renewable vs. sustainable (the Pidge, again)

You know, I hate to harp on one thing in particular (and in fact I’ve been working on a series of posts detailing the way I produce my yarns, start to finish–stay tuned for that), but I happened to look at the website for the Pidge again this morning.  They’ve done a complete overhaul, and the changes have got me thinking. Gone are the photos of their knitting studio, and each page has been redesigned to give as green and natural a look as possible. The textual information has been altered as well:

The original:

in fact, aside from the handful of halogen lights illuminating 3Fe Apparel’s knitting studio, each Pidge is created using no electricity at all.

The new version:

in fact, aside from the handful of halogen lights illuminating 3Fe Apparel’s knitting studio, each Pidge scarf is created using practically no electricity at all.

I’m guessing the word “practically” is a large enough umbrella under which to hide the TV, stereo system, and large lighting apparatus shown on the old version of the site. To drive home their claim of Amish-like rejection of electricity, one of the pages even features this rustic photo of a fire roaring in a grate.

One thing that didn’t change is this phrase: the Italian cashmere and olivewood buttons of The Pidge are renewable resources. This is all true. Cashmere, being produced by goats, is entirely renewable (unlike, say, fossil fuels, of which there is a limited supply). But is it sustainable? That is to say, can its production be supported by nature indefinitely?  I mentioned in my last post that cashmere production in China is having a devastating impact on the environment, as goats destroy vegetation (they eat all the way down to the roots, killing the plant) and tear up topsoil with their hard hooves. China’s already facing a Dust Bowl scenario comparable to that which occurred in the US in the 1930s, and the continued production of cashmere in the region is making it worse. This is certainly not a sustainable practice because if it continues, not only will the goats’ food source (vegetation) disappear, but so will millions of acres of arable farmland.

The Pidge is made using yarn from Karabella, an Italian mill that imports its raw cashmere from China. So, yes, the Pidge may be using a renewable resource, but certainly not a sustainable one, and that’s what bothers me so much about their claim of “attention both to the good of the customer–and the good of the Earth.”

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