What do your clothes say about climate change? More than you think…

Climate Counts Blog
Most of us start our days the same way. We smack our alarm clock, wish it were Saturday, and get dressed. The scary thing is, the clothes we wear today reflect the votes we make for or against our climate’s future.

Every purchasing decision we make is a vote. Think about the number of socks, underwear, t-shirts, and jeans you’ve purchased over the years. If you are a parent, think about how many times your kids have tapped into your wallet for those same items. The numbers are staggering. MSN Money estimates that the average-income, dual-parent household, will spend over $170,000 on toys, education, food and clothes on a child from the time she is born until 17 years of age. In 2010, it is estimated that the average two-child family will spend over $1,200 on back-to-school shopping alone. Multiply this by the number of US families, and we’re looking at billions of dollars of revenue for clothing companies.

Amidst this segment of annual consumption cycle, two things are happening: first, kids are being told by huge corporations what is cool and green before going back-to-school shopping, and second, our planet is getting warmer – significantly in fact. Last year, NASA determined that the previous decade was the warmest on record, with 2005 the hottest year in recorded history, and it’s a record well on its way to being broken. According to the National Climate Data Center, we just experienced the warmest April, May and June on record. All of our driving, eating, flying, and shopping is having an impact on our climate. Feeling guilty? Hang in there — it gets worse before it gets better.

The bad news. Even if we scale back as much as possible and try to remove ourselves from the cycle of consumption, we’re still living on a warming planet. We can’t stop the greenhouse gases emitted in previous decades from trapping more heat.

The good news. We cast votes every day for our future. Every pair of shoes, every shirt, every dress, every hat is a choice, choices that can be turned into votes for climate action and yes, maybe even revived interest from Congress in moving on climate legislation that will ease the management of greenhouse gas emissions for businesses and communities.

Companies track our consumer choices and then live or die by the money we spend. If we as conscious consumers really care about climate change and sustainability, we’ll pay attention to the climate actions (or inactions) of companies and make more informed choices.

Climate-conscious consumers will take heed of companies like Timberland and REI which have shown self-motivated commitment to engaging consumers on the ways they are trying to tackle climate change (both are charter members of Climate Counts’ Industry Innovators program). They’ll notice Timberland’s climate nutrition label which outlines the environmental impacts of a products packaging, chemicals, and the amount of renewable energy used to manufacture their products. They’ll notice REI’s investment of over 860 kilowatts of on-site energy generation. And, they’ll flex their consumer muscles by telling VF Corporation (parent company of The North Face, Nautica, Wrangler... they appreciate it’s finally gotten the message that corporate climate action matters.

Before you start spending on back-to-school clothes this year, think about where your dollars are going and tell those companies you’re paying attention to their climate change actions…if you say something, they’ll listen.

Mark Harrison is the Campaign Coordinator at ClimateCounts.org, he is currently running Back-2-Cool, a campaign focused on alerting consumers about the climate actions (or inactions) of the companies behind back-to-school shopping ads. Back-2-Cool is supported by these great organizations:

Teens Turning Green

Green Music Group


Kids vs Global Warming

DoSomething - Alliance for Climate Education


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