Posts filed under ‘water’

Green Clothes Part I – a long lasting wardrobe

 

Photo: Nicky’s Eye View

No matter how many discussions we have about the benefits of buying green vs buying nothing, there is one thing that widely agreed on: the greenest garments are the ones you already have [TH]. The less stuff you buy, the better for the environment. (Yeah, that’s right, screw the economy, I am NOT here to serve you, so no, I DO NOT have the obligation of spending my money to make you sure you capitalists get fat off the backs of the poor.)

Therefore, I am going to start my Green Clothes series with how we can extract the most life of the stuff that is already in our closet. This means making it last as long as possible, and delay the dreaded moment when your favorite shirt makes you look like a scrub. Personally speaking, I am a very fussy shopper, so I need to absolutely love anything I buy, as well as be convinced that the piece in question makes me look good and passes my quality inspection (part II). So you can be sure that the moment I realize that I can’t wear my favorite sweater anymore because it looks like I stole it from a homeless person is a heartbreaking one. (And my hope is that I realize it before anyone else does, but who knows).

The first thing you must know is that your clothes’ #1 enemy is you wearing them. They get worn, deformed, stretched, pilled, dirty, stained and just plain old. But I have a solution for you. Ready? Take your clothes off! No, really! Take off your clothes as soon as you get home. Slip into something more comfortable *wink wink*. Relax. For example, you can promote some of the stuff you can no longer wear in public to ‘house clothes’.

Consider the benefits:

  • No grease stains (and smells) on your work outfit
  • No tomato sauce on your white shirt
  • Less dirty clothes means you need to wash less
  • No trying to get your pet’s angora off your pants
  • No pulled threads/ruined pantyhose from kitty claws

And here are some other gentle wearing tips:

  • Don’t put stuff in your pockets, namely, cellphones, wallets and hands. Deformed pockets are one of the first things that makes coats unwearable.
  • If you wear a purse or bag of sorts, don’t wear the strap across your body. You’ll notice that the friction leaves pilling and chafing marks on your shirts/sweaters. Those marks get ugly really fast.
  • Also avoid labels from your top layers chafing against your inner layers. (Personally, I cut the labels off, but keep them for the care instructions).
  • In the colder weather you may also want to wear an undershirt or t-shirt under a shirt or a sweater, it’s warmer and means you don’t need to wash shirts/sweaters as often.

Let’s move on to clothes’ enemy #2! As you may guess, enemy #2 is washing. Washing is BAD, using energy, water and detergent, as well as wearing out your much loved stuff, so you should do it as little as possible. By the way, did you know that most of the environmental impact of clothing comes from washing and drying? Of course I am not suggesting that everyone start walking around in dirty clothes. I am just saying you should keep the washing down to when its really necessary.

Personally, I identify laundry by smell (unless I made a mess out of myself with tomato sauce or something, which sometimes happens too). I normally don’t sweat very much, so I wear skin-contact tops and shirts and such for about 4-5 times, pants a little more, about 5-7 times. If you always wear sweaters and knits over something else, you probably don’t need to wash them at all, if you are lucky enough to avoid stain incidents and don’t cook dinner in your favorite cardigan. The same goes for skirts. I hardly wash my skirts, maybe few times a year. I do have to wash my sweaters a little more often than I would like.

Now before you dismiss me as a ‘European’ or someone who clearly never went to a smoky bar and came out smelling like cigarette butts, here is what you should know: the trick is hanging your smoky or stuffy clothes on a hanger out on the balcony, in the wind and sun. Leave them during the day, and they will smell as fresh as when you last washed them (Do I sound like a Febreeze commercial? Sorry…) No, really. You just have to try it, it really works.

So trust me on this, let your nose tell you if you can wear that again, and hang it outside if you want to freshen it up. Don’t forget, if you wear your ‘house clothes’ at home, you can wear your office clothes a few more times before you need to wash them. And be sure you always hang up or fold away the ‘re-wear’ stuff. If you pile everything on a chair, the psychological effect will be that the pile is dirty, even if its not.

Washing Photo: stevec77

More washing tips:

  • Wash garments inside out
  • Use wash bags to protect undies and other delicate items
  • If you get a stain, rinse it and give it a little hand wash if necessary. Machine washing does nothing to dry stains
  • Don’t use softener. Besides being nasty by itself, softener coats the fibers and decreases their longevity. Many people recommend a spoon of vinegar in the rinse cycle, but I never tried it. I just don’t use anything. (a little more on this later)
  • Separate darks from lights, to avoid the classic pink shirt.
  • Don’t use bleach. Some fabrics can’t be bleached even with non-chlorine bleach.
  • Use an appropriate temperature to what you are washing and to how dirty it is. I know cold-washing is the green thing to do, but there is nothing green in a cold-wash followed by another cold or even warm wash because you realized that everything is still dirty
  • And finally, this one is a little blasphemous so use at own risk: some dry-clean only items can be hand-washed very carefully. Basically just wiggle it a little (very little) in cold water with some delicate detergent like Ecover and rinse by wiggling a little more in clean water (change 1-2 times). Don’t wring or twist, just lightly squeeze the water out from the flat fabric. Dry flat.

So now we move on to enemy #3: Drying. Now drying is as evil as it gets for your clothes, as well as for CO2. If you notice, most clothes, and ALL delicate ones, will have a “do not tumble dry” sign on the label. The heat is very damaging to everything, but cotton normally handles it a little better. But it still lasts less, as opposed to shrinking on the spot like wool. Air dry. Use a clothes line, drying rack or even shower curtain rod, whatever strikes your fancy.

Partial Rainbow Photo: tillwe

Useful tips (from someone who never used a drier, EVER)

  • Drying in the sun is great and all, but if you do, dry inside out. The sun discolors fabrics.
  • Listen carefully, because here is the secret of soft clothes without drier or softener: do not overdry. Big mistake. That is the very cause of cardboard stiff jeans off the line. I can’t really describe it better than this: clothes should not feel wet, but should feel cold to the touch. A little moisture should still be left but not too much.
  • If you are going to iron them, then they should be a little more on the moist side. It’s easier to iron and you can use a lower temperature and no steam.
  • Be careful with delicates. Wool and easily deformable fabrics need to dry flat, in which case you should lay it on a towel somewhere. Other things do just as well on a hanger, if not better. Sometimes lengthwise stretching actually works to your advantage, to counter a little shrinking. Drying on a hanger also prevents the line mark and sometimes, even the need to iron.
  • By the way, if you are new to air drying, you may be faced with the situation where you just did a load of laundry, but realized that you don’t have the time or disposition to hang it up. Don’t leave the laundry in the washing machine for more than 12 hours. It gets all musty and stinky and you’ll have to wash it again. Try to time your laundry so that you can hang it right away.

Green Clothes Photo: Ninette Luz

Speaking of ironing, as you must have seen this coming, ironing is, of course, enemy #4. Basically, if you must iron, do it on the lowest temperature that gets the job done, even if you need to use a little more muscle power. Another trick I like is the hanger in the shower, works well for shirts, skirts and tops, etc. The steam gets rid of most of the wrinkles for you. Folding tightly also works on cotton T’s for example, among other things. Also, if you are ironing something for the 1st time, especially with synthetic fibers, do a little test on an inside seam. Just to make sure you don’t end up with a big hole on something brand new. If doubt persists, iron through a sheet or something of the sort.

So there. That’s about all you need to know about making your wardrobe last. You can probably tell that I learned most of this stuff the hard way. But now you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Do you have any more tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Further Reading:

How to Green Your Wardrobe

Eco-Tip: Choosing Green Clothing

Ten Ways to Ensure Long Life for your Clothing

Coming up: Part II – Green Shopping for Quality

 

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September 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm 47 comments

This is getting really belgium

 The pissing bastards

(Don’t know if you caught the obscure Get Fuzzy reference)

So I spent the last couple of days in Belgium, having a little interviewing marathon for my thesis. 4 guys in 2 days (3 of them on the same day!). It was a very educational experience, I learned a number of the new things, including about myself.

For one, I learned that I really need to be in my own environment to be eco-conscious. As soon as normality is taken away from me,  my ‘convictions’ fly out the window faster than you can say ‘global warming’. I behaved very poorly these 2 days, as much as it pains me to admit it. I was doing it all. Using the tiny little hotel toiletries… Eating mediocre non-organic meat, and worse, unsustainable tuna and salmon sushi…. Accepting coffee in plastic cups at my meetings… I even bought a glass of juice in a pretty little plastic cup, a paper packaged brownie and didn’t bitch about it. I found that it’s really hard to fight the disposable establishment when I’m out of my element like this…

At least I came to my senses at lunch and consciously didn’t eat at this one place  (even though it looked really good) because to say that place was over-packaged would be an understatement. Even their soup was in disposable paper cups… Not to mention the *gasp* Styrofoam coffee cups. So I went to a more traditional place instead, you know, with real dishes.

A new world was opened to me, now that I now what good towels feel like… And now I have to go back to my crappy ones *sigh* Nonetheless, even though from now on I will probably be coveting towels like those every time I pass a linen store, I have made a resolution (yeah, that’s right, I can make resolutions too you know). I decided not to buy anymore ‘things for the house”. I tend to exorcise my need to consume by buying candle-holders and special cheese-slicers and stuff like that. But now I am trying to slip into ‘moving out’ mode, which means stopping accumulating things and starting to purge all the useless crap I’ve been buying.

I found out that Belgiums are weird. They greet each other with kisses… Now, that would not be strange to me at all, because all of us Mediterraneans do that. The particular thing about waffle eaters is that unlike us meds, guys kiss guys on the cheek… That’s just so odd!!! At first I even thought it was a gay thing, but then I saw regular scrubs doing it, so it must be a cultural thing…
And trust me, they were straight! (I know because I have been accused of having an overactive gaydar, never the other way around).

I realize now how lucky I am to have dutch tap water. I had to refill my bottle in Belgium and man, it tastes horrible! I am starting to doubt if I will be strong enough to keep off the bottle if I have to live in a place with yucky water like that! I was dehydrating all the way back on the train just because of the taste of it…

My rusty french is better than I thought… at least the 357 people I asked for directions seemed to understand me. And I always found what I was looking for, so yay for me. The absurd thing is that at times I had to slip in dutch words into the mix, and my dutch is so much worse than my french!

Anyway, I really like Belgium. It has a sort of chaotic charm to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any of the touristy stuff this time, because Brussels is really beautiful. I didn’t even buy chocolate, can you imagine? Hard as it is to believe, I actually think that Belgium is the European country that is more similar to my familiar old Portugal, at least out of northern Europe. I think even more than France. (I know I’m just talking out of my @$$ cause I didn’t go to ALL of the countries in Europe… yet. But still… the point remains.)

Its amazing how you can clearly see the point where Belgium ends and Holland begins. On the Belgium side you actually have hills, and trees growing randomly in a seemingly natural manner. On the dutch side, everything is flat  flat flat flat. All the trees are planted precisely 5m away from each other. All the farms are exactly rectangular, forming a perfectly geometric pattern, like a masterfully crafted quilt. Seriously, the dutch are so anal… But I guess the Belgiums would have all drowned a long time ago if they had to claim half their country from the North Sea.

And now you ask ‘Wow! How did you manage to insult so many people in such a short post?’ Well… I guess it takes a special kind of talent :p

Army of pissing boys by Mr Jaded on Flickr.

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Edit: I am having some trouble making the Get Fuzzy link work, because it is on an archive of Cafepress. If that link is not working, and you are dying to know what the ‘fuzzy’ reference is, go here, choose ‘strip designs’ and ‘bucky’s unique vocabulary’.

May 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm 9 comments

Where we are

(Oh how I love double meanings….)

I figure I should explain a little about the contexts that surround this blog. Despite the fact that I got my inspiration from a series of American (and Canadian) blogs , I have to point out that this is NOT an American blog. This is a blog grounded in my reality and environmental experiences, which are deeply related to living in the Netherlands.

And still, I feel a connection to the American blogsphere, not only because it was the source of my inspiration but also because my boyfriend is American, and like it or not, I know that at some point in the near-midterm future we will be relocating to the US. I know that at that point, I will have some serious adjusting to do, together with my green lifestyle policies, and, accordingly, with this blog.

But now for a brief explanation of what living in the Netherlands implies for our lifestyle, and what is the current status of our struggle towards sustainability.

Transport:First of all, the country is tiny… and flat. We live in tiny town. We don’t have a car. There are cycling paths on every street. Cycling is the main form of transport around our tiny town, and that’s what we do. There are special saddle bags on the bag of our bikes which allow us to carry a surprising amount of groceries. And for outside town, the public transport service is pretty good. So the transport part is already as green as it gets here, so I won’t be talking much about that. Flying, however, is a problem, with such an internationally scattered life, but I will get back to this some other time.

Consumption: We always bring our own bags for shopping. Especially because grocery bags cost 20 E cts in most places. But I have to admit that sometimes I get small plastic bags (that are free) because I use them to scoop out kitty dumplings out of the litter box… I am currently looking into tackling this problem. Other than that, I also have to say that I have been, inadvertently, following the Compact buy nothing principle. I haven’t bought anything since Xmas… This was, for me, a source of consumer depression for a while but I’m over that now that is fits so nicely into our newly acquired reduced consumption goals.

Food: Regarding food, we have been, generally, going for organic stuff, except when organic is WAY out of budget. I still haven’t decided weather I want to go for “local” in this place. Consider that this super-small, overcrowded country is the third largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. I don’t even want to think about what they do to their food here, but I will mention that there are ongoing rumours about horse meat in meat products and sugar injections into strawberries. I will investigate into local vs. organic further on, but I have to say that for now my preconceived judgement prefers tomatoes transported from Spain…

Energy: A lot of wasting in this department, you can have a look at The List. Last time I changed a light-bulb I bought a CFL. Other than that, all the other lights are the regular type… and I’m not going to change them unless they burn out. The house is rented and I don’t expect to be here long enough for CFLs to “pay for themselves”. We don’t have a drier. We merrily hang our clothes on the balcony and the laundry rack when its cold. I’ve never known any other way to dry clothes…

Water: Let’s see… I share showers a lot 😀 the toilet has flush control and we don’t own a dishwasher, for better or for worse.

Heating: Its central. We have been abusing it a little, especially because the landlords don’t send us the bills. But its spring now and we have been cutting down on it.

Waste: We recycle all of our paper and glass… No plastic or metal, sadly, because they don’t have collection for that.

So there… that’s about all there is to know about the environmental conditions of our little household.

April 2, 2007 at 2:25 pm 2 comments


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