Living not-so-lightly at Casa de Nake-id

Let’s talk some more about this living-lightly-on-the-planet thing.

A number of years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a gentleman who wanted to buy footwear that caused as little harm as possible. Obviously leather was out. I don’t remember the exact issue with tennis shoes. Too toxic maybe? Oppressive labor practices? There were problems with rubber and plastics, too. Anyway, every type of shoe he investigated had a questionable provenance. Finally, he settled on a pair of those Chinese canvas shoes. These he considered a compromise.

Wool, as we all know, comes loaded with political baggage. Austrailian and New Zealand ranchers practice mulesing, a horrific practice that mutilates the sheep while ostensibly saving its life. It can’t be great to be a silkworm, either. I guess if you had to pick you’d want to be one of Jen’s goats. Or my friend Meredith’s alpacas—great views and a pack of floppy dogs to keep the coyotes at bay.

If you surf enough in the knit-sphere, you’ll find this cool group of vegan knitters. I occasionally take a spin through their web ring. For the most part, they’re young and hip and cool, and while I might be cooking chicken for dinner I visit hoping some of their youth, coolness and hipness might rub off.

Then there are the problems with dyes. Natural dyers use cochineal (Dude, bugs!) to get those great crimsons. And the acid dyes make me worry about the health of our fabulous handpainters.

Clearly, I have no answers. And like you, I’m not about to stop knitting. What I’m saying is that “voting” with our dollars is fraught with complexity. Does “Fair Trade” make something “green”? Does “organic” guarantee that workers are treated fairly? It’s all a bit like American Apparel, which manufactures goods in the U.S. and pays a decent wage. They even sell organic goods. The dark side? The CEO is an alleged poster child for sexual harrassment. 

Got a good compromise out there?

Comments (6) -

January 30. 2007 04:21


With anything, it's hard to come to a compromise and find the quality or exactness of what you want.  We could all buy natural wool, experiement with natural ways of dying or whathaveyou, but that takes a lot of time and we are, unfortunately a society of instant gratification.  I love the American Apparel analogy...stuff like that makes it hard to support the company, although we want to support American workers.

Christie |

January 30. 2007 06:39


Perhaps the goal is to live a simpler life.  Look at your consumption and pare back.  I've found it fascinating to follow those in California that other than food, made no purchases last year.

While I'm not ready to go to that extreme, 2007 has been designated a defiinte cut back year. Yarn falls under a health necessity (mental).

We compost (even the paper towel and toilet paper roll cylinders); recycle almost everythng, rarely use the garbage disposal; winter thermostat at 61 and no air conditioning at all.  I drove my last car for 17 years.

If we all consume less and dispose of prudently it has to help.

Pam |

February 2. 2007 00:15


It's a very difficult question.  It's hard just to get information on where much of our yarn/fiber comes from, who processes it, what conditions they're working under, etc.  There is rarely any information on what kind of dyes were used on it or how the mills dispose of the waste. Even if it's organic, how do we know how far our fiber has traveled and how much fossil fuel it took to get to us?  For many of us, the option of locally grown/produced yarn doesn't exist.  

I am a pesticide-free zone, yes, and we recycle and compost, we try to eat organic and local-grown and for the most part we aren't terrible consumers any more.  But then I turn around and buy lots of yarn that sits in a stash without any thoughts to the impact it has on the planet-all in the name of my *hobby*.  Because the question is so hard to answer and burying my head in the sand is so easy.  I once brought the topic up for conversation at my SnB and now everyone thinks I'm a fanatic of some sort because I fail to see how Knitpicks can produce its yarn so cheaply without some type of exploitation somewhere in the process.  And I think they're buying more of it than ever, now.  I'd like to think it would be better if I moved to a blue state, but even the people who care a lot don't have the answers to these questions.  However, I still think it's a very good thing for us to bring it up for discussion from time to time so more people will think about it, so thank you for doing that.

jenifleur |

February 2. 2007 00:22


Oh and I meant to say that if something is fair trade certified, it will be a green product.  It must be produced with sustainable agriculture (and no dangerous agri-chemicals), it must be produced in good working conditions for the laborers and the laborers must be paid a fair wage.  However, I have only found a (very) few Fair Trade Certified yarns.  The market for them must still be tiny.

jenifleur |

March 20. 2007 20:26


Re: mulesing. I don't know if the only place you've got information about the practice is PETA, but the operation is the removal of the epidermis around the arse of a merino lamb to prevent the horrible drawn out death from flystrike that happens when sheepshit gets caught in the wool around this area. Flystrike is when the flies [these are big old fuck-off australian blowflies] lay their maggots in the sheep. Then, the maggots start to feed on the living flesh of the sheep. Yum yum, necrosis.

This is what mulesing prevents. But by all means, go ahead and feel superior.

Agatha |

June 29. 2007 12:08


So, my guess is P. Phil predicted early spring for Pennsylvania. Based on what I'm seeing out my windows, Colorado's in for a longer snowy haul. BRRR! Cashmere up to the CHIN. Or, better yet, qiviut. Turns out that stuff's durable. The qiviut gaiter I have has been a blessing this winter and

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