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Cool shirt … but what is the carbon (and other pollution) footprint?

August 3rd, 2011 · 1 Comment

The Climate Reality project is an interesting concept: > a global day-long event looking to the realities of climate science and climate disruptions impacts (existing and forecast), time zone by time zone. While not surprisingly under attack from the global warming denial machine (GWDM), we can expect that Gore and his team will assemble 24 hours of impressive discussions that will provide substance about the real world and those who are fighting to confuse people about it.

As part of this effort, The Climate Reality Project

partnered with Threadless, a cool community-driven online apparel store, to create a T-shirt for The Climate Reality Project. We invited designers from around the globe to illustrate the reality of the climate crisis and put it on a T-shirt. The winning shirt is pretty hot and we hope you like it.

You can see The Blind Conscience shirt to the right. And, kudos to designer Kimberly Kermode for an excellent design.

There is, however, a sort of basic question about executing policy that fits within the agenda. Let’s face facts: any and all “products” demand energy and, nearly without exception, end up having some resource use and pollution concerns. And, the lifecycle of a t-shirt is certainly no exception from that rule (See video at end of post.) The question that, I would, The Climate Reality project would hope to foster when people go to buy a product:

is this done in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner?

Of course, there is the question of ‘saving the planet via consumption‘. I, for one, really like this design. It is really cool. Yet, I have 10s of t-shirts and does it makes sense to go out and buy yet another item? That is a point, however, beyond the one driving this post.

Returning to cotton t-shirts …

Cotton is an intensive crop and traditional cotton production cotton production has a wide range of environmental impacts.

conventional cotton uses 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals and 25 percent of the world’s insecticides — in the U.S., one-third of a pound of chemicals is needed just to grow enough conventional cotton for a regular T-shirt.

Threadless offers organic cotton t-shirts.

The Climate Reality t-shirt, however, is ordinary cotton and not organic.

There is no way to get around the fact that organic cotton items are anywhere from 10 to 45 percent more expensive than conventional cotton products. But before you put back those stylish organic cotton jeans or absorbent organic cotton bath towels, remember what you are paying for: clean water, fresh air, healthy farmers, fair wages, global economic progression, sweatshop-free production and more.

And, well, I have yet to find evidence that Threadless uses renewable (clean) energy or offsets carbon implications from shipping its products — both things that might mean greater expense for their products.

There’s a price to pay for saving the planet?

If so, perhaps that is a price that The Climate Reality Project is seeking to get people to pay — because the bill, for all of us, of not making that investment is just too high.

It is too bad that the marketing of The Climate Reality Project seems at odds with its core message. Did those arranging for this t-shirt not ask the question: “Is this done in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner?”

The Climate Reality Project

If you haven’t seen it, Gore’s introduction of the event:

Fossil fuel interests have money, influence, control but together we have something they don’t: Reality.

And, here is a layout of how to analyze the pollution and carbon footprint of cotton t-shirts.

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Tags: Al Gore · climate change · clothing · government energy policy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 BlackSun // Aug 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    The obvious point you’re missing is that every t-shirt has environmental impact. This is effectively the same argument as has been made against Al Gore’s travel, or the Copenhagen summit. e.g. “They’re talking about the climate yet they’re spewing out even *more* carbon emissions, hahahahaha.”

    Which is of course true, but everyone’s traveling, buying products, and consuming energy anyway. So criticizing the ecological footprint of those who are trying to raise awareness seems like a counterproductive double standard.

    I do comment that every choice has impacts and that every action has its impacts.

    The point is that shouldn’t we be making the incremental choices that lower our impact.

    In this case, the supplier offers organic cotton shirts. That would have been an easy choice that fits right in line with the Vice President’s message: we have options that can, collectively, have a real impact if we make those choices.

    The Climate Reality Project should recognize the error in this situation and incorporate ‘messaging’ in terms of all of its resource and such decisions in a way that help send the message that we can deal with climate change and have a good life: if we make the right choices and take the necessary actions.

    Yes, you can have great t-shirts with lower impact on the planet … organic cotton provides one of the paths for lower impact clothing.

    We ‘all’ are part of the problem and we ‘all’ can make choices that help, collectively, address the problem. In this case, I’m sorry, The Climate Reality Project didn’t.