Made to Last

Last month, I adopted a new puppy. He’s a four-month old Bernedoodle named Bentley. More Berner than Poodle, Bentley still has all the spunk of a mischievous Poodle pup. When he’s not cuddling, eating or sleeping, my little pooch prioritizes play. But since he has no puppy pals to play with at home, he’s adopted a sure-fire way of getting my attention—he steals my shoes.

That might be fine if Bentley didn’t love chewing so much. Sure, a sneaker can weather a puppy’s jaws before you have the chance to snatch that runner back from him. But most shoes lose when it comes to a tournament with a dog’s teeth. So, to prevent my shoe collection from near destruction, I carefully keep it tucked away in the closet, safe from the mouth of my puckish pup.

Last week, I wasn’t so careful. One evening, I failed to close the closet door. Before I knew it, Bentley had made off with my dearest pair of black leather sandals. When I noticed the crime, it was too late. The sole of one of my favourite shoes had been gnawed into near oblivion. You’d think it might be easy to shrug off the mishap knowing that shoes come, and shoes go. These days, it’s easy to buy a new pair. The stores are abundant with end-of-season sales. But I didn’t want to surrender my best-loved shoes just yet. I carted the pair to the local cobbler, who eyed my sad-looking sandals and promised he’d get them back to new for the following Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe that for just under 20 bucks, my cobbler lived up to his promise. The shoes look like new. And how satisfying it felt to save those sandals from ending up in a landfill.

In Canada, we don’t usually see all the waste we produce. An efficient waste-management system sweeps away our trash—out of sight, out of mind. But if you lived in Toronto ten years ago, you may remember the municipal workers’ strike. For five weeks, no one came to carry off your garbage. For five weeks, Torontonians travelled to dumps in city parks where waste buried four metres deep awaited them.

Canada leads the developed world in the production garbage; we produce 720 kilos of waste per capita. A disproportionate amount of that 720 kilos consists of discarded clothing. In January 2018, the CBC reported that, on average, Canadians buy 70 new pieces of new clothing per year. Call it fast fashion or throw-away couture, many of our cheap buys barely make it to the next season. A Salvation Army centre outside of Toronto receives 90 tonnes of clothing a week. It struggles to keep those 90 tonnes out of landfills. Companies like H&M boast sustainable solutions to the crisis with clever marketing campaigns. Recycling boxes in H&M stores suggest that the old textiles you leave there will be recycled into new ones. But only one percent makes it to a recycling plant. Most of those “recycled” pieces of clothing go overseas, where they end up in flames.

It may be a ritual to buy new outfits for your kids at this time of year. You want your kids to start off the season looking their best, and schools reopen in less than a month! But you don’t want to be a part of this vicious cycle of fast fashion. If you do invest in new threads—for yourself or for your kids—invest in eco-friendly brands that are made to last, not made to add to a landfill.

Take my dog-chewed sandal story to heart. It feels better to repair an old shoe than stock up on a new pair. Why spend money on clothing only stay with you a few months when you can save money for things made to last? If your family dog has a penchant for black leather like mine does, take comfort in the possibility that a good cobbler can get those pair of best-loved flats looking like new. The earth will thank you.

What other ways can you green your upcoming back-to-school days?

  1. Consider greening your lunch box with local produce wrapped in reusable material.

  2. Avoid plastic lunch boxes and single-use plastic containers and cutlery.

  3. Get ahead of the game and invest in stainless steel mugs and straws.

And a final note: research says exposure to the outdoors makes for a healthier brain. What better excuse for an excursion before the kids go back to school?

By Nancy Ellen Miller


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