Sunday, February 24, 2008

Green knitting

It seems there’s a “green” option for everything these days. I’m always torn between getting the green versions, or using up what I’ve got. For things like cars, where the old clunkers persistently use up gas and destroy the planet, I see the value in getting rid of it and getting a hybrid. But what about the possible damage from throwing out the non-green stuff (and buying/using the green stuff)? For instance, the people from whom we bought our house left a ton of cleaning products, and I don’t know what to use when cleaning (They seriously left enough products to clean the house for decades, but still left the house a total mess. In fact, they hadn’t even finished packing when we arrived, after a 20hour drive, to move in! Anyhoo, enough about that.). These products are so noxious and awful, and not just in theory--the fumes give me a headache and make my nose run for hours, and I waste gallons of water washing away the products. Yet I feel it would be even worse to pour them down the drain without using them. If I could figure out a way to get rid of the stuff in a responsible manner, I’d do so, but for right now I hold my breath when using it. (Plus I don’t clean very often, but that’s just out of laziness, not green-ness.) But what about yarn? How green is your knitting?

Sally the Eco-Fairy from Knitty winter 2007 got me thinking about this. Next to a pic of the fairy knitted in, seriously, the drabbest and most depressing hippie-green colors, is this: “Made from undyed, organic Ecoknit cotton, she is hard-wearing, washable, and totally non-toxic. Or you can use up your leftovers in the yarn of your choosing and she will be just as cute--but not quite so eco-friendly.” What?!? It’s not like knitting with stash yarn will make it exude nasty fumes, consume fossil fuels, or create toxic waste. It’s yarn that would otherwise sit around in the stash for years, until it is thrown into a landfill or burns in a housefire. Why not make a useful toy out of it? This is a perfect project to use up leftover yarns, and it’s depressing to imagine all those people out there, leaving their stashes untouched, driving to the LYS, and buying 4 balls of “green” yarn specifically for this project. When they’re done, they’re going to have 4 different colors of remnant yarn added to their stash. How green is that? I appreciate the eco-friendly efforts by the pattern designer, but the whole thing seems counter-intuitive.

Thankfully, knitters have some sense and made Sally from other yarns, in much better, more vibrant colors. Here is ssarahevt’s Sally from her blog Stickin' it to Ewe:

And here's Dorothy07's Sally. Her blog, Quand la laine s’en mele, is in French--I can barely understand it (I think the title means "when the yarn mingles," but I suspect there is a pun in there I'm not getting), but even the pictures are worth it. She gave her Sally curly hair and lots of little colorful doodads.

So cute! I’m tempted to make this pattern now, but for right now I’ve got kangaroos to finish.

A lot of greenification seems to be a way to 1) make people feel better, or 2) sell more stuff. For knitters, yarn is the ultimate in shopping fun, because there’s no limit to how much you can have in your stash. (See the biggest stash in the world, here). If you can justify it as a good deal, good yarn, or good for a possible project, why not? And now, if you can buy eco-friendly yarn and feel super smug, really why not?

Although I’m not buying yarn these days, I still spend an awful lot of time looking at yarn online, both at regular yarn vendors who sell “green” yarn, and places like Ecobutterfly, which sell only “ecofriendly” cotton and bamboo yarns. I’m glad to have the options for when I next need to buy yarn, and certainly if I were in a buying mood I’d go for those first. There’s a big overlap between knitters (and other craftsy people) and “green” people, or at least people who want to be green. I hope we aren’t all adding to the problem by going buck wild and buying up all this “green” yarn, in theory to be eco-friendly, but honestly, just to buy more yarn.


Siel said...

Don't you have, like, a sister who writes a green blog who might be able to help you with your cleaning product prob -- sort of like you help her with her medical questions? :P

Anonymous said...

I read recently that it's actually better to dispose of toxic cleaning products by placing them in plastic bags & putting them out in the trash, rather than to use them & allow them to pollute the water supply. Definitely don't pour them down the drain.