The line between ethical and sustainable

Where is it? And how far to one side or the other should we be going in terms of Climate Change?

Ethical farming/producing has really only ever been focussing on the exploitation of the workers. More recently it has moved to the impact that intensive farming has on the environment. Thing is, you can’t plant a tree to replace a tree. It’s not a one-for-one deal. Once you have bulldozed a natural broadleaf forest getting a middle-class suburban family to plant a willow tree isn’t going to replace anything.

I went down the rabbit hole that is Twitter the other day and watched as someone preached the ways of ethical clothing. “It’s great for the environment!” They said. Among other buzz-words. Ethical clothing is nearly always cotton or hemp. Right now neither of them are good for the environment. Once again we come back to the Avocado Problem.

Cotton isn’t grown in Ireland, and hemp is only just starting to appear but it looks like the licensing is tough to get. Flax is grown in Ireland and was the staple of the Irish Linen industry (until China nixed that one). At the moment crops like Flax, Rapeseed, and Hemp are grown just for their seeds (and to coldpress for oil). The long stems which (in Flax) are great for paper and cloth seem to be ignored. In the case of Rapeseed I was told the stems are probably pulped for cattle feed.

When you go off to your “ethical” clothing shop and spend 50EUR on a t-shirt that doesn’t quite fit right think about that Avocado problem. A tanker travels approximately 8500km to bring that fruit to us, a tanker that burns 9.4 tons of bunker fuel AN HOUR. Also remember that you’re still wearing jeans made from cotton probably grown in China, that are then manufactured there or in India, and then shipped to where you bought them. Your shoes are probably made of leather that came from South America. And above all (in Ireland), you live in a climate where t-shirts are worn for 2 hours in July at most.

Ireland has so much to offer its residents (and at a stretch maybe a few people in the UK, too). I’m certainly not saying we should all grow our own Flax. Want to be good to the environment? Buy local, from locals, grown local.

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Living on a mountain in Ireland. Working towards being self-sufficient but starting with a conscious effort towards sustainability.

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