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Why be sustainable?

November 21, 2011

On October 31, 2011, the Earth’s population reached seven billion. This means seven billion people are producing waste. While clothing is only a small part of the solid waste stream in the United States, it does have a significant impact on the environment in other ways.

Michael Cann, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the university, said it is important to look at clothing in terms of the impact it has throughout its lifetime, or from cradle to grave. Cann said clothing has a more significant environmental impact during its production stages than during its use. When clothing is in use, the only impact it has on the environment can be contributed to the water and energy used to clean it. However, clothing has a greater impact both during production and in its post-use stage.

Chemists like Cann are charged with the responsibility of coming up with environmentally benign ways of creating the raw materials needed in clothing production. Not a chemist? You can still do your part to reduce clothing waste. For non-chemists, it’s important to try to extend the life of clothing as long as possible by donating it to others in need, bringing it to a textile recycler or selling it at a consignment shop. By extending the life of clothing and recycling clothes no longer fit for use, people can reduce the amount of clothing needed to be produced, and therefore reduce the environmental impacts of clothing production.

Check out the university’s Taskforce on Sustainability.

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