Friday, March 26, 2010

Naked sustainability, take two: A reply to a reply from Michelle on going green in the buff

A continuing discussion with a fellow blogger on the pros and cons of going nude for Mother Nature. What are some of the challenges? What are some of the benefits?                                                                         

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is part 2 of 2 in a series of posts on sustainability through nudism. Click here for part 1.

Photo by SantaRosa OLD SKOOL

I was glad to see someone taking me up on the topic of going naked to save conserve energy and resources. It was Michelle, of course, whom I mentioned in my previous post on illegal yards. I already responded to Michelle's post over at The Clueless Gardeners blog, but I thought I'd recap and elaborate here for my readers. This discussion actually has a lot of parallels to the illegal yard discussion.

Michelle says:
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.
I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. I definitely stay bundled up in the winter. It would be impractical, and sometimes dangerous, to not wear clothes. If you're in Alaska, please wear clothes to stay warm. If you're in the Sahara, please wear clothes to protect you from the sun.

Those are extremes, and it could certainly be considerably warmer or cooler and still be uncomfortable. But what about those places or those days when the weather is agreeable? Not too hot, not too cold. Certainly then we could go naked.

And what about all of the time we're spending indoors? Now, I'm not suggesting that we turn the heat up just so we can go around naked. That's counter-productive. The point, after all, was to go nude to conserve energy. But, that said, it is pretty easy to regulate temperature indoors without using any electricity. Just use passive heating and cooling techniques, such as passive solar. There are lots of green building techniques designed to keep air temperatures comfortable without expending energy by utilizing shade, thermal mass, insulation, air circulation, and more.

So, with thoughtfully designed buildings, we should be able to go nude indoors nearly 100% of the time.

Michelle's other big 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!
Simple solution: put down a towel. This is actually a requirement at every nudist resort I've read about, precisely because they're hygiene-minded. Really, this is a side-effect of an industrial society that we can't avoid. In nature, the things we would have sat on wouldn't have been so permanent. They would have been bombarded by sun and rain and animals, and sitting in the same place more than once would have been highly unlikely. But, our chairs are made of wood and plastic and other materials that will often outlive us. Not only do they last a long time, but they're also porous and hold bacteria and other nasties. (If you've ever looked into having wooden earrings, as I have, then you know that it's recommended that you wear stainless steel until your ear is completely healed up, as wood is porous and can hold bacteria that will cause your ears to get infected). Living communally is a recipe for spreading disease, so putting down a towel where you're sitting would be a necessary step. (This is also related to my disgust with bathrooms--in our pre-civilized state, there's not way you would have found so many humans going to the bathroom in the exact same spot. When you think about it, it's gross and a breeding ground for disease. So much for being civilized...)

Michelle's other objections are mainly about physical comfort of the non-temperature-based variety.
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.
 All of these are very real concerns. I definitely don't go out into a patch of blackberry briers without a pair of jeans to protect my legs. It would ultimately be more costly to get my legs all cut up, and could very well lead to infection. If we're in pain, we're less likely to be productive. And it's just plain not fun. There's no reason we should submit to that thing when we could have it otherwise (unless we really like that kind of thing).

But hey, even if a person wore a bra for support and protection, that would be one piece of clothing versus six or more. Reduce is the first and most important part of the ol' "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" bit, and there's a reduction already.

I am male, so I can't fully relate, though I do understand pain and discomfort. The only thing I can do is point to African tribes where women don't wear any kind of covering or support, and then point to the history of the human race pre-clothing. Those people don't seem to be too inconvenienced... so maybe we're missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. Maybe they've figured out how to get by without the support that "civilized" people take for granted. Who knows? I'm just speculating.

Like I said though, a reduction from fully covered to only wearing a bra would make a huge difference in terms for how much clothing is being manufacture, for one, and also how much clothing is being washed.

Which segues nicely to Michelle's point about reducing our wardrobes and buying secondhand clothes.
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.
I love yard sales and thrift stores. Why have something manufactured when somebody already has one that they don't need? For the clothes that a person does need to protect them from the elements, etc., I can't recommend enough going this route to purchase them. Also, instead of purchasing secondhand clothes, you could participate in a clothing swap--a group of people drops off wearable clothes that they don't want or need, and then people take anything they want. Anything left is donated to a homeless shelter or other such organization. I got a very comfy jacket this way, and got rid of some old shirts from my "black phase."

But, even if we reduce the amount and frequency of washing, we're still washing. That, as I mentioned, is the big killer. I probably wash clothes once a month or less, and I only wash full loads when I do. If I need to have a particular piece of clothing between washings, I was them by hand. Really, washing buy hand is preferable since it uses less water and energy, and because it extends the life of the clothing. But, it's time consuming. That's why I only hand wash two or three things at a time. If I had more time to devote to it, maybe I would.

So then there's the issue of the machine. It's fast and convenient. Congrats if you're using a high-efficiency washer like Michelle... you're using about half the water. But then we have to worry not about the pollution from manufacturing the clothes, but also the pollution from manufacturing the washer. There's a statistic somewhere, and it might actually be in Stuff, that compares the amount of pollution produced to manufacture a car versus the amount of pollution that car is likely to emit over its lifetime. For the average car, more pollution is emitted in the manufacturing process than in the actual driving. A similar claim could probably be made about washing machines. Even if the manufacturing process doesn't create more pollution, it's likely that it produces a very significant amount.

The problem then is not about how frequently we use it, but rather, about how infrequently we use it. We could have five families using one machine, but instead we've manufactured five machines and each family has a different one. Each of these machines is sitting around doing nothing most of the time.

This is one theoretical upside to laundromats. But laundromats are really only effective in urban areas, and urban areas come with their own unique problems. The alternative is to have multi-family or multi-adult households in order to prevent the unnecessary production of large appliances. This is what I like to call a neo-nuclear household. These kinds of arrangements, in my opinion, would have lots of added bonuses over just preventing the unnecessary creation of appliances.

But even acknowledging that clothed and nude both have their advantages, and that one might be more appropriate in some situations than in others, and then setting aside this part of the discussion, there are still social and moral issues to consider.

Though there's plenty to touch on in this arena, for the sake of brevity I'll stick to the big one: (public) nudity is illegal. Not everywhere, of course, and except for a few local ordinances nudity is legal in Oregon. I'm more than happy to concede that if you're uncomfortable, you should be allowed to wear clothes, despite the environmental impacts that are implicit in the act of clothes-wearing. But, given the benefits of going nude, shouldn't it be legalized?

And where it is legal, shouldn't we encourage people to take advantage of that? "We" shame people into their clothes... and we wonder why people have body image issues?

Of course, a lot of this stems from our religious history (Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, etc.), and perhaps there are still lots of people who think we should be ashamed of our bodies.

On top of this there are fears of pedophilia, or rampant sexuality... things that I sincerely doubt are as big of a concern as they're made out to be. But, I think my reasons for saying so will have to be saved for yet another post on this subject.

P.S. I'm naked right now.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is part 2 of 2 in a series of posts on sustainability through nudism. Click here for part 1.

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