Just because Earth Day is over doesn't mean that we should stop celebrating the planet in its splendor. It is also time to reflect upon how we are currently destroying the planet through our use and abuse of natural resources, general wastefulness and pollution. For this reason, now is an appropriate time to discuss the most obviously harmful abuse of the planet: consumerism.
Consumerism is when we desperately and unnecessarily seek to acquire more goods (clothes, shoes, electronics) that are unnecessary for sustaining life. It is manifested in the "need more stuff" attitude.
Consumerism is fundamentally opposed to environmentalism. Environmentalism supports protecting the air, water, animals, plants and natural resources from pollution and its effects. So, if we really seek to protect our natural resources, we cannot buy our way into that protection. By shopping, we increase the use and abuse of these natural resources.
Conspicuous consumption is evident throughout the country, and even at LMU. If you haven't noticed, our sororities, fraternities, service orgs, cultural clubs and especially our student government have a T-shirt for everything. If you can do it, LMU students will make a T-shirt for it. Right now, those "I survived Saint Patrick's Day" shirts readily come to mind.
Now, before you jump on me, I know many of you will say that our shirts are sustainable. They generally come from vertically integrated American Apparel and are made in downtown Los Angeles. Yeah, yeah, I know. But T-shirts, whether from organic cotton or not, still waste some natural resources like land and water and use raw materials. It is good to have clothes made from such materials, and to buy clothes when necessary, but it is unsustainable to stockpile clothes, no matter how green they are.
Ultimately, no matter how seemingly green the philosophy of "T-shirts for everything" seems to be, it supports consumerist philosophies. These philosophies include the idea that more is better and that clothes should identify us.
"More is better" - this idea is a huge part of the "T-shirts for everything" movement. It says that we need more things for our wardrobe, simply because more is better. I know many people who simply collect LMU event T-shirts, not because they need clothes or even because they like the shirts, but because they are a fresh novelty, a flavor of the week. Whether made by American Apparel or Forever 21, making a T-shirt for everything supports this way of thinking.
The second philosophy is that clothes should identify and define us. It suggests that the clothes we wear identify us as members of a group, or as individuals in support of a movement; for example T-shirts that advertise club events, or an organization in general (last week's ubiquitous "Diversity Week" T-shirts come to mind). It doesn't matter if you can't read the shirt or understand its coded language, we believe that our numerous T-shirts can and do identify our movement. But identity comes from practice, not from wardrobe. And T-shirts, no matter how appealing or edgy, only create a surface identity, not one that true change stems from. So, why make a million of them at all? It is good to shop and support green, but even that habit can become unsustainable, especially if we approach it with a consumer mindset. This year, in the wake of Earth Day, commit yourself to making even better choices. Buy, or only accept things if you absolutely need them (even if they are free T-shirts). When possible, see if you can recycle clothes and other things (thrift stores are a great example). Because when it comes to the planet, less is truly more.