Can fashion save the planet? Plenty of people think that the way we dress and the means by which we express ourselves is superfluous in the race to Save Our Selves from global warming and other environmental ills, a debate that was front and center leading up to and during this past weekend's Live Earth concerts.
The central question seemed to be: Is a rock concert and the influence of celebrities going to do any good?
While it would do us all some good to buy less stuff (less impact on the Earth, not to mention our credit cards!), we still need to light our homes, upgrade our computer systems and buy the kids new clothes for school in the fall. No, we can't shop our way to environmental salvation, but like it or not, fashion, movie stars, rock musicians, and coolness (or hotness) of a given company influences what we do buy when we have to buy it.
KT Tunstall by Brian Clark Howard
Turns out I have some company, from eco-fashionistas to musicians like John Mayer and KT Tunstall alike. When asked about what she thought of the recyclable, uber-fuel efficient, and tiny SMART car, the very fashion-forward KT said, "Something really drastic has to change with our vehicular movement in the modern world. It would be exciting to see the small car become fashionable."
Then she paused, looked at the crowd of reporters and said, quite seriously, "Fashion is a fantastic way forward."
As much as we may not like to admit it, it's true. Let's just look at one category: Huge, super-inefficient gas-guzzling SUVs have been, and continue to be very popular cars, and from what I see on the roads, it's not because they are filled with stuff to be hauled around. It's because for a time (and hopefully that time is waning) they were really, really cool. Rappers pimped them out on MTV, gorgeous actresses swanned out of them at the Oscars, and celebutantes fell out of them on their way into (and out of) the hippest clubs, immortalized in gossip magazines.
I'll admit it, I bought an SUV when I was a teenager in 1996 because it seemed so much cooler than my first car, a compact Toyota. My friends' parents also bought an SUV, preferring its rugged good looks to the sedate station wagon they traded it in for.
If even a third of the Americans that bought the approximately 92 million SUVs and light trucks (9-18 MPG) that are on the road (a guesstimate of the number of people that own them for the way they look and not because they need four wheel drive), switched to a fuel-efficient car like the SMART (40+ MPG), don't you think that would make a huge dent in our fuel consumption? And reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?
Similarly, if cotton production uses 25% of the world's insecticides, how much fewer chemicals would there be if just half that cotton was farmed organically? How much less fertilizer has flowed into our rivers and streams because of the popularity of organic food? To say that our choices won't solve environmental problems simply ignores the fact that it is our choices (many quite simple) that got us into this mess to begin with.
John Mayer by Brian Clark Howard
So when Dave Matthews talks about using a cloth diaper service for his new baby to keep nappies out of landfills, or Fred Mascherino of Taking Back Sunday tells us about how he is running his 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit on waste vegetable oil from his local Chinese takeout joint, or Randy Jackson of American Idol fame says, "I was looking at the Smart Car and I thought it was cool. I wanted to put some rims on it," I don't criticize these stars for trendsetting. Make it cool, and they will come. And maybe we can Save Our Selves before it's too late, one smart choice at a time.
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