Nate at Carrotrope introduces the 100-mile wardrobe ideal: If green-minded foodies can eat only food products from within 100 miles of their dinner table, why can’t green fasionistas wear locally-grown (organic) fiber?
This seems like a nice idea. Wearing local clothes, as with eating local food, radically reduces shipping-related emissions. As much as you may like Egyptian cotton, unless you’re in North Africa, the stuff carries a serious carbon footprint. But local textiles are going to get complicated if they get popular. Where Nate and I grew up, for instance, there is little or no fiber grown within 100 miles, unless you are especially good with yucca or grass weaving. Or we Coloradans would have to be forgiven for wearing leather: no cotton was grown in the state last year, but there were 2.7 million head of cattle in January. Now that doesn’t mean it’s ideal or ecological for us to ship in all our clothes from thousands of miles a way, but just like a 100-mile food radius, this works better in bountiful agricultural zones—say, California.
If we were to imagine widespread adoption of the locally-grown clothing concept, there would need to be some changes in the global economy. For one thing, subsidies and/or consumer choice would have to make it cost-effective to pay locals to work in textile factories. Textile industries that are key to the employment of large numbers of people in a variety of Asian countries would need to be replaced by other business.
Looking at ways to make clothing more environmentally friendly is a valuable pursuit. Since we can pretty much guarantee no huge number of U.S. consumers is going to jump on the train right away, this effort will likely help raise awareness and serve as a model that could pressure other clothing manufacturers to reduce shipping-based emissions. All the same, if this is too successful, it could have vexing (and fascinating) global repercussions.