Can We Throw Away the Throw Away Culture?

Sometimes the cultures we love also support behaviors that make us uncomfortable. The sorority would be perfect if only … The Hip Hop culture is great but I wish …. I love my country but … We all find ways to navigate – staying as true to ourselves as we can while claiming membership. But occasionally, if enough people start professing a new ideal, the culture can actually change. 

WE’VE DONE IT BEFORE. – AN EXAMPLE. I was in college during the late 60’s when gender expectations and the threat of pollution demanded a national values review. (The Kennebec River near my home was so polluted that nearly all marine life was gone.) But the culture changed. The arts and entertainment industry magnified the discussions. Legislation was developed. Journalists became sensitive to fair and equal representation and publicizing EPA violators. Organization hiring and diversity programs were launched. Fashion leaned into androgyny. Product development boasted of high MPG. Marketing programs promoted humility and longevity over splash. The VW Beetle ad campaign was a perfect example of the ethos of the day.

NO TIME – OR RESOURCES – TO WASTE. We are again facing an existential threat – climate change. Let’s think of ways – lots of ways – that we can each turn the tide. How can we find and help one another?

WE ARE ALREADY BETTER AT IT THAN WE THINK. Everyone of us has had the challenge and joy of restoring a beloved stuffed animal to life. We are all charmed when we see kids carrying frayed friends. We know what it means. And we only need to walk down the street to see how much money people will pay for jeans with manufactured holes and fraying. We pay for them to look old.

WE CHANGE CULTURES BY CHANGING STORIES. Could we make it fun for neighbors to proudly show off their re-caned chairs? Might we develop public service announcements showing the impact of each tossed bottle? Can we see the science of not washing towels after a single use? What if trade schools had repair specialties and the promise of a good career? Could fashion build around old classics? One of the strongest forces in culture change is gossip. Imagine having neighbors giving each other eye rolls when someone in their midst boasts of their wasteful ways. Oh the shame.


Sashiko’s growing popularity in the West reflects a more general turning away from fastness; fast fashion, throwaway goods, junk textiles. It’s a small, quiet reordering of our relationship to consumerism, perhaps even to capitalism itself. A whispered reminder to pause in an otherwise rushing world.

Do you have ideas? Suggestions for things we can do today in our own homes? Things we can do locally? Ways to engage national institutions?

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