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A tree grows in South Bend

| Tuesday, February 4, 2020

I have a tree growing in my dorm room; his name is Justin Timberlake. Although I love plants, I didn’t intend on growing a tree in my dorm room. It all started because I am trying to be more sustainable. I’ve given up single use plastics, started taking five minute showers, tried shopping from sustainable clothing brands, etc. Although my showers haven’t quite been under five minutes, I am doing my best.

When I first started this environmental kick, I did some research. Although I had braced myself for what I would find, I was still shocked, especially by the clothing industry. AlterNet reports that “the clothing industry is the largest polluter in the world … second only to oil.” This is likely because the clothing and textile industry contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global waste water, according to The United Nations.

At first, this data did seem right. How could the clothing industry produce so much waste? And why weren’t we doing more? So, I did some more research. 20,000 liters of water is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton; this is equivalent to a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans, says the WWF. About 15 to 20% of fabrics used in making clothing ends up in the trash.

World Economic Forum reports that 73% of clothing will either be burned or buried in a landfill, leaving 12% to be recycled and less than 1% of what is collected to be made into new clothing.

It’s not just production of clothing that hurts the environment. It is also up to us. “Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated $46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets,” says B2C. Additionally, The EPA estimated that 11.2 millions of tons of textiles were sent to landfills in 2017. So, it’s not just the clothing industry that is causing climate change. The responsibility is also on us. Up to 95% of clothing placed in landfills could be recycled, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.

So, I decided to try a couple of sustainable clothing companies, and I fell in love with one called TALA. TALA saves 4817 liters of water per ton of recycled cotton, uses 92% recycled raw materials, cuts down water usage by 90%, uses upcycled products, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 80%, and even more amazing things. Needless to say, this company is doing a lot.

Receiving my clothes wasn’t a let down, but I was most impressed by their tags. I know … their tags! But bear with me. The back of the tag says, “Plant this tag and watch it grow!” So, I did. I grabbed a pot, added some soil and water, and left it over break. I didn’t think anything would grow. Although I put Justin in a window, there isn’t much direct sunlight. When I came back from break, however, I was pleasantly surprised with a tree growing in my dorm room (and much faster than I anticipated).

Since discovering Justin Timberlake, I did some more research. I found that “enriching a ‘lean’ office with plants could increase productivity by 15%” according to Science Daily. I’m not sure if my dorm room counts as a “lean” office … but I’m hoping my productivity will increase anyway (whether it be through placebo or actual science). 

Eventually, I will have to move him from my dorm to the outdoors. But, I likely won’t do that until it becomes a nuisance … or until my RA finds out. Can you have trees in dorm rooms?

Contact Ellie Dombrowski at [email protected]                              

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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