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How can we reduce our carbon footprint?

 May 22, 2023 at 3:17 PM PDT

S1: It's time for KPBS Midday Edition. You can take the next steps against climate change by rethinking what you buy , what you wear , and what you throw away. I'm wearing Cavanaugh With conversations that keep you informed , inspired and make you think. A new right to repair proposal could save you money and help the environment.

S2: If we actually held on to our phones for just one more year on average , that could reduce emissions. That's equivalent of taking over 600,000 cars off the road.

S1: Plus , composting made easier and living the less is more fashion ideal. Next on Midday Edition. You've got your LED light bulbs , your reusable water bottle , and maybe even an electric vehicle in the garage. Let's say you've taken care of the usual suspects when it comes to your own carbon footprint. But when considering individual actions against climate change , activists are taking the fight to new levels. Today , we'll hear how changing the type and amount of stuff in our lives can make an impact on the future of the planet , Environmentalists say from kitchen scraps to leggings , our choices matter. We'll start with an effort to cut down on the number of phones and appliances that get thrown away and replaced because manufacturers make it hard to fix those products. A right to repair bill is making its way through the California legislature. The bill is supported by the California Public Interest Research Group , or CalPERS , and my guest is CalPERS state director Jen Engstrom. Jen , hello.

S2: Hello.

S1: So let's start out.

S2: When you own something , you should be able to fix it. Unfortunately , more and more manufacturers of everything from smartphones to refrigerators are restricting access to the necessary repair materials. As a result , consumers are then forced to go to the original manufacturer if something breaks. And that means that the original manufacturer can set prices so high that it just makes sense to buy a new device. And the more that we get pushed to buy new devices , the more that those old devices get thrown away. California actually produces over 772 tons of e-waste each year. That's about 46,000 cell phones that we're throwing away each day. Now , when we throw those away and we have to make new things that uses a lot of energy and can result in a lot of emissions , if we actually held on to our phones for just one more year on average , that could reduce emissions. That's equivalent of taking over 600,000 cars off the road. Wow.

S1: Wow. Can you be more specific about the kinds of products we're talking about being able to repair if this bill would go through ? Yeah.

S2: So this bill , Senate bill 244 specifically would require manufacturers of electronics and appliances to make the tools , parts service information available to consumers and independent repair shops. So if your phone breaks , your laptop breaks , your fridge breaks , you'd have more options if this becomes law to be able to get that fixed. And we know that will save consumers money and also result in less e-waste and just the unnecessary need for more mining and production.


S2: So that your only choice , if you want to get your device opened and fix , is to go to the original manufacturer. Or sometimes there's actually kind of more electronic things they'll do so that the software doesn't allow you to be able to tamper with or open up the device. Like a digital lock , for example , is commonly used on things like tractors. Even so , farmers are struggling to fix their own tractors because they have these digital locks that they can't bypass unless they go to the manufacturer to get it fixed.

S1: I know I've been told that for a certain repair to my Mac laptop that I had to go to an Apple store , which actually turned out to be pretty inconvenient. Is that the type of thing this bill would change ? Exactly.

S2: So if this bill goes into effect , it would increase competition and choice for consumers so that rather than having your only option be to go to the Apple store , you can go to your local repair shop if you want. Or you could even buy the tools online and be able to fix it yourself. We know that will decrease the costs for consumers of fixing things and then increase the likelihood they will get things fixed. And then again , that results in , you know , in less stuff getting thrown away.

S1: You know , you reference repair shops and especially independent repair shops , let's say about 20 years ago , maybe even longer. There seems to have been more of them.

S2: We actually did a survey and found that 59% of shop surveys in California in particular indicated they might have to close their doors if manufacturers continue to restrict access to repair materials. So they're just struggling to be able to buy the tools they need to keep their shops open.

S1: So the right to repair bill , Senate Bill 244 , would. Require manufacturers to give over digital codes and make it possible for other people to open up devices and things like that.

S2: It's what we're asking them to do , though. It's actually simpler than that because what they have right now is authorized repairers. So the folks that work at the Apple Bar or Apple partners with Best Buy and have folks who work there who are their authorized repairers , this would require that what they give to those authorized repairers in terms of tools and parts and materials , they also have to make available to these independent repair shops and consumers. So it's stuff they already have. They have the how to's on how to fix things. They're already providing them , but just to a limited group of people and we want to expand that. So again , there's just more choice and more competition.

S1: My guest is CalPERS state director Jen Engstrom. And we're talking about the right to repair bill that's making its way through the California legislature.

S2: So that if there's more options , then there's more competition. And so then there'll be more of a drive to bring down the cost in order to actually compete for that , you know , in that repair marketplace. The other thing we expect is that it could just bring down the cost for consumers because they won't have to replace items as often. So they'll be able to save money by just keeping things in use longer , getting it fixed rather than replacing it. And we actually expect that if this law goes into effect , it could save Californian households over $5 billion per year , mostly by just bringing down the cost of them having to replace items as often.

S1: Yeah , but there's so much pressure , you know , to get the newest and latest version of phones and electronics.

S2: I mean , especially with something like your fridge breaking and even if it's only after a couple of years , I mean , there's a lot I've heard a lot of frustrated people out there who really would just rather get that one piece fixed and their refrigerator or their washing machine or their laptop rather than have to buy a whole new one. And that's why we've seen a lot of support for Right to repair. It's a majority of all parties that support this move. We've had over 100 elected official sign on in support in the state of California. We know that there's a lot of popularity because there's a lot of frustration when people have something break , especially if it's pretty new and it breaks and they have to get it fixed. And , you know , there's kind of charged an arm and a leg to get it fixed or really told they should buy a new thing after only a couple of years.


S2: 80% or over 80% of the emissions impact of a smartphone comes from its production. So there's more emissions just in making the phone than using it. So the more that we just make items , the more that we're using not only materials that we have to mind , but just there's energy that we're using that leads to carbon emissions from just the production itself. So if we can keep things in use longer , then we don't have to make as much stuff. And that will help us to reduce our emissions and just not live such a kind of throwaway society.

S1: How about if somebody has a broken phone or a broken fridge right now ? Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to repair their appliance right now ? Totally.

S2: I mean , you should always try to get something fixed first. If it breaks , you got to kind of resist that instinct to want to buy something new. This will increase the options , but there are still some options out there. So you should see if your local repair shop has what they need to fix it. If you have to go to the original manufacturer , you could check in to see how much that's going to cost. Often local communities will have free repair events like a repair clinic or a repair cafe. So you could look into the fix it clinics or other community events where you can get something fixed for free. And then you can also look online. There's a lot of websites out there. I fix it being one of them where you can go and find how to guides and even buy some of the tools that you need. So there are some options. This will just increase the options that are out there. But the gut instinct is to make sure you start by trying to fix it rather than replacing it. It can always feel nice to get something new. But remember , that does take energy. You know , it does take materials and it's just better for the environment to keep things in use longer.

S1: Now , I know a version of the right to repair bill had been introduced in the legislature before and didn't make it.

S2: I think there's a few things that are different about this year. One is that there's just growing momentum across the country. So. Since last year. There are bills that have passed in Colorado and in New York. There's a bill that recently passed in Minnesota that's now awaiting the signature of their governor. So there's some good momentum. We've also just made some changes. So we've worked with stakeholders in the tech industry to make sure that we're doing this in a way that makes sense , made some small tweaks. So , for example , we in this bill , it doesn't include game consoles because they're just particularly tricky to fix. So we've been trying to just make this work for the state of California so that we can have a bill that can last.

S1: And I understand that this is one of those rare issues , the kind of crosses the partisan divide. It's got support for both Democrats and Republicans.

S2: It does. Yeah. I mean , I think there's just this desire to be able to fix things that you own and that kind of does , you know , cross party lines , this desire to fix it for environmental reasons. Or maybe there's just a desire to be independent and be able to fix your own stuff. And whether that's a tractor or a fridge or a smartphone , I think there's a lot that people desire to be able to just kind of fully own something. And I think in a lot of ways this is about ownership.

S1: Our manufacturers actively working against this bill.

S2: There are quite a few. Yeah , not not all manufacturers , but , you know , I think that a lot of folks in the tech industry benefit from having less competition in the repair marketplace so that they can make a lot of money off of people having to spend a lot to repair something or just continue to buy and by and by. So they don't like the idea of people buying less. So of course , they have that incentive to try to limit this. But we know that there's a lot of support for it , too , from the local community and those independent repair shops. So we're working to overcome that opposition , you know , figure out if there's places where we can work together. But for the most part , just make sure that's something that our state leaders see as something that the public really wants.


S2: It passed through the Senate Appropriations or Financial Committee. So that means that the next step is it needs to be passed by the full Senate. So it's on the floor of the Senate and it needs to pass in the next couple of weeks.


S3: I mean , think that think there's some good kind of popular support.

S2: But obviously we got to go talk to everybody and make sure that they know this is something the community wants.

S1: Now , this bill is not sort of like what you would think of as the typical climate change action that we're used to. And it made me wonder , are activists taking a look outside of , as I said , the usual suspects like recycling and public transportation and the things that we've heard about so often into the climate impact of other ways that we live.

S2: Yeah , totally. I mean , you want to think about your entire carbon footprint and that's , you know , how you get around your transportation , but also the types of devices that you are buying and how often you use them and how long you use them. Also , you know , impacts your overall carbon footprint. So I think more and more people are starting to really look into the details of what you know and how we're using energy in our lives and how we can use less so that we can reduce emissions and help to combat climate change. And this is this is a.

S3: Part of that for. Sure.

S2: Sure. The devices that you're using and how often you use them and how long you keep them for. Okay.

S1: Okay. Then I've been speaking with Jen Engstrom. She is state director of the California Public Interest Research Group , or CalPERS. Jen , thank you so much.

S3: Thank you.

S1: We'd love to hear your thoughts about repairing instead of replacing your appliances , give us a call at (619) 452-0228 and leave a message or you can email us at midday at


S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm wearing Cavanaugh. Are you using your green bin for food waste recycling ? I think a show of hands would find that not everyone is on board with the new program. Even people who are meticulous about plastic recycling may feel that separating food waste in a separate bin is a step too far in a busy life. And if you're not up for recycling , the mere thought of composting your organic waste may be too much to even consider. Except it's not. As we move forward in taking our own individual actions against climate change , new ways and new technologies are making the age old process of composting easier , more accessible and less unappealing , although sometimes worms are still involved. My guest is Michael Coren. He's a journalist writing the Climate Koch advice column for The Washington Post. And Michael , hello.

S4: Hi there. Thank you for letting me join you.


S4: But I think , honestly , it's convenience. And like many things in our life , people , you know , want to do what's easy , but also what they've always learned or know how to do. And composting , unfortunately , is just one of the things that hasn't been part of our lives for a very long time.

S1: So let's just take a step back.

S4: When you put it into a landfill , it goes through something called anaerobic decomposition. So that means without oxygen and that creates methane , you might have actually seen methane flares off of landfills. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. So instead of taking organic waste that would actually normally break down in the presence of oxygen and in turn into soil , essentially , it actually breaks down and turns into methane and then actually increases the amount of warming in the atmosphere. So it's kind of a double whammy.


S4: But there was a recent nature study that looked at how much we could reduce methane from landfills if we were able to divert most of our food waste and organic waste out of the municipal waste stream. And the numbers were large , as much as 70 or 80%. Obviously , it depends a lot on the place , but it looks like the potential is huge.

S1: And where does most of that organic waste come from ? Food manufacturers or restaurants.

S4: So typically , industry and companies are usually the largest emitters. But in this case , home food waste is the largest source of that type of organic waste. Many restaurants and others are either very efficient or relatively efficient , or they have other diversionary methods to to to avoid just dump them into landfills. And so actually , this is one of those places where people just average , everyday citizens have a lot of potential to make a difference.


S4: So you can think of compost as a luxury high rise for microorganisms. So bacteria , fungi , nematodes , worm , soil bugs , other invertebrates all thrive in compost and that typically is composed of greens or high nitrogen , things that are like leaves or even just food waste as well as browns , which tend to have more carbon and that can be leaves or cardboard or paper. And when they mix together , they kind of create this matrix where all of those organic compounds , carbohydrates and proteins and things like that are broken down into their basic elements. And those nutrients then become available for plants to take up. In fact , you cannot find a better , a better fertilizer than the type you can make at home with worm castings or compost.

S1: So you get fertilizer out of it.

S4: You get incredibly fertile soil that retains water , retains nutrients , and overall is just an incredible way to improve the growth of plants in your garden and actually pull carbon out of the air as well. Not a lot , but a significant amount because that soil is now much more fertile and much more amenable to have an entire ecosystem that lives in it , from plants to fungi to invertebrates.

S1: And what kind of waste are we talking about ? I know we talk about organic waste , but. Pacifically. I heard you talk about paper and and cardboard.

S4: One of the people I interviewed for my story actually composted the horse of a neighbor , the horse that died. And within a year it was all gone. And so , you know , it depends on where you live. Like if you live in a small apartment building , you may not want to compost a lot of meats or oils , not that they can't be composted , just that your pile might not be hot enough or big enough to handle that. So it's a little bit case dependent. But in fact , if it was ever alive , it can be composted.

S1: In your article about new technologies for composting , you talk about methods that will work for different sizes of houses , and you start with a 400 square foot apartment.


S4: You can do it. There's different ways. The high tech version is that's recently come out is really more of a food dehydrator. There's a couple out there like the Vitamix food , Cycler , Lomi and then mill. And what they do is they grind up the scraps , they dehydrate them and then they pack them into this puck essentially , and then they can use that for actually for , for poultry feed and other livestock feed , or you can just actually compost it as well. And what it does is it allows you to avert a lot of your food waste , which is taking up a lot of room , which smells and then put it in something that's actually quite useful. There's more low tech versions. You can actually do something that's like fermentation and it's just a small little bucket and it has some microorganisms. You put it in there and it sort of , I guess pickles it , for lack of a better word. And then you can put it into a garden or compost it. So yeah , there are ways.

S1: And I guess the easiest way is the compost pickup , the kind of green bin that we have here in San Diego. I'm wondering though , how how you store the organic material before you put it in the green bin ? It goes in the green bin in a paper bag , right ? Not plastic.

S4: Yes , correct. You can use a compostable sort of biodegradable plastic sometimes , but it would be in paper. You know , everyone has their own system. It typically you're bringing it down once a week and it shouldn't be a problem just to have it in a bucket with a lid. And they're also they make some that have a charcoal filter. So there's no just no smell. I've never had a problem with that. Some people put it in the freezer and then just when they're ready , they take it downstairs.

S1: I'm speaking about new ideas for environmental activism , household composting with Michael Coren. He writes the Climate Koch advice column for The Washington Post. So , all right. Moving out of this 400 square foot apartment , if you do have a yard , you can compost using a green cone digester. And that sounds a little sinister.

S4: It's this remarkable , very simple technology. And essentially it's , as it sounds , a plastic cone. It has a double wall. And what that does is it traps a lot of the heat from the sun and you dig a little hole and you put that cone over it. When you put the food scraps in the hole and in the cone , it essentially allows natural organisms to decompose all of that food and organic waste very quickly. And it essentially is absorbed into the soil. So as much as 90% of the volume of what you put in there essentially is digested or decomposed and then migrates into the soil. So you don't end up with the same volume of of really fertile soil that you can spread on your garden. But it is a great , easy way to essentially take care of your compost or your organic waste. If you have a little bit of room.


S4: And the smell is relatively minimal if it's a healthy compost bin because you have a lot of air and a lot of oxidation going on , just like a healthy soil should not smell too much and it's pretty warm. Like if it's in the sun , it can reach 122°F. So stuff doesn't stick around too long.


S4: You know , it is a little bit tricky to get some of these larger compost compost piles to stay , to stay active. They do need kind of the right conditions , which means the right balance of nitrogen or greens and carbon or brown. And so for example , I have a worm composter and I think in the beginning I didn't put enough browns in and so it turned anaerobic , it was too wet. And so that started to smell. And so that was not great. And I had to turn it and add a lot more carbon. And eventually it basically recovered and now it's chugging along , making lots of good fertilizers. So that's always , always a challenge. And then as we talked about , if you have a little bit , I only have a little bit of room , There's only so much you can do in terms of volume. And so you're just not going to be able to dump in tons of oils or meat products in a very small band and expect good results. So at the right scale , anything's possible. But not everyone has that space.

S1: Then talking about new technologies and composting , there's a device called the Arrow Bin Composter.

S4: I haven't used it personally , but I did some research. It's not it's a little pricey. We're talking hundreds of dollars , but because it adds air inside the compost and it's not just the pile that's sitting out , it is apparently very high performing. So you can put a lot of waste in there and get a lot of very good soil out the bottom. And if you're a gardener and you're spending money on top soil , it pays for itself apparently within a few years. So it can be a good investment and has gotten great reviews.

S1: Let me go back to my original and I think critical question here. How do you get someone used to this process of collecting food waste instead of throwing it in the garbage or down the disposal ? You can either save it in your bin and then take it out to the green bin , or you can start your own little composting in your own apartment or backyard.

S4: I think everyone is different. I've talked with people who never compost. It just found it too difficult and then they started using these. The dehydrator is these little tabletop or small side devices and that that for them , that was it. All they had to do is press a button and they're done. And for others it was the fact that they were able to watch their food waste turn into soil. And that's what got them into it. And now they were growing their own food from the food that they had threw away. And so that for them , that was it. But in terms of convenience , I think it has to be easy enough that it's just as easy to do this or almost as it is to throw it away. Recycling faced a similar problem , but , you know , eventually they came up with enough system or that infrastructure. So that pickup of recycling of single stream in particular was just as or almost as easy as trash. And so I think we're still in the early days of people learning about these other convenient options. So I would say just start with the thing that's easiest and most convenient and most rewarding and for everyone that'll be a little bit different and then go from there.

S1: As a motivation. Let me ask you this.

S4: Places like Vermont have already actually mandated that residents don't throw their food waste and organic waste into the trash , and they're giving people options to have it picked up or to do it in their own backyard , subsidizing some of the things that we talked about. So I think what we're going to see in the coming years is more are more and more systems that look like Vermont's in places that are amenable to it until recycling and composting are similar in people's minds in terms of how do you get rid of your trash until those happen , I think we're going to see mostly lower levels of adoption. But these new ways of composting , these easier ways of composting , are going to be a critical piece of the puzzle.

S1: My guest has been Michael Coren , a journalist writing the Climate Koch advice column for The Washington Post. Michael , thank you so much. That was. Great.

S5: Great.

S4: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

S1: We'd love to hear your thoughts about how to get involved in composting or recycling food waste. Give us a call at (619) 452-0228 and leave a message or you can email us at midday at Coming up , a new way of thinking about what to wear. I'm seeing so many more people.

S3: Who are aware of fast fashion. It's not an unfamiliar concept to people anymore and they are really interested in what they can do to be more sustainable with their closet.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Putting the brakes on climate change involves changing your life. That's what we've been talking about this hour. Environmentalists say individual changes in the way we think about the things we own and the things we throw away will determine a lot about the future we live in. And that also involves what's in your closet and what you're going to wear tomorrow. The cheap but stylish clothes that make up so-called fast fashion have a huge carbon footprint as well as a history of worker exploitation. So a move towards sustainability in the clothing industry is hoping to prove that less really is more. Emily Stockwell is my guest. She's director of education at the Fashion Non Profit remake and creator of the Pre-loved podcast. Emily , hello. Welcome.

S3: Thank you so much for having me.


S3: So it might be helpful for folks to think about fast fashion , the way we think of fast food , for example. This is basically the idea that clothing that's made really quickly , cheaply and is maybe not the best for us , right ? So today we buy more and yet somehow pay less for our clothing than we did 10 or 20 years ago and for our clothes to cost so little , you know , sometimes less than a cup of coffee means that the fashion industry is really cutting a lot of corners. And that's what we call fast fashion. It could mean brands like Forever 21 , Zara , H&M , or the even faster brands that have been cropping up in recent years like Sheehan or Boohoo. But basically the easiest way to think about it is clothes that are sold to us as being trendy , cheap , convenient , but disposable. So you're supposed to wear them and they may not last you very long , toss them away , get something new , and it keeps you trapped in that cycle of overconsumption. But the truth is , is that there's like very real human environmental cost to that cheap clothing that is often hidden from us.


S3: So , you know , if you think back to a couple of generations ago here in the US , you know , we actually used to produce a lot of clothing here. And over the last couple of decades , clothing has more and more been something that is produced in the global South. Folks might be familiar with clothing being produced in countries like Bangladesh or Pakistan , and the folks who are making clothing today are not paid a living wage. None of the major big , fast fashion brands can show that they pay really any of the workers in their supply chain a living wage. You know , I know a lot of folks don't even really know how to sew today , but think about how long it might take you to sew something like a t shirt and then think about how much you would want to be paid for the time that you put into something like that. Then if you also think about the materials that something takes , you know , considering the fact that cotton for a t shirt has to be grown , it has to be , you know , processed , shipped all around the world , it really becomes clear quite quickly that the true cost of that t shirt is not $5. And so this is really how the fashion industry has put that squeeze on price. It's through paying bottom dollar wages to the people who make our clothes.

S1: And when you're talking about the resources involved and the shipping involved , talk about the climate impacts of this mass production of fast fashion clothes.

S3: Yeah , I mean , the climate impact is huge. It comes down to so many different factors. There's water that's involved with producing clothing , the carbon emissions. There's also a lot of essentially fossil fuels utilized in the production of fast fashion because many of the synthetic fibers , the polyesters or poly based materials that we're familiar with today , are fossil fuel derived. And all of that comes out to a hefty amount of carbon emissions , just even produce the item of clothing. Then if we think about the fact that this model is built off of us having to buy lots of it and dispose of it quickly , then there's the waste element too. So if we're disposing of those items very quickly , then they are headed to landfill. They're becoming landfill waste at the end of things. It's a system that really all the way through is harmful to the people who produce the clothing , but also to the planet that we all live on.

S1: Right ? So because of the low price and because it's so Bountiful , are Americans buying more ? Clothing ? Yes.

S3: In fact , over the last couple of decades , the average consumer has started buying around 60% more clothing per year. And today the average American tosses £75 of textiles a year. And I use that stat because I feel like sometimes it can be difficult to picture stats , but picture lugging £75 worth , that's a , you know , a small child , a big dog , however you want to think about it , to the landfill. And that's just the individual impact of one person going through this fast fashion system.

S1: This is the way most of our clothing is made now.

S3: We are seeing systemic shifts happen. All that being said , you know , I have been working in this space for about a decade now , and I'm seeing so many more people who are aware of fast fashion. It's not an unfamiliar concept to people anymore. And they are really interested in what they can do to be more sustainable with their closet. I think where we are now is trying to help people understand the ways that they can really make a difference. And one of the ways that we encourage people to make a difference is by taking our No New Clothes challenge at Remake.

S1: Tell us about that.

S3: And basically the idea is if you look into research about how to build healthy habits , whether that's building a healthier diet or an exercise routine , it says that you need about 90 days to build a habit that lasts you for the long term. So the idea is if you're just learning about fast fashion or overproduction and you want to do something but you don't know where to start , you can start by not buying any newly produced clothing for 90 days. And the idea behind this is that it will really become a reset of your mindset around overconsumption. So rather than , you know , we see it , we like it and we buy it right away , you'll think to yourself , Oh , I'm taking that challenge. And , you know , thousands of other people are taking the challenge , too. I want to take part. I don't want to cheat on the challenge. And so you'll pause for a minute before you just quickly buy that item and think about , do I really need this ? Do I have something in my closet that could replace this ? Could I track it down on the second hand market ? Because the reality is , is so much has been produced that more often than not we can find something that we're looking for that's already out there in circulation.

S1: I'm speaking with Emily Sokol. She's director of education at the fashion nonprofit remake , creator of the Pre-loved podcast. And we're talking about fast fashion and alternatives to fast fashion. Now , Emily , your Pre-loved podcast is all actually all about secondhand clothes , which doesn't immediately sound appealing to people who like new stuff.

S3: I love secondhand , which of course is why I refer to it as just being pre-loved. I think there's something so fun and romantic and exciting about secondhand shopping , but some of the things that I love about it is , of course , the cost savings. You know , I got into secondhand shopping as a teenager or a college student on a low budget , and I found that I was able to find the things I need without breaking the bank. And then I kind of as I did it more , I realized that it was a really fun way to outfit my wardrobe and not be wearing what everyone else was wearing. It made me feel more creative and individual. And then I got really hooked on the hunt of finding treasure and finding really cool pieces. And then I also think to over time , this is something that I don't think I realized when I first made the shift to secondhand , The older clothing that I typically can find in the second hand market , it really is made to last in a way that clothing made today is not. And so I have pieces that I have bought secondhand that maybe they've been with me for ten years already , but they're 50 or 60 years old at this point. I think of a denim jacket that I have that I love and reach for every season , and that piece is it's going to last me forever. But just because of the quality of the way clothing used to be made in the materials. So those are just a couple of reasons why I love secondhand fashion. And then on my show , on Pre-loved podcast , I chat with people from all across the second hand space about why they love it too. So you can find a million more reasons.

S1: How should people start out entering the second hand clothing world if they're unfamiliar with it ? Yeah.

S3: If you've never shopped secondhand before. Or what I recommend is you check out some of the online secondhand shopping options. So that could be an app like Poshmark Depop or a site like Thredup. And what I would recommend you do is just type into one of those sites , whatever it is that you were wanting to buy new. So like if you know , okay , I know I love this like brand of target jeans or I know that I love this piece of clothing from American Eagle or whatever it might be that you're wanting to buy new. Just type that into one of those secondhand sites online. And I bet you anything you will be able to find that item that you were going to buy new available on the secondhand market. And using secondhand sites , you can use filters , sizing , filters , things like that to wade through a lot of the volume that is out there and really find what it is that you're specifically looking for.

S1: You also talk about other ways that people can kind of wean themselves off the new clothes habit. You talk about clothing swaps and actually learning how to mend clothing. I think you mentioned that earlier , Some people have no idea how to sew.

S3: It's true. Oh , my gosh. Clothing swaps are the most fun thing. If you haven't had the chance to participate in a clothing swap , you should really do a search for your local area and see if there is one going on. You know , it's basically what it sounds. A group of people get together and they bring clothes that they're willing to give away and trade them with other people who have brought clothes that they'd like to share with the community. And it doesn't have to be a big to do , but it can you know , we can you can have big clothing swap parties or just trade amongst a group of your friends and then , yeah , mending or learning to take care of your clothes in a way that will make them last longer so it can be learning how to do basic repairs on your clothes or how to get stains out of things or dye things that have gotten , you know , maybe a little dingy from the wash and there are so many fun DIY tutorials that you can find online these days or check out in books. And if you know the DIY route doesn't interest you so much , I would highly recommend checking around locally to see if there is a local soloist who can help you out with some of those repairs or alterations. You know , maybe you have a shirt that it sits in your closet and you never wear it because maybe something is just a little too long on it. And if you just adjusted that one thing , it might be something you'd reach for more. Local stores can take care of that problem for you and make it so that you actually love every single piece that's in your closet. And I guarantee you that even though it does seem like it is kind of a dying art , there are still folks in your community who do this work. And if you're struggling to find someone , I would ask your local vintage or secondhand shop who they'd recommend because I bet they have a recommendation for you.

S1: Now , if the clothing industry really begins to become more sustainable , both environmentally and ethically for workers , the price of clothes will go up. And that is not good news for people who are already struggling to make ends meet.

S3: This is about garment workers , yes , but it is also about fighting for better for all of us who exist within this fashion industry. And that's pretty much everyone who wears clothes. The reality is , is that the fashion industry makes a ton of money at this point in time. But there is a lot of wealth hoarding within the fashion industry. Many of the owners and CEOs of these major fashion brands are making billions , billions with a , B , And so it's really more about more evenly distributing the wealth through the fashion supply chain than it would necessarily be a 1 to 1 increase for the person who is purchasing the clothing. The other thing is to is to think about the ways that. So when we talk about the ways that the fashion industry needs to change at Remake , we talk about how paying garment workers living wages would actually slow down the fashion industry because if the fashion industry had to pay people more , they couldn't run on this model of churning out huge amounts of new clothing all the time that would fall apart quickly and be disposed of , they would have to produce more slowly and they would have to produce things that were more meant to last. And yes , they would cost a little bit more , but we wouldn't be buying as many new items all of the time. We'd be buying a few items and keeping them for a long time. And so the result is , is that people would be paid more. We would be buying fewer items , but maybe spending a little bit more on them and we would be keeping them for a longer time. So just kind of revisiting what that slower model of fashion looked like where we were making so much less impact on the planet and cherishing our things a bit more.

S1: I've been speaking with the director of education at the fashion nonprofit Remake and creator of the Pre-loved podcast , Emily Stockwell. Thank you , Emily , so much. It was fun talking with you.

S3: Thanks so much for having me.

S1: Thanks for joining us to hear about taking the next steps in your own efforts to fight against climate change. We would love to hear your comments. You can always reach us at (619) 452-0228 or by email at midday at KPBS , dawg. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Thanks for listening.

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Trash piled up at the Miramar Landfill, June 24, 2019.
Matt Hoffman
Trash piled up at the Miramar Landfill, June 24, 2019.

As the climate crisis looms, how we perceive what we own and throw away may help determine a sustainable future.

Whether it's fixing your old electronics, composting food scraps, or shopping at secondhand stores, KPBS helps address some changes we can make to live more sustainably.


Jenn Engstrom, State Director at CALPIRG and CALPIRG Education Fund

Michael J. Coren, journalist and writer for The Washington Post’s “Climate Coach” column

Emily Stochl, Director of Education at fashion nonprofit Remake and creator of “Pre-Loved Podcast”