Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yankee thrift and warming

The next few years, climate change experts agree, are our last chance to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to have some impact on the planet fifty years from now. Putting a price on carbon, wind farms, new technology for cars, and concentrated land use are all important, but perhaps the most pressing need is in changing behavior now: using compact flourescents, turning off lights, eating local food, bundling trips, leaving the car parked and taking transit, and ride-sharing with such services as GoLoco. Yet it turns out there's one behavior I don't have to change, because it's been good for the planet all along: my habit of wearing clothes until they are threadbare, shoes far beyond their life expectancy (record: a pair of wingtips from Scotland, twenty years). And being loathe to throw out any article of children's clothing, because it can be re-used. I have been exposed to much criticism and psycho-analysis about this, but now I have the ultimate defense -- I'm saving on the energy needed to manufacture new things. I knew there was something visionary in the old New England Yankee credo: use it up and wear it out. The New York Times ran a piece in the Thursday Styles section on jackets insulated with recycled plastic bottles and tote bags patched together with rags. Recycling clothes from your own closet, the reporter concluded, may be the greenest statement of all.