As a child, I would scoff at the washed out plastic bags, airing on my mothers draining board waiting for another use; the familiar gift of the hand knitted jumper from Aunt Dorothy itching on my skin and my grans keenness for reboiling off milk for my morning cereal was grim.
In the heady days of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s - when fast fashion, fast food and fast life all took hold, the idea of make do and mend, so long heralded by our parents, grandparents generation as the backbone of what made our country great, seemed backwards, unfashionable, uncultured. I for one, threw myself headlong into the belief that more really could make me happy.
But a bit like that undone shoelace which will eventually trip you up, so have those heady days of unchecked excess. We have a climate emergency on our hands. Oh and let's not forget a pandemic....
Today, we may not have to ration our resources to clothe/feed our soldiers, but the ethos of saving precious resources is far more relevant - whether it be for the immediacy of having sufficient toilet roll, pasta or the more important long term goal of clothing/feeding future generations.
The scale of the problem can feel overwhelming. In terms of clothing alone, it is estimated we send over 300,000 tonnes of used clothing to landfill each year. But as a parent, self employed, short arse, 40 something I remember the words of a 17 year old. "You don't have to wait for someone else to do something. No one is too small to make a difference, never forget that." - Greta Thurberg.
Here is what I came up with that I could do. (this list is by no means complete but hopefully it is food for thought)
Prolong / Repair:
- The longer the life of an item the less we buy. Consider buying fewer items of better quality than a lot which won’t last long. Poor quality items are less likely to be used second hand and tend not to be made of materials which can easily be recycled.
- Get out your needle and thread and get repairing - there are lots of online videos showing you how to mend that zip, stitch that hole. You don't have to be an expert and there is something satisfying about repairing something so you can keep on wearing it.
- Or find someone to do it for you. Some brands now include repair services for free or for a fee and even more are including 'How 2' videos online.
- Look for organisations such as ReRun who turn unwanted items into one off creations.
- Old clothes can be used for rags for cleaning bikes, trainers, cars, windows etc. (let's face it we have a whole lot more cleaning time on our hands since lockdown)
- Or turned into bags to hold kit, sleeves turned into headbands, material to repair other clothes etc.
- Old clothing can be restyled into something funkier.
The average pair of trainers takes nearly 12,000 months to start to decompose and so the more use we can get from one pair the better. If you have unwanted pairs, pass them on to friends, charities or send them off for recycling.
- Give gear you no longer want to friends, hold a clothes exchange with your running group, sell it. One person's unwanted stuff, could be another’s delight
- https://racelifts.org - car share to events. What a great way of meeting new friends, reducing carbon footprint and the impact of cars at the other end.
- When entering an event - check the sustainability policy of the organiser. Has the bigger picture being thought about? As an organiser, what are my responsibilities to my environment. It is not an easy balance but maybe there are new ways of working.
- When it comes to event - look out for options where you can refuse t-shirts, medals etc which are not eco friendly. If not, you could send an email suggesting organisers give this option. ReRun clothing has a great email you can copy and paste.
- Look for brands which use materials which are considered sustainable. I am still not clear on the recycled material versus organic cotton, bamboo lifecycle debate but read up on it and make a conscious decision for yourself.
- Wash your clothes on a cool wash of 30 degrees and hang them out to dry instead of tumble drying if you can. Yes it is an arse individually pegging out your socks but then so is us killing our planet.
- Think - do you really need that 10th running top ?
- When you have done your best to minimise impact, why not chose carbon offsetting, plant a tree
I know these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making do and mending and so please go ahead and send me more. In the meantime, 3 weeks into lockdown, the knitting needles are out, there is a bag draining next to the sink but Mum if you are reading this, reboiling off milk is still a step too far!