Actress and political activist Jane Fonda has been fighting for causes she believes in for decades. Fonda has been a climate activist for a long time, but she recently felt compelled to do more. In her words, “It’s too late for moderation,” and we “need profound, systemic economic and social change.” Inspired by youth activists such as Greta Thunberg, and by Naomi Klein’s book On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, Fonda created Fire Drill Fridays. A few months ago she uprooted her life, moved to Washington D.C. and started leading demonstrations on Capitol Hill every Friday, demanding our leaders take action to address the climate crisis.
“It’s too late for moderation."
Additionally, Fonda announced that she would no longer be buying any new clothes. In this video, she stated, “So, you see this coat? I needed something red so I went out and found this coat on sale. This is the last article of clothing that I’m gonna ever buy.” Fonda continued, “Greta has also made me think a lot about consumerism. We don’t really need to keep shopping. We shouldn’t look to shopping for our identity. We just don’t need more stuff. I have to walk the talk, so I’m not buying any more clothes.”
"This is the last article of clothing that I’m gonna ever buy.”
When we think about the climate emergency, the fossil fuel industry is probably top of mind (and rightfully so), but there are myriad things that we need to address if we are going to avert a total climate catastrophe. (Check out Project Drawdown for a list of the top 100 climate solutions.) And while many of the solutions rely on our governments to take action, we as individuals have the power to effectuate change too. Rampant consumerism plays a role—we are using more resources than the earth can provide. According to Wikipedia, “Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages an acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.” But here’s the thing: we cannot keep manufacturing stuff in ever-increasing amounts.
This year, Earth Overshoot Day was July 29th. That’s the day that humanity exhausted the resources our planet can renew this whole year. Each year, the date gets earlier and earlier. Clearly, this is not something we can continue to do. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have about a decade to avert catastrophe. “We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” warned United Nations General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés.
So how does clothing fit into this conversation? According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “The textiles industry relies mostly on non-renewable resources – 98 million tonnes in total per year – including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce, dye, and finish fibres and textiles. Textiles production (including cotton farming) also uses around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually, contributing to problems in some water-scarce regions.” Additionally, the “total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.” And this statistic always blows our mind, “One garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second.” We use valuable resources to manufacture new clothes, pollute the environment while we do it, and then quickly toss those clothes in the trash. We must transition from the linear economy (take, make, dispose) to a circular economy.
It’s easy to understand that many of us just want to bury our heads in the sand and pretend there isn’t a climate emergency. It can be overwhelming to think about our personal carbon footprint and how it’s contributing to the global climate crisis, but we have to at least try to make a positive impact. Jane Fonda asks, “What are we willing to give up? What time and energy will we devote to it? What sacrifices will we make?” Change is hard. Sacrifice is hard. But we have to do something. Start with the low-hanging fruit and buy less stuff. When you’re about to buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. If the answer is yes, can you get it secondhand? Buying used goods saves resources, reduces pollution, and abates waste.
In the words of Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”