Your Basic T-Shirt Has a Big Impact on the Environment

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iStock

Dig through your closet at home and you’ll likely find at least one basic cotton t-shirt. The t-shirt is a wardrobe staple that transcends the fashion boundaries of age, class, and gender, but its life cycle is a little more complicated than its simple style lets on.

In their new video, TED-Ed traces the major footprint the shirt industry leaves on the planet.

Your t-shirt came a long way before ending up on the shelf at your neighborhood clothing store. After the cotton is grown on a farm in one part of the world, a process that requires large amounts of water and pesticides, it needs to be treated, woven, and dyed at a facility, sometimes in a totally separate country. At this point the fabric still isn’t ready to hit stores—it needs to be woven together by hand, often by low-wage workers in Bangladesh, India, China, or Turkey. Only then are the shirts ready to make the long journey from the impoverished nations where they’re made to wealthier markets like the U.S. All this transportation required to get a clothing item into the hands of the consumer is why apparel production accounts for 10 percent of worldwide carbon emissions.

After buyers take their t-shirts home with them, the impact doesn’t stop there. That shirt will need to be washed many times over the course of its life cycle, eating up water and energy along the way.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Fortunately, there are some easy choices shoppers can make to be gentle on the environment. Instead of supporting “fast fashion” outlets, find places that sell organic apparel that’s made close to home. Or better yet, buy second-hand from a thrift store. You can continue your environmentally-conscious streak after making the purchase by washing your clothes less and drying them on a clothes line.

For more ways to make your daily life a little greener, check out these eco-friendly suggestions.

[h/t TED-Ed]

Florida Waffle House Is Giving Away Free Food to Hurricane Michael Victims

Barry Williams/Getty Images
Barry Williams/Getty Images

If your community has been hit by a hurricane and you want an idea of how it's coping, check your local Waffle House. The southern chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and only closes under extreme circumstances. The restaurant so rarely pauses its operations that FEMA has been using something called the Waffle House Index to gauge the severity of natural disasters since 2004. Now a Waffle House in Panama City, Florida, has shown that even a Category 4 storm isn't enough to shut it down for good.

After closing due to Hurricane Michael earlier in October, the Florida Waffle House set up a food truck in its parking lot to hand out free food to community members, ABC 7 reports. "We are giving out free food curbside until 6pm. #ScatteredSmotheredandRecover," the chain tweeted on Monday, October 15, along with a picture of its truck parked beneath a beat-up sign. Waffle House later tweeted that the truck would return to the same spot at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 16.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on October 10 and swept through the southern U.S., killing at least 19 people and leaving thousands without power. The Gulf Coast received the brunt of the storm, but Waffle House has reported that, along with its Panama City location, the Lynn Haven, Florida, restaurant is running on a generator and back open for business.

[h/t ABC 7]

Want to Save the Environment? Eat Less Meat

iStock.com/ac_bnphotos
iStock.com/ac_bnphotos

It may be time to order a veggie burger instead of a rack of ribs. For years, climate scientists have suggested eating less meat to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, but the researchers behind a new study say dietary changes are essential to prevent global catastrophe.

The study—published in the journal Nature—is the most comprehensive analysis of how the global food system affects the environment, The Guardian reports. In addition to greenhouse gases being released by livestock, deforestation and water shortages are a couple of other ways that current food production methods hurt the planet. Researchers say there is no easy fix to slow climate change, but reducing our intake of meat is one way that everyone can help out.

“There is no magic bullet,” Marco Springmann, who led the study, tells The Guardian. “But dietary and technological change [on farms] are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by reduction in food loss and waste."

That doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian or vegan, though. Researchers recommend a “flexitarian” diet, which involves occasionally eating meat. For this to make a positive impact, the average global citizen would have to eat 90 percent less pork, 75 percent less beef, and half the number of eggs they normally consume. If you simply can't give up steak, the Climate, Land, Ambition & Rights Alliance (CLARA) recommends consuming just two 5-ounce servings of meat per week. Researchers in the Nature study say beans, nuts, and seeds are all recommended sources of protein.

By their estimates, a global shift towards a flexitarian diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent, and would reduce other environmental impacts by 6 to 22 percent. They say the global food system emitted around 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide in greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, in addition to using vast amounts of cropland, fresh water, and fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus (which pollute waterways as agricultural runoff).

“If socioeconomic changes towards Western consumption patterns continue, the environmental pressures of the food system are likely to intensify, and humanity might soon approach the planetary boundaries for global freshwater use, change in land use, and ocean acidification,” researchers write in their paper. In other words, the current food system might not be able to sustain the projected population of 10 billion people in 2060.

The study follows the recent release of a UN report in which scientists warned that we have only 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failing to do so would result in more extreme weather events, including drought, floods, and severe heat. If you're looking for other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, try flying less, biking more, and turning down your thermostat. Every bit helps.

[h/t The Guardian]

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