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Think Again

Having have been involved with SCCAN’s social media work for years now, I have enjoyed it, except for one part that I absolutely dread and try to avoid; it’s going through some of the posts of our feed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely admire climate action and get overjoyed when I see pictures of environmental gatherings; but one thing about them has been triggering for me. It’s when I see a picture of a group of people in identical t-shirts!

Now I’m all for unity, taking action and showcasing that; what bothers me is that sometimes to participate in a one-off event, one must purchase a t-shirt for it, a t-shirt that would specifically state the name of that one and only event, so I am not taking about an organization have a ‘t-shirt’ for any and all of their activities, as those may be useful for members of the public to identify members of the organisation’s team in an event for example and would easily be reused,  I’m talking about event specific ones, such as one that would say ‘X organisation’s March 2024 walk’, because while it may only cost the volunteers 3 GBP to purchase it, that is likely to be a result of third world exploitation, and even if it were to be Fair Trade sourced, there is the cost of resources that go into, let alone the carbon footprint of the transportation.

Resources belong to everyone and everything. Three bath tubs (depending of the size of the bath tubs) of water are required to make one cotton t-shirt, and the dyes used determine the colour of the rivers in the third world country where those are made.

But don’t we all need clothing anyway? Yes, but how useful would those t-shirts be after these events? How many people end up wearing to parties? Doesn’t have to be a special occasion, but they don’t seem to get the regular use an ‘Abercrombie and Fitch’ t-shirt gets.

We are human at the end of the day, wanting to look nice for our social media photos (wanting more flattering tops), so it doesn’t make us bad people to prefer to wear a top with a different neck design, for example, but what about the event t-shirts?  I see a great number of people who donate these, so I suppose some good comes out of that, but again, the carbon footprint of the transportation, which could have easily been avoided by having the t-shirt go to the person in need in the first place. I realise some keep them as keepsakes, but is it really the most considerate to keep three bath tubs of water when others are in need of them, when one has pictures to remind themselves of the event.

Why is it that the volunteers must have those ‘event specific tops’? Wouldn’t tools in their hands be proof enough for a picture that they were working? Wouldn’t allowing them to come in their own clothes (within a reasonable dress code, if needed), allow them to express more of their uniqueness, allowing them to potentially be more comfortable, decrease the amount of work (ordering and such) and more importantly, to have the environment be a more relaxed and friendly one? One less formality can help! Wouldn’t focus on the task itself and its impact be a stronger motivation than a keepsake or having a ‘tidier’ picture of the team?

Perhaps they help one feel part of a team, a community, rather, when all are wearing the same, but would one not feel more supported and included realising that their peers are different, yet have come together, from all walks of life, from all ethnicities, genders and interests to take climate action. They need not conform to a certain norm (within legal and ethical limits) to be part of the family. All are welcome in taking climate action. 

Look out for clothes initiatives in your local area, like this one run by Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC) – there are often events like clothes swaps, repairs sessions and classes, environmental fashion shows and upcycling workshops happening in communities.

And don’t forget that you can often find amazing clothing treasures in your local charity shop!

Photo by Rebecca Bliklen on Unsplash