link roundup

  • I continue to have a huge blog crush on Do The Math, especially the analyses of how to reduce personal energy use.  While some of his findings are shocking (shrimp are one of the least energy efficient foods?  Say it ain’t so!), many of his methods for measuring and drastically reducing energy use are inspiring.  I’m not currently willing to take some of the steps he does (e.g., solar panels, or completely turning off my heat), but many of his methods can be applied in moderation, and I’m a big fan of his emphasis on starting by measuring where your big expenditures are.
  • Freakonomics had a recent podcast about the effectiveness of herd mentality in persuading people to make changes such as reducing energy consumption or water usage.  Telling someone, “Most of your peers are doing it,” is often one of the best ways to influence people’s behavior.  Conversely (and counterintuitively), telling people, “Please don’t do X, because lots of people are doing X, with terrible consequences,” often encourages people to also do X.
  • Slate asks: what happens to the clothes we donate?   “Most of our donated clothing does not end up in vintage shops, as car-seat stuffing, or as an industrial wiping rag. It is sold over­seas. After the prized vintage is plucked out and the outcasts are sent to the fiber and wiping rag companies, the remaining clothing is sorted, shrink-wrapped, tied up, baled, and sold to used-clothing ven­dors around the world. The secondhand clothing industry has been export-oriented almost since the introduction of mass-produced gar­ments. And by one estimate, used clothing is now the United States’ number one export by volume, with the overwhelming majority sent to ports in sub-Saharan Africa.”


  1. Lisa Eckstein Said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    I read the Slate article about donated clothing, and I’d previously looked at a much longer article on the same subject. I’m unclear on why it’s supposed to be a bad thing that the used clothing is exported. I mean, sure, the energy involved in shipping it is problematic, especially when you consider that most of the clothing was previously shipped from overseas manufacturers. Is that the whole problem, or is there more to it? Is the shipping energy better or worse for the environment than putting the clothes in a local landfill?

    Just something for you to look into if you need another topic. :)

  2. lauren Said,

    July 13, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    Yeah, I meant to add some commentary to that link, but forgot. I don’t immediately see a problem with exporting clothes, or turning them to rags, in the unusable case (though there may be issues). But I thought this was an interesting case where the effect you think your donations are having isn’t the effect they probably are actually having, for the most part — I especially hadn’t thought of so many clothes going toward rags. This was more an interesting insight than a takeaway lesson.

    Your questions about environmental effects of shipping and other negative consequences — especially compared to other things you might do with old clothes — are good ones. Perhaps that is a project for the future!