lifestyle and enviromentalism 2.0

Ages ago I wrote a blog post titled "lifestyle and enviromentalism" and I must say I was never quite happy about it. So I am reposting it. Because I can.

Even though my WWF carbon footprint calculator result puts me to shame, I still consider myself eco-friendly. Call me delusional, but I don't think I am doing that bad. I practically never turn on the heat in my bedroom, not even in winter. An extra blanket is all I need. I admit, I can be lazy about standby mode, but I am doing my best. I try to stay away from certain products, because the amount of packaging baffles me. Actually the amount of packaging of a lot of products baffles me. Also, I try to use cloth bags for shopping. Because you know, you get to reuse them. Forever.

All these reasons do not make me believe I am eco-friendly. I attribute most of it to my vintage lifestyle. Second hand clothing, furniture and much more appeals to me out of many reasons, but a significant one is the fact that buying vintage means re-using insted of throwing away. So what makes vintage so eco-friendly? Well, here are my personal two:

Durability: Vintage clothes are often much better made than modern clothes (which is easily attributed to today's throwaway society - but let me not get into ranting about that) and can therefore be worn much longer. True, some vintage pieces will be already worn when you aquire them and will therefore need special care, but in my experience, they last a lot longer. Adding to this, there will always be one or two high fashion finds you'll make (I own Aigner, Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren, all vintage) and I guarantee you, there is a reason for those prices and it is partly due to the fact, that they are made from superior fabrics and more expertly sewn.
The same goes for other vintage objects, like furniture which is often much better made and from real wood not chipboard nonetheless. I have also observed that since plastic became popular (and cheap, I guess) much later, it wasn't as widely used. For example, I own two tripods: one modern and quite bulky and a more travel sized one I picked up at a charity shop. The other day I got the big one out that I haven't used in a while and noticed that one of the plastic pieces was broken. I had another look at my vintage mini tripod and the same part that was plastic in the new one, was made from solid metal in the old one. True, the newer tripod was from the lower end of the price range and there are much better models out there, however, my vintage tripod still only cost a fourth and it is much better made.
The same goes for my vintage sewing machine which will turn fifty at the end of this year (which I know from the manual which has the purchase date written in it). The over all shell is made from metal, while many modern ones are plastic (or all? I don't really know) and there are only a few plastic parts, I am guessing wherever it was more reasonable to use it. And it still purrs like a kitten. I want to see a new one do that in 50 years.

Re-use and upcycle: First let me clarify my terminology: by "upcycling" I am refering to what I sometimes do with vintage finds (and which might shock some): I destroy them to make something else out of it. Vintage ties for example I make into bow ties, shirts into dolls (the fabric of the doll in the middle's body used to be a shirt for example). Bed linen can also be used in this way, especially old ones that don't fit a modern duvet. I once had curtains made from old bed linen. And I have made dolls from them as well. So this is what I call upcycle (in comparison to recycle which would be totally destroying wool sweaters to make new yarn or teddy bear stuffing from it. Is the difference clear?)
Now the appeal of re-using is quite easily apparent: something is re-used so a) it doen't have to be thrown away and burned and b) so no new equivalent product needs to be produced, which would cause a lot of additional CO2-emission. Obviously there is more to a new product than it's production, it most often also needs to be shipped from A to B, therefore causing even more CO2. Now I am aware of the fact that due to the increased popularity of vintage, it is also shipped around the world a lot, but in Switzerland, the only places to really aquire vintage are antique stores and much more appealing to me: charity shops. Bern (my city) has a couple and two really big ones in the east, the HIOB Bümpliz and the Salvation Army ones. Two places where I have found quite a few gems. So vintage is always collected locally, which apart from supporting local economy, also means the carbon footprint of vintage is far lower than the carbon footprint of most things you buy new in a shop.

Of course, you could go on and adapt a vintage lifestyle in other ways. Cars weren't used as often as we use them nowadays, so how about walking somewhere once in a while instead of driving your car? And fixing clothes instead of just buying new ones would be another thing that was once much more common than it is now. But let me not get into that or at least not right now. I think the above already illustrates well enough in what ways living vintage makes you more eco-friendly. Now don't get me wrong: there are many other reasons why I like vintage too, but the fact that vintage is more eco-friendly is a big part of it.



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