Really going green means having less. It does mean less. Everyone is saying, ‘You don’t have to change your lifestyle.’ Well, yes, actually, you do. – Paul Hawken
In Part 1 of this post, I looked at some very obvious kinds of “less” which might lead to more – more coastline, more clean air, more species, more of a future for the planet. Some less obvious ideas…
Longer hair takes more time (and water) to wash and requires more shampoo and conditioner. Many hair styles require the use of blow dryers, curling wands and/or styling products such as mousse or hair gel. The simpler and shorter your hair, the less water, energy and stuff you’ll use.
Hair styles are after all just that – style. Fashion. If we make it fashionable to have very short, simple haircuts… Once upon a time, tans were considered very unfashionable, the mark of a manual laborer. Fashions changed and everyone got into tanning. These days, skin cancer and premature aging have made tanning much less fashionable, though some people don’t seem to have gotten the memo.
Let’s make short hair de rigueur. Boldly declare bald is beautiful. Make fancy hairstyles the new fur – with radical environmental activitists going around splashing (soy-based) red paint on long-haired reactionary planet-wreckers. Of course, we would need to consider the environmental impact of a massive increase in hat sales, but even so, I think this would be a winner.
(The water aspect would be particularly relevant in areas affected by drought – like Australia – and this idea of shorter and simpler hair should merit more serious consideration in such places.)
Along the same lines, there are a whole range of personal hygiene-related ways we could be using less. Do we really need underarm deodorants and scents of various kinds? Some people, in some contexts, might have a genuine need of something, but in general this seems like a fashion – we would rather smell something florid, or in many cases chemical, than simple human sweat.
(And people will smell differently – less, and better – to the extent that their diets become more sensible and sustainable – with less red meat, and meat in general, and more grains and fresh vegetables.)
A women’s deodorant company is running a TV ad right now that features a guy nuzzling a woman in a very obviously sexual way and warns against letting odor ruin the moment… Well, anyone who has ever licked underarm deodorant will tell you that kills the moment far deader than any sweat ever will. Obviously, the whole deodorant industry is clearly a conspiracy against underarm fetishists. I say… fight for your right to be funky.
And why use so much soap? It’s not that good for the skin, and beyond the smellier, sweatier regions of feet, underarms and crotch it really doesn’t seem all that necessary to soap up extensively on a regular basis.
A couple of laundry detergent companies are running ads emphasizing how washing wears out your clothes, and touting their “new and improved” products as helping lengthen the life of the things you wash with them. Well, what about not washing clothes as often? Of course, if you cut back on deodorant and soap, you might not want to cut back too much on washing as well, but as any adolescent boy will tell you, jeans can easily go a week or two between washes. And thanks to those laundry ads, we now know that not only saves water and energy, it also helps the clothes last longer.
Another way to cut down on the energy and water used by doing laundry is to wear less clothing, though I am not sure how much wiggle room there really is in this area. The basic outfit of bottoms, top, socks, underwear and shoes doesn’t have a lot of excess – except maybe in really temperate climes… Nudism anyone? Ties are obviously extraneous in any clothing sense, but as ornaments, classed with jewelry, they are one of the more flamboyant options available to many men, and as such have a place – if not ecologically than psychologically.
So it is not so much wearing less clothing at any given time as owning less – and different – clothing that might be worth considering. One thing is clear: dry-cleaning is bad. We could go into this at length… but, you know, TCE, toxic waste and all that. Does it really need to be said? (There is “organic” dry-cleaning – see this article for some info.) What we need are sensible clothes, long-lasting, easy to care for, and sustainably made… Chairman Mao suits made from organic cotton!
Not really. I remember having an argument with someone about alternatives to capitalism, and their big point, their socialism killer, was that under socialism everyone would have to wear the same outfit. This in a room (a college residence dining room) where almost everyone was arrayed in their latest Gap finery – jeans and t-shirts – and a pair of athletic shoes…
I’m being a bit selfish here: I hate having to have “work” outfits, special dressy clothes to wear to the theater or nice restaurants, casual clothes, bike clothes, camping clothes, etc. I want to be able to wear the same stuff everywhere and wash it all in cold water when it gets dirty.
More “Less is More” to come…