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Women and clothing. And environment?

The women's magazine KK's Living Green special clearly shows the paradox in the relationship between consumption and the environment.


[chronicle] KK, Norway's largest women's magazine, had a Living Green special in week five. The front page was adorned with a green clothed Siri Kalvig and the magazine's editorial pages were filled with good advice on how you and I can become more environmentally friendly. There were also interviews with important people in the Norwegian environmental and climate debate. A beautiful, wise and old Arne Næs looks us deep into the islands with the headline Think bigger. We must think not only greater than ourselves, but also greater than men on earth. We must begin to take responsibility for the one planet that is ours.

Climate for the environment.

KK is in good company. The environment and climate have been on the agenda in recent weeks, even in the fashion world, the time now seems to be right. Environment and ethics were on the program for Oslo Fashion Week last week, and the question "Can we buy clothes with a clear conscience?" was up for debate. This is good – and it's time. We in Norway are rich enough to treat ourselves to nice clothes, but also rich enough to demand that the clothes we wear do not have a battlefield of underpaid workers and destroyed groundwater behind them. We should demand that the goods we consume are produced under as strict conditions as those we ourselves set for production here in our own country. Eco-labeled clothes should therefore be as common and obvious as eco-labeled detergents – at least. My pleasure.

KK not only has a front cover, but also a back cover, it also has the headline THINK BIG. It is a full-page advertisement for the new Peugeot 307 SW. We read about everything there is room for "under the large, elegant glass roof". There are seven seats, plenty of safety and comfort. The new Hdi turbodiesel engine is both powerful and economical, with a modest fuel consumption. 30 of KK's 132 pages are filled with advertisements for larger cars, hair spray and fabric softeners. Means that can make our lips fuller, reconstruct our skin or remove dark circles under the eyes shine on us in all its glossy needlessness, in stark contrast to the special issue's serious main message. There is nothing strange about it, as are all magazines, they live by selling the message; Buy and be beautiful and happy, and they live by selling advertising space to those who believe they can help readers to this.

Big or bigger?

The dilemma between the desire to think big or think bigger is not something we can only attack KK for. It is there in our lives too. All of us, of course, want to help lower CO2 emissions and stop polluting so that the polar bear gets ice under the pods and the grandchildren snow under the skis. Because we want so much more at the same time.

In the last five years, the emphasis on the import of sports equipment has increased by 100 per cent and on the import of recreational boats by 180 per cent! We build cabins bigger than houses, and houses bigger than our grandparents dreamed. We drive ashore and in the water and in the air with and eat not only gray stones, but also food that is transported around the world without as much as a quota. And we will not end this at all. On the contrary, the statistics show that we are at full speed in the wrong direction. As we discuss how much we should reduce CO2 emissions, we continue to increase these emissions.

It is widely agreed that consumption is a key in curbing this destructive development, but there is no consensus as to how. Many people point to the technology and say it can cut this Gordian knot: how we can maintain, maybe increase our standard of living, and at the same time reduce the negative effects on the environment. This technology optimism permeates our entire society: politicians, decision makers, business and the individual. New Peugeot has a modern engine. Like other car engines, it has become significantly more efficient over the last 10-15 years. And what have we done with that win? We think big and buy cars that are bigger, heavier and faster, and use them more often: Most of the efficiency gains are therefore eaten up! It is entirely possible to use an environmentally friendly or energy efficient product in an inefficient and environmentally unfriendly way.

Technological development is necessary, but not sufficient to solve the problems we face in terms of the environment and climate. It becomes difficult to get around the fact that each of us has to make some choices in relation to our own consumption pattern. However, this also obliges other actors such as local and national authorities, trade and business: Because it must be arranged to be able to make these choices: We can not take the tram that does not go – for example to Kolsås.

Lower clothing consumption.

In the clothing area, there is still much to be gained by reorganizing both production and waste treatment. The textile industry is such a slowdown. Both the environment and ethics labels as well as good mortgage / return schemes will be a way to speed up such a change. But an equally important strategy would be to reduce clothing consumption.

While we have increased the size of cabins and houses, cars and boats, it is in the number of garments that our increased standard of living here has been taken out. If instead of buying so many, we bought fewer but better garments. we could be just as well-dressed and beautiful, but with a significantly lower environmental impact. Better clothes can mean many things, it can be better materials, design or fit, but they are also better when they are produced under proper conditions. A reduced consumption of clothes will therefore not have to mean that we have to dress in sackcloth and ashes, but on the contrary that we invest heavily – but rarely, and treat ourselves to what we really want. New Norwegian environmentally friendly design will then be able to have a strong domestic market.

Consumption is an essential part of our daily lives, and it is a major driver of what threatens our world. Our daily consumption is both private and routine, and at the same time part of the big questions. It is not at all easy to think big all the time as we crawl forward on unbroken sidewalks while trying to remember what we have already forgotten. For us as a researcher on consumption, the relationship between consumption and the environment is not only a paradox, as this number by KK was an example of. The great paradox is that consumption is so little included in the debate about the solutions to the challenge we now face. Our consumption is a contribution in a larger context, and if we change our consumption choices, the larger context will be better connected. But we need help to successfully translate our good will into actions.

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