Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Kristin at All of Us Revolution
It was November, 2010, in a dusty suburb of Managua, Nicaragua. My business partner, Shannon, and I were visiting the world’s only 100 percent fair trade, organic cotton cooperative in the world. That’s where our education on clothing, the environment, and ourselves, really began.
Two months later, we joined Project 333.
Our journey to living with less really began in the summer of 2010. We were two twenty-something travelers with an idea for a travel and minimalist clothing line. So we started learning about how clothes are made. We traveled to cooperatives and markets and talked with experts and manufacturers.
We quickly realized that the reality of fashion is horrifying.
- Conventional cotton crops use over one-quarter of the world’s pesticides.
- Formaldehyde is commonly used to treat our clothing.
- Polyester is a plastic.
- Each year, billions of kilowatts of energy and trillions of gallons of water are used to produce fabric.
- And slavery still exists in the garment industry.
Much of this chemical treatment, toxic waste dumping, pesticide use, and cheap labor doesn’t happen here at home. It happens in the developing world. Environmental disasters like the complete drying of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan have been attributed to our need for fashion. But these aren’t things you hear about in the news.
For many people, Project 333 is a great way to simplify their lives, free up some time, and rid their closets of decades of backlogged clothing. It’s an exercise in pushing comfort levels, exercising fashion creativity, and realizing that you are not the clothes you wear.
But for us, Project 333 represents something else, too. It represents a shift in fashion towards something good not just for our own morning routines, but good for the entire planet.
America represents 5 % of the world’s population, yet we consume 25 % of the world’s resources. Most of the clothes I’ve bought in my lifetime have certainly ended up in the landfill, and I’m willing to bet most of your old clothes are there too. So the question that Project 333 really poses is not, “Can you do it?” but “Can we, as a society, afford not to?”
Want and need are two very different things, separated by a big fat line. Project 333 forces us to look at that line, and make a decision about what to wear, what to buy, and what message to send to the companies who make our clothes. It forces us to weigh, in one hand, what we want, and in the other, what future generations need.
It’s tough to think that a seemingly small act, like paring down your wardrobe and making thoughtful purchases can make a difference. But as Shannon and I learned in that dusty Nicaraguan town, every single decision we make has a measurable impact on someone else’s life. So when you take part in Project 333, you aren’t just changing your morning routine, you’re changing the world.