A couple of weeks ago we had to say goodbye to what had become almost a member of the family.
The parting was hard, and we felt sad that something that had been with us through thick and thin over the past couple of decades would likely end up buried underground in some unmarked spot. So we sent it to be recycled.
Before you get the wrong idea. The dearly departed wasn’t a beloved pet, but rather a very unremarkable T-shirt that proved itself to be almost indestructible, despite enduring weekly wear by my other half for 22 years.
In today’s throwaway society, the idea anyone would wear an old T-shirt until it literally fell off their back seems quite eccentric or points to a serious lapse in sartorial awareness – I’ll let you judge, but I have to admit the Big Man actually has a couple of even older ones, which he’s hoping to fit back into soon. But in previous generations this was the norm because things were built to last and were expected to be fixed when they broke down or tore. My sister-in-law still has a 1950s hoover that was handed down from a relative, and my own late granny’s fridge dated from the 1960s.
Nowadays some people replace their washing machine every two or three years, and their phone every 12 months. It seems like no sooner have you shelled out for a new computer or games console than it has already become obsolete, the tech equivalent of a dinosaur. Part of the problem is that most goods have become cheaper but repairing them has become more expensive in relation to the cost of replacement.
It’s difficult to resist upgrading your kit when there are promises of more mod cons, increased efficiency and cost savings from the new stuff. But to reduce our impact on the planet we need to take a longer-term view and get back to a make-do and mend mentality.
There is already a movement towards this, with outfits such as the Edinburgh Remakery – a community repair hub and second-hand shop set up by a social enterprise group. But it needs to gain more traction.
It’s fair to say most of us would struggle to build a new smartphone from spare parts, as one man did as an experiment. But there are plenty of other things we can do.
READ MORE: Careless recycling is undoing green efforts
Let’s start with our wardrobes. The fashion industry is a major culprit when it comes to environmental damage – it is now the world’s second most polluting industry. Over the past 10 years, clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, driven by the rising popularity of cheap and cheerful garments that can be worn today and thrown out tomorrow.
Even without considering the carbon footprint and ethical issues that come along with “fast fashion”, disposal of clothing needs to be addressed.
Only a quarter of the garments we throw away are currently being recycled, while around 300,000 tonnes goes to landfill each year. So when spring cleaning your drawers make sure to send unwanted garments to a local charity shop or stick it in a textile recycling skip.
And you can be just like Big Man – but stylish – with your own semi-immortal threads. Designer Tom Cridland offers a whole range guaranteed to last 30 years – even a Christmas jumper, though that might actually last for ever.
Or maybe try Half Century Jeans, made from a special fabric containing fibres that are 15 times stronger than cable steel.
I’ll certainly take a pair if they also come with a guarantee that I will fit into them for their 50-year lifespan.