces. Let’s see if I can do this. If a very special occasion calls for me to buy a new piece of clothing, I will give away 10 pieces of my clothes to go nearer my 100 pieces target, which means I could only buy two pieces max.
How about you? Have you looked into your closet recently and really tried to see how much you have? Have you asked yourself how you are going to reduce them and keep on maintaining a simpler way of life with less impact to Mother Earth? Let me know what’s on your mind.