Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mea Culpa

I must confess.  I have committed a grave act that haunts me day and night.  I bought this sweater...

...which looks the picture of innocence.  But don't let looks deceive you.  This little sweater is...THE DIVIL!

You see, I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint.  I know that I am only one little person, but if I can reduce my dependency on petrochemicals and teach others to follow my example, I will feel that I have made an impact.  So, to that end, I have begun to walk to the grocery store and the post office, I have eliminated single-use plastic shopping bags from the household, I carry my own cup to Starbucks, I buy bulk groceries when I can to reduce the packaging waste...I do what I can.  But my big, soap-box rant-inspiring,
save-the planet action is to avoid clothing and textile products made from petrochemicals.

You know their names.  Polyester.  Nylon.  Acrylic.  Polyamide.  And the dreaded poly-vinyl-chloride.

Oh, they've gotten sneaky, these petro-textiles.  They hide behind names like "micro-fibre".  Spandex has snuck into the blue jean supply chain.  Petrochemicals are now being used to coat natural fibres, like wool -and cotton, to make them "shrink-proof" and "wrinkle-free".

But I see them out there, lurking.  I read the labels, and I put that super-sexy little top back on the rack because I don't trust those sneaky petro-textiles one bit.

Now, I live in an petrochemical community.  Fort McMurray is the home of the Oilsands, and we have a lot of debate about the rightness and the wrongness of the methods of extraction used around here, and the environmental impact.  Greenpeace shows up every now and then and rails about the dangers of "dirty oil".  All those activists, dressed in their acrylic fleece vests and Spandex pants, rappelling down nylon ropes to hang a vinyl banner protesting the extraction of oil from the ground were clearly not paying much attention to what that oil is being used for.

And nothing burns my biscuits like the animal-rights activists who protest the shearing of sheep by telling us that there are plenty of man-made alternatives, like polar-fleece and polyester, that do no harm to animals.  Tell that to the dolphins and sea turtles of the Gulf Coast.

All this talk about the dangers of oil extraction, and the ever-looming threat of peak oil, and we are wearing the stuff on our backs.  We are sitting on it.  We are walking on it.  We are carrying our groceries home in it.  We are wrapping our newborn babies in it.  Oil is everywhere.  (It really is!  Check out this list, which is actually pretty entertaining, to find out some of the other places petroleum products are used.  My favorite is pole vaulter poles!)

So, instead of wasting it on clothing, that can be made out of renewable resources like linen, cotton, wool, and even wood pulp, let's save our oil for driving our vehicles and heating our homes.  The supply will last longer, and development could slow down and take the time to be kinder to our environment.

Whew!  Soapbox rant over.  Now back to the sweater.

I will preface the conclusion of my tale with the defense that I was in a hurry, on my way to meet someone.  I saw the sweater in a store window and popped in to look at it.  It had a lovely hand, crisp, yet soft, like cotton.  And it was on sale for a price I couldn't resist.  So, I tossed it on the cashier's counter, then popped it into my re-usable cloth shopping bag and dashed to my appointment.  As the evening cooled, I pulled out my lovely new sweater and wore it.  Then I wore it the next day, loving the cuddly feel and the warmth it provided.  The sweater wound up in the laundry basket eventually, where it languished until yesterday.  As I sorted my laundry, I debated whether to put the sweater into a regular wash or the gentle cycle.  With trepidation, I checked the tag to see if there were any sneaky petro-fibres lurking that might require particular care.  And that is when the bombshell hit.

The label read 100% ACRYLIC!

I hang my head in shame.

But I'll probably wear the sweater anyway.  'Cuz it's a really nice sweater.

Mea Culpa.

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