Being Green While Having Fun
Making a beautiful bag, shirt, zippered pouch, greeting card, mosaic or pillowcase out of a lucky find at FabMo is fun and rewarding. But not only that: at FabMo we are doing good while having fun by reusing valuable material that had to be produced at great cost.
Just how much environmental impact does saving more than 70 tons of material per year have?
This is a complicated question. The exact savings depend heavily on the material rescued: fabric, paper, tiles or any of the myriad of other materials we distribute like buttons, trim, carpets, etc. are all different and for each many factors influence the total environmental impact: energy and water use, greenhouse gases and waste water produced, and land use – to name just the obvious ones.
For now let’s focus on the bulk of the material FabMo rescues, fabric, and how much it costs to manufacture fabric. That question is complicated enough because not all fabric is created equal. The fibers used for fabric can be either natural like wool, cotton or silk or man-made like polyester. To complicate things even more there are fibers know as regenerated man-made, which are made from natural sources of cellulose, such as wood pulp, which is then synthetically modified to produce fibres for use in fabrics.
For those of us who like things well organized, this table summarizes the most common types of fibers in each category.
The environmental impact of manufacturing these fibers varies significantly. In short, while the synthetic fibers require a lot more energy to make the natural fibers use a lot of water and the regenerated ones find themselves somewhere in the middle.
Another table is helpful to compare the numbers:
Since a megajoule is an fairly abstract concept let’s put those numbers in perspective:
A 2500 kg car going at highway speed has 1 MJ of energy
A fan heater releases about 8 MJ of heat every hour
The water part is easier: a cube with sides of 1 meter holds 1000 liters of water.
Saving Water and Energy One Pretty Piece of Fabric at a Time
The numbers for energy and water use for the different fabrics are not hard and fast, water use, for example, depends on factors such as climate. But if we take them as rough indicators we can still make a reasonable guess about the water and energy it saves per year to reuse FabMo materials versus buying new stuff.
For our calculation let’s say that about 50% of the fabrics are natural, 30% are regenerated and 20% man-made, mostly polyester (I have sorted enough fabric to have a pretty good idea of the distribution) and a few weighted averages and multiplications later we get the following savings for 70 tons of fabric:
4.8 Million Megajoule or 4.8 Terajoule of energy, which is almost 145 years of electrical energy use for an average household
and a whopping
70 million gallons or more than 23 million 12 quart household buckets full of water. Put next to one another these buckets would stretch from Mountain View, CA to Lima, Peru.
Doing good by the environment has never been that much fun!