Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Save the Environment by going Naked

Matt has a good post over at Going Backward, Moving Forward, about a book I may have to read, called Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things. The book documents the origins of everyday objects that we take for granted, or more specifically, what they are made of and what was used and wasted getting them made and into your hands and maintained. Matt used clothes as an example in his post, and even knowing much of what he covered, I found the information shocking.

Matt suggests nudism as a means to reduce our dependence on clothes. As much as the idea amuses me, from a utilitarian perspective I can't get on board with going entirely without. Partially, this is because I get cold easily, and I sunburn easily. There is only a narrow window of conditions in which I personally would be physically comfortable going naked.

Having a toddler, I find that going shirtless is dangerous, because the curious little monkey likes to grab things - such as my nipples. Ow. I don't know how I would be able to wean him without shirt, either.

Speaking of nipples, I am not large-breasted, but even still, I need support. Bouncing flesh hurts.

But my main objection is sanitation. We females have moist nether regions. Sitting naked on a chair that has been sat on by another naked woman is like wearing another woman's underwear. Eww eww eww eww eww. Not hygienic!

I propose, instead, going with minimal clothes in the closet, minimal clothes on the body, minimal washing, and maximum clothes use. Most of my son's clothes, for example, come from yard sales. My own pants are worn between washings until they are stained or smelly, and they aren't retired until the knees tear open. And I rarely dress up, so my hoard of clothes is small.

As far as possible I stick with cotton or wool clothes. We also have a high-efficiency washer and dryer.

So far I haven't re-used worn-out clothes as rags as often as I would like, but this weekend I did clean the bathroom mirrors with an old pair of pajama pants.


Pam J. said...

I'm with you on the clothes thing: I try to buy used clothing, I wear stuff until it just can't be repaired any longer, I wear my kids' cast off sweaters and sneakers and my husband's cast-off shirts. I love your reasons for voting no on the going naked thing. Nether regions indeed.

Michelle said...

*grin!* Ahh, stealing hubby's old shirts is a favorite of mine, too. But the only problem is that he is a magnet for free t-shirts. Up until recently he had way more shirts than both of us could possibly use. I finally suggested that the extras be boxed up for eventual donation. Now he is down to a reasonable number of shirts, so I can no longer justify stealing them from him!

Pam J. said...

Ah yes, The Tee Shirt Problem. I know it well. So I have a huge box full of them and I'm ever-so-slowly making a Tee Shirt quilt. It's easy, practical, and fun. If I ever finish one I'll post a picture that may inspire you....since I know how much free time you have for quilting (not).

Michelle said...

Ahhhh. . . . quilting is totally on my list of things I want to try someday! :D What a great way to kill those old shirts!

GBMF-Matt said...

Thanks for the response to my post.

As far as the nether regions go, I know from my research (though I haven't gone to any nudist resorts or gatherings to verify) that people are expected to sit on towels for reasons of hygiene. This is kind of a constructed issue because in nature we would never be sitting on the same kinds of thing we sit on in homes, etc.

And I agree on the temperature thing. I think I mentioned that? Maybe I meant to mention that I forgot. You're definitely not going to get me out of clothes in the winter. It's just too cold.

But, there's no reason we can't go without when we're able. At night when we're under the covers? When the weather's nice?

And I've found that while I had my internship at the B St. Permaculture Project and was farming daily, I actually stopped burning and acclimated to the heat.I believe it's because the sun gradually grows stronger throughout the spring and summer, and if you're out in it constantly your body can make gradual changes (rather than a series of shocks) that help it deal with the sun and heat. This makes sense from the standpoint of nature, as we've never spent as much time inside as we've started doing in recent years.

Yes, second hand clothing is an improvement, and I wear it almost exclusively. But washing is the bigger concern in the long run. To that end, I try to go as long as possible without washing, and I wash by hand if I absolutely need something (it's also easier on the clothes, but it does take longer).

Then there's sun and air drying (which goes hand in hand with the hand-washing). That avoids the dryer altogether.

Of course I posit the extreme to get people thinking. People don't want to give things up but they'll often meet you halfway. Halfway is a lot farther if you push the issue to its extremes.

Naturally, people are going to need clothes. We developed them to combat harsh conditions. But we've continued to use them when the conditions aren't harsh. Why do we do that? And, when the conditions are harsh, are there better conditions to how we're doing it now?

For instance, one way to make going in the nude indoors more comfortable is to have better passive heating and cooling. It doesn't take any more energy, but stabilizes the temperature much more efficiently (insulation, heat sinks, radiant heating and cooling, etc.) Another alternative is to simplify our clothing. Lots of Asian and African countries (though fewer due to western influence) still wear wraps/sarongs/kilts/etc. This kind of clothing is less complicated to manufacture, so it costs less to manufacture. There's no reason the materials couldn't be grown and the manufacturing be done locally, as these articles don't require the same sophistication. They're also easier to wash by hand, and because they don't have all of the seams and pickets, they dry much faster.

And then there's the other thing. If people are willing to go without clothes, and it is by far the more environmentally friendly option, why do we (as a society) continue to shame people into wearing clothing or making it illegal? I mean, the obvious answer is that it stems from our country's religious history (Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, etc.) Are we at a point where we can stop sexualizing our bodies and get on with things?

Food for thought.

Thanks for reading (oh, and I got the comment fiasco sorted out, so you can comment on my new post now).


Michelle said...

Hi Matt! Thanks for providing such lovely fodder for discussion, and for stopping by! I look forward to commenting on your blog. Got to run now. . . cheers!