Care about the Earth? Then you should learn to sew. 

 

I got an email from Old Navy with “$6 leggings” in the subject line and it made me grateful that I know how to sew.  Cheap clothes come with hidden costs. So if you care about the planet, you should grab your needle & thread (& sewing machine, if you have one) and learn to sew.  All you need is a few basic sewing skills to be a better steward for the planet.  How’s that, you ask? Let me explain.

5 reasons you should learn to sew if you care about the planet:  

  1. Lets you repair things & keep them in use longer.  We’ve got to move away from our disposable lifestyle and start caring for items for longer. If not, we’ll be drowning in trash soon.  Keep your jacket, your backpack, your grocery bags and more in use longer. Learn to sew tears & add patches to extend the life of your stuff.

2. Helps you appreciate the time it takes to make things.  Try sewing your own pants and you’ll probably take good care of those pants. When you appreciate the labor involved in making textiles, you’re more likely to take good care & keep it out of the landfill.

3. Helps you avoid the emissions from shipping all those online purchases to your house. When you can make it yourself or fix what you have, you don’t need to order things online (shameless plug: No Trace shipping is carbon offset by Etsy! So feel less guilty about ordering from me 😉). 

  1. Lets you express your creativity. This isn’t a direct benefit to the planet, but it’s a pretty great benefit that I can’t ignore.  Learning to sew lets you express your individuality.  You’ll get into a flow state as you work on your projects.  And you’ll create one of a kind pieces for yourself and as gifts for your loved ones!  That’s invaluable.

 

Perhaps the number one reason you should learn to sew if you care about the Earth, though, is this:

 

  1. Makes you question the price of cheap clothes. It’ll make you wonder how a company makes a profit on $6 leggings. Someone, somewhere pays the true price for those $6 leggings, and it’s probably the person who made them for you.  That employee may work in unsafe working conditions, and/or work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, and may live with environmental pollution from the factories in their local water and air.  

 

CleanClothes.org breaks down the costs of garments (on average) and how much goes to the employee.  It’s about 0.6%.  The person who made those $6 leggings was probably paid less than 4 cents for their work. The rest of that $6 goes to material costs, factory owner profit, brand profit, transportation & factory overhead, and the majority (about 60%) goes to the retailer (when it’s sold in person) or back to the brand (for online sales).  Many factory workers don’t receive a living wage, as you can imagine at 4 cents per shirt.  As more of us understand this, we’ll start to make better choices with our purchases.  We can seek out the ethical companies who are treating their employees well. And we can pay a fair price for the textiles in our life.    

 

There you have it – 5 reasons you should learn to sew if you care about the planet.  So get out there and start sewing!  It’ll change your life, and may even change the planet for the better.  

 

If you’re not sure where to start, head to my YouTube channel for video tutorials – I’ve got a whole series including this one – Learn to sew – to get you started.  

 

Need a little help with a repair job?  Watch this one on stuffed animal repair & this one on mask repair. They both go over basic skills that’ll apply to other repair jobs.

 

And check out this playlist for all of my zero waste sewing tutorials.

 

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the planet.

 

Liz

What to do with old socks – 8 ways to keep them out of the landfill

I read somewhere that women’s socks are made too small, which is why we’re always getting holes in our socks (sexist sock industry???). 

 

Just the other day I had a hole in my sock that I thought was small.  As soon as I put them on, the hole stretched and the entire bottom of my foot was naked. I finally stopped wearing those and had to figure out what to do with old socks. There’s a bunch of things, as it turns out!

 

So thought I’d share with you what to do with old socks – specifically, 8 ways to keep them out of the landfill.  

1. Mend it.  

Some socks are worth repairing, and have a manageable hole that you can fix (as opposed to leaving the whole bottom of your foot naked). You can’t just stitch it closed on a machine, though.  You need to sew it in a way called darning. Darning involves a needle, thread/yarn, and something round like a tennis ball, racquetball, or a darning egg or mushroom.  You essentially weave the thread over the hole in a way to create a new piece of fabric where the hole was. It’s not that hard, just takes a little time, and there are tons of tutorials online for the process.

 

2. Make a tawashi scrubber.

These are super easy to make.  Cut the old sock along the length so you end up with a bunch of small circles of fabric. Then you weave them together on a small loom.  If you don’t have a little loom, you can improvise one with laundry clips or binder clips clipped around a square container.  The end result is a handy scrubber for dishes or house cleaning.  If you search “tawashi scrubber”, you’ll find easy tutorials online.

 

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3. Use it as a dusting cloth or rag.

Easy. Put your hand inside there and get cleaning!  You might want to mark it with a permanent marker in a way so you know it’s a rag sock now.  My in-laws put a black X on their socks/etc.-turned rags.  If it’s too holey for your hand, you can cut it so it lays flat.

 

4. Make a heating pad. 

We have an old stretchy sock full of brown rice that my daughter likes to microwave at bedtime and cozy up with in her bed.  I’ve used it on my lower back when I’m having back issues – it feels amazing after a couple of minutes in the microwave. Just make sure to sew up any holes before filling it with rice.  You can sew these holes with a simple straight stitch on you sewing machine since it doesn’t need to fit around a foot.

 

5. Get crafty with it.

If the sock is in decent condition, there are loads of DIY tutorials online for making a sock puppet or doll or a little Olaf.  Or you could turn it into a cup cozy or a wrist bands or leg and ankle warmers. Get creative!

 

6. Recycle it!

There are several companies that’ll recycle your socks.  Terracycle.com has fabric recycling boxes you can purchase, in case you’ve got loads of textiles to recycle. Terracycle recycles lots of hard to recycle materials and turns them into new products. Luxuryandlayla.com has a recycling program for socks, as well as undies, bras, tights & leggings!  They ship them to Green Tree, an east coast company that recycles clothing. Bonus – if you send 10 or more undies, bras, tights, and leggings (not socks), they’ll send you a free pair of underwear!  I guess socks are too plentiful to qualify for the special offer, but they will recycle them for you.  Drop it off at anH&M near you. They’ve partnered with a textile recycler who sorts everything into categories of rewear (donated to be worn again), reuse (repurposed into another product) or recycle (turned into insulation). It’s not clear if all H&Ms actually participate, but their website claims this as a service. Mail it to Zkano.com.  They recycle socks (just socks) into new fibers.

 

7. Donate it to a wildlife rescue.

You can send your gently used socks to Wild Souls Wildlife Rescue.  It’ll become a tiny bed for a tiny rescued animal like a baby squirrel.  How cute would that be?  Hearts melted!  Check with the wildlife rescue near you to see if they need socks as well.

 

8. Compost it.  

This only works if your sock is made of an all natural fiber like cotton or wool.  If it’s got synthetic fibers, you can’t compost it. The easiest way to test what type of fabric your socks are made of is with a burn test.  All natural materials will smell more organic when they burn and burn more like paper or dry leaves. Synthetic materials will smell more like plastic when they burn and have a more melty look than natural fibers.

 

There you have it! What to do with old socks instead of throwing them away. Do you have any to add to the list?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for our planet!

Liz

 

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How to prevent textile waste

The amount of textile waste in the US has grown tremendously over the last couple of decades.  The US contributes about 15 million tons of textiles to the landfills each year.  This is particularly depressing given that up to 95% of textiles could be diverted from the landfills with recycling and reuse efforts.  (See smartasn.org for more information on textile waste and recycling).  

 

The fashion industry is a major contributor to this waste, especially fast fashion brands that make cheap, not-built-to-last articles of clothing (e.g., Forever 21, Top Shop – see Newsweek’s 9/9/2016 article about fast fashion).  Typically the clothes from these stores don’t sell as well at second-hand shops, and can end up donated overseas where their poor quality makes them less desirable as well.

 

As someone who is introducing textiles into the world, I;m particularly concerned about keeping my textiles (and others) out of the landfill.  Luckily, there are many ways to keep them out of the waste stream and in circulation.  Here’s my top ten ways to keep textiles like clothes and household fabrics out of the landfill:

 

No Trace’s 10 list for how to prevent textile waste & keep textiles out of the landfill:

  1. Shop less, buy quality, and extend the life of your clothes and household textiles.
  2. Buy secondhand whenever possible.
  3. Buy from companies that recycle their products or used recycled materials (e.g., Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Insecta are some).
  4. Purchase 100% natural fiber fabrics (e.g., cotton, wool, hemp), rather than synthetic fabrics, which can be composted at the end of their lifecycle.  Purchase organic when you can as well.  
  5. Repurpose your textiles into something functional like a bag, bin, or a t-shirt quilt once they’re worn out or outgrown.
  6. Find a fabric recycler near you:   smartasn.org has resources  Terracycle.com also recycles fabrics for a fee.
  7. Find an artist, local art organization, art school, or even an animal shelter that might be interested in donations.
  8. Re-purpose your worn or stained items into handkerchiefs, paper towels, wash clothes, and rags for use around the house.
  9. Donate your gently used things to a second hand store.  Note that these donations, if they don’t sell, can end up in the landfill.  Estimates range from only 20% all the way to 75% of donated clothes are resold.  (See Newsweek’s 9/9/2016 article for details).
  10. Compost as a very last resort if it is 100% natural fibers – shred it first and remove any buttons or zippers.

 

I hope this list helps!  I’m making efforts to reduce my textile waste.   I’d love to hear from you – what are you going to do to reduce your textile footprint?

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz at No Trace

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