KEC Annual Meeting and Community Networking Event on February 17

Thank you for your support of the Kent Environmental Council and our important work!

This year is our 50th anniversary!

A lot has changed since our inception and we are re-imagining KEC so we will continue to be a good partner and leader in local environmental issues for the next 50 years!

The KEC board hosted a visioning retreat last month and invited leaders from a few community partners. The gathered group came up with some new possible initiatives and we want to learn what you think would best serve the community.

  • We need more communication and connection and KEC is well-positioned to fill that role. We would like to create The Crooked River Environmental Network with KEC as the hub. 
  • Look for ways to create awareness and action about our local food supply (local farms, farm-to-table programs, food hub, foraging, planting edibles, etc.) We brainstormed a “Black Walnut Festival” with a focus on local food, but there are many more possibilities.  
  • We want the children in our community to feel at home with and connected to nature.

These join our ongoing focus areas of active living, green energy, local food, clean water, our support of the bog and other green spaces, as well as communication, publicity and education. 

We want to widen the conversation, so we are doing something innovative for this year’s annual meeting! Instead of a program, we are hosting a networking event to help local individuals/groups with an environmental focus to build relationships, find synergies and launch the Crooked River Environmental Network. (Please share this invitation with people in the community that care about the environment.)

Here are the details:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Kent UCC Church, 1400 E Main St, Kent, OH 44240

  • 5:30pm  KEC Member Annual Business Meeting (election of officers [details below], short update)
  • 6:00pm  Community Potluck (Please bring a dish to pass and your own table service)
  • 6:30pm  Networking conversations (based on interests from participants’ registrations)
  • 7:45pm  Harvesting Insights and Connections
  • 8:15pm  Clean up / Safe Travels

Officer slate:

President:  Renee Ruchotzke

Vice President: Bob Heath

(Secretary Brad Brotje and Treasurer Robert Wilson will be serving the second of their 2-year terms.)

Please let us know you are coming and what matters to you by registering:


Your Kent Environmental Council board

Bob Heath, Acting President

Renee Ruchotzke, Acting Vice President

Brad Brotje, Secretary

Robert Wilson, Treasurer

Action Alert: Ohio SB33 Anti-Protest, Anti-Free Speech Bill

The SB 33 bill dramatically increases the penalties for non-violent protest at fracking sb33sites, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical plants and other ‘critical infrastructure” sites.  It makes non-profits and organizations and congregations liable for punishment if they support protesters charged under this bill. This is a direct threat to basic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

This bill directly attacks our first amendment rights to engage in non-violent protest and speak truth to power

It looks like the State House will hold a hearing on Jan. 28 or 29, 2020.

Jan. 29 is the most likely date, at 10 am, if the Utilities Committee follows its usual pattern.

See the Greenpeace summary at:

  • Under SB33, penalties for trespass are dramatically heightened if they occur on so-called “critical infrastructure”:
  • While general criminal trespass “on the land or premises of another” is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, the bill would make the same offense punishable by half a year in jail and $1,000 if it takes place on a critical infrastructure facility.
  • The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” is sweeping, and includes a vast array of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, railroad facilities, and other locations.
  • It includes oil and gas sites, fracking wells, petrochemical plants, pipelines and other places that destroy the environment and put our children’s health at risk.
  • Under the bill, an individual peacefully protesting in the wrong place could be sanctioned with half a year in jail.
  • The bill also substantially expands the definition of felony “criminal mischief” in ways likely to chill and put a stop to peaceful protest activity.
  • The bill’s vague definition of the new offense, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, includes “knowingly [and] improperly tamper[ing] with” a critical infrastructure facility.

Lawmakers have attempted to define “improperly tampering,” but their definition (“changing the physical location or physical condition”) does not provide sufficient precision or clarity for individuals facing potential felony charges and a decade in prison.

In the absence of a clearly-defined offense, individuals cannot be expected to know what conduct is or is not criminalized. Rather than face the risk of draconian penalties, they will likely censor themselves, and avoid exercising their First Amendment rights.

It was  designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – to establish special protections especially for the oil and gas industry.  And put an end to any public protest or opposition to the activities of these industries.

It is also designed to punish non-profits, environmental groups  and even congregations who dare to support the people protesting  at these sites with fines up to $100,000.  The Senate version contains criminal and civil liabilities for non-profits and organizations.  The House version tried to amend the criminal liability, but made it even more murky in its definition of organizational improper action.

What you can do.

  • Share this with your networks
  • Write a Letter to the Editor
  • Show up and pack the Hearing Room  when the House Utilities Committee meets on Jan. 28 or 29, probably in the morning.
  • Attend the House session that might follow to be present during the floor vote.
  • Provide Written Opposition Testimony.
  • Offer Spoken Opposition Testimony from those of you willing to speak for 3 minutes.

(Thanks to UUJO for this information.)


March 17-18, 2020

Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability


The Environmental Science and Design Symposium, formerly the Land and Water Symposium, is a multidisciplinary forum that promotes the exchange of ideas related to the resiliency of natural and built systems. Now in its seventh year, the symposium (formerly known as the Water and Land symposium) is organized by Kent State’s Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the university’s Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative (ESDRI), which supports multidisciplinary research related to the impact of human influence on natural and constructed environments. We are assembling a diverse group of speakers around the symposium’s theme, ‘Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability’ representing topics ranging from natural resources management to art, architecture, and design thinking. 

Registration is free and open to the public.  We hope you will support the symposium, attend, submit abstracts for poster presentations, and encourage other students and colleagues to attend!

More information is available at

Fall Forum Explores Lessons from Urban Activist Jane Jacobs

In her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, community activist Jane Jacobs described the elements that made cities vibrant and safe. She predicted how segregating work, home and play would destroy the fabric of communities. She also described how mixed use neighborhoods (shops and homes, rich and poor, arts and entrepreneurs) created the best quality of life.

In this year’s Fall Forum: Making Kent More Sustainable, Just, and Successful , Jennifer Mapes, Assistant Professor
Geography Department, Kent State University, will share her admiration for Jacobs, and look at how we can use her ideas to think about Kent today.

Jennifer Mapes

• Jacobs was particularly concerned about the increasing dominance of the automobile and loss of sense of community in neighborhoods.
• She stressed the importance of walkability and community driven planning cities designed by people and for people.
• This approach has slowly made its way into the mainstream and into Kent’s urban fabric there’s much to celebrate about the evolution of Kent’s downtown and neighborhoods, but much more work to do.

So how can the city, and we, as residents, learn from Jacobs as well as the successes and failures of cities in the past 100 years and move forward to a more sustainable, just, and successful community?

We hope you will join us to find out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 7pm
Kent Free Library
312 West Main Street
Kent, OH 44240

Image © James Gulliver Hancock

The Changing Climate of Northeast Ohio: Future Directions

by Bob Heath

The climate is changing all over the United States but not at the same rate in all places. Ohio is among the regions where 

the climate is changing most rapidly. It is predicted that this region will be an average of 4 to 5 degrees warmer by 2050. Such rapid climate change puts at risk the economic and environmental sustainability of ecosystems, a situation that will require people to adapt to the changes or move elsewhere. 

Ohio is getting warmer and wetter. Both the average daily low temperature and the average daily high temperature are increasing; the low temperatures are increasing faster than the  high temperatures. Likewise, the winters are warming faster than the summers. The consequences of the accelerated warming are fewer frozen fields and frozen lakes, both of which threaten traditional agricultural practices that take advantage of the ability to drive heavy equipment over frozen fields. Lakes without ice cover will experience increased evaporation and increased light penetration into the bottom waters, altering temperature-dependent lake processes.

The threat is increased flooding–not lakes drying up. Lakes will be replenished by increased rainfall. Since 1900, precipitation in Ohio has increased by 15%. Five of the 10 wettest years in Ohio have occurred since 2003. Snowfall will decrease, rainfall will increase, and episodes of rainfall will be more intense than in the past. The seasonality of precipitation also is changing. Farmers have depended on the usual scenario of a dry spring (so they can plant early), followed by even rainfall amounts throughout the summer, followed by a dry autumn (so they can harvest their crops). That scenario, however, is changing to a wetter spring, followed by a droughty summer, followed by a rainy autumn. It is a worst-case scenario for agriculture, as farmers will have to alter long-standing best practices in the face of a potentially shorter growing season and the need to plant drought-tolerant crops.

Aaron Wilson

Imagine how great it would be if Ohio had a state climate  office to address these issues. Actually, such an office does exist–at The Ohio State University–and it publishes online a Quarterly Climate Summary. The director of the climate office is Aaron Wilson. Wilson spoke at the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference held on September 12 at the University of Toledo.

The quarterly report for June through August 2019 shows the following: 

  • The summer of 2019 was the 12th wettest summer on record, while June 2019 was the fifth wettest June on record.
  • Portage, Summit and Stark counties were among the counties receiving the most precipitation at 125% to 175% percent above normal (“normal” is the average during the period 1981-2010).
  • The summer of 2019 was warmer than average, achieving the rank of 30th warmest summer since 1895 (about 2 degrees warmer than average over that period).
  • The warmth was driven by warm overnight temperatures.

Kent Health Department Interim Commissioner Talks about Mosquito Management, Bats, Ticks, Much More at KEC Breakfast Meeting

by Lorraine McCarty

Mosquito management and other matters involving the Kent Health Department were the topics of discussion when the interim commissioner for the department, Justin Smith, spoke at the KEC breakfast meeting on July 30. 

Mosquito Management

Smith, who came to his position with a degree in conservation from Kent State University, said that trapping mosquitos is his passion, but he realizes that other methods must be used for the health and safety of residents. Smith then discussed the city’s four-part mosquito-control program–education, surveillance, larviciding and adulticiding–which runs from May through September.

Education. People need to know that mosquitos breed every five days in stagnant water and that they need only very small  amounts of water, such as a tire track or a bottle cap, to multiply. The health department uses interns as customer-service representative to talk to people about the risks of rain barrels, the need to empty buckets and other sources of standing water, and the need to change water in birdbaths every five days. Smith noted that a bubbler helps if you have a have a small fountain in your yard. He added that it is important for people to keep their properties free of possible breeding grounds.

Surveillance. The health department identifies locations throughout the city where mosquito populations are building up at both natural and man-made breeding sites. Staff set traps for mosquito specimens on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and come back the next morning to identify what is in the traps. Smith said his staff has found up to 3,000 mosquitos in one trap. They count the number of mosquitos and then send the mosquitos to Columbus, where the insects are tested for viruses. The results come back in a week. If something dangerous was found, Smith said, the health department will issue a news release within one week and spray the quadrants of the city where the problem mosquitos were found. 

Smith said the health department recently caught a mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus. The virus, he added, probably was brought into the area by migrant birds. No human cases of West Nile have been reported in Kent or in Portage County, said Smith, adding that mosquitos with West Nile virus are found throughout Ohio. The Asian tiger mosquito, said Smith, often comes from the south and usually is found in junkyards, in places where scrap tires are left in the open and in garden shops. The tree hole mosquito, on the other hand, poses the danger of encephalitis. Smith said he knew of one local case that involved a mosquito bite and the development of encephalitis–that of a six-year-old boy in Stow.

Mosquito larvae

Larviciding. The daytime treatment of areas of standing water helps reduce the mosquito population, said Smith. He noted that when staff are driving around and see potential breeding sites, they dip a scoop into the water and, if they find larvae, they get the landowners to correct the problem or they treat the larvae with a naturally occurring bacterium called Bti, which is toxic only to mosquito and black-fly larvae and won’t harm beneficial insects. Daytime treatment and the use of Bti, said Smith, are the most effective controls and are the ones used the most. Cold weather can kill the larvae but, if the larvae do survive, it is in storm drains. Smith noted, however, that storm drains in Kent are difficult to treat because water in those drains flows into the Cuyahoga River.

Adulticiding. The evening spraying of residential streets to reduce the number of adult mosquitos is the last resort and is used when a virus has been found or when the nuisance value of the mosquitos has exceeded a certain threshold. The health department gets many calls, both positive and negative, about  The chemicals used have changed from the past. Kontrol 4-4, said Smith, is not the most environmentally friendly product, but it is what the department can afford. Zenodex also is used and has a toxicity level that Smith describes as “less than a cup of coffee.” It is water-based rather than oil-based and therefore leaves no residue, Smith noted. The health department does not spray until sundown, which helps to protect dragonflies, bees and moths by limiting their exposure to the chemicals, although moths, said Smith, can be collateral damage. He said the health department does its best to be less toxic to bees and uses a product called Mavrick Perimeter to spray on a tree line in mosquito-infested areas but only as a last resort.

It’s important to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitos, said  spraying. Smith. He noted that mosquitos are attracted to odors–especially body odors. They also look for carbon dioxide, starting with birds and on up the food chain. Covering up outside also is important, said Smith, adding that health department workers use a product called Repel, which contains 45% DEET, as they complete their outdoor tasks. Smith stressed that when using DEET, spray it on clothes and not on skin. “Drench from the knees down with the stuff. It stinks but works,” said Smith.

When asked about climate change, Smith said that it can affect the types of mosquitos found in the environment. “We got rid of malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitos, but it could come back,” said Smith. For more information about the Kent Health Department’s mosquito-management program or for a form to request mosquito-control services, click here


Purple martins (the largest North American swallow) and bats both eat mosquitos. There has been an increase in the bat population, said Smith, adding that about one in 12 bats has rabies. They bite or spit the virus, which is 99% fatal. Smith noted, however, that the benefit of bats outweighs the rabies threat. The health department has a brochure on bats with more information.


Ticks are among the southern bugs can make their way up to Northeast Ohio, said Smith. The increase in the number of  ticks is getting worse and worse, he added. This year is the first time that Smith has seen blacklegged ticks in Kent. The ticks transmit Lyme disease, which is common in the South. Smith added the health department also is on the lookout for the American dog tick, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Lone Star tick, which we have not been seen in Kent. Both ticks are very susceptible to cold weather but, as the climate warms, they could come here and survive, said Smith. 

Because ticks can cause disease, it is crucial to get a tick off of you within 24 hours, said Smith. “Don’t grab and pull. Use tweezers instead. Just tug on it like you would taking off a Band-Aid, and it will pop out. You want to avoid backflow of toxins into the body,” said Smith.

Deer-Population Control

Deer population control is on Kent City Council’s agenda, said Smith. The health department, he said, is trying to get council to allow sharpshooters to kill deer for population control and  then donate the meat to food banks. Once in a while, said Smith, the health department has moved a deer. No one else can remove deer, he added. Deer also are involved with the spread of ticks. Smith explained that ticks fill up by biting a deer, and then they drop off the deer and are left where people and animals can pick them up when they walk in the area. Smith noted that the walking path to Dix Stadium from Kent State University is one that deer also use because it is easier for the deer to use. This path, said Smith, is where the health department finds the most deer ticks.

Food Safety, Housing and More

The health department also oversees food safety (and teaches classes on it), housing violations and many other health-related activities. Smith also noted that beehives and monarch  butterfly sites can be registered with the state for $10. Registration is helpful, said Smith, because it lets the health department know where beehives and monarch butterflies are located and thus try to avoid these sites when spraying. The transportation of queen bees, said Smith, requires a different license. The county bee warden checks beehives annually to be sure the bees are healthy, said Smith, adding that bee health is seen as a homeland security issue.

Kent State Announces 2019 Fall Environmental Events and Speakers

Friday, 10/18/19 

Alex Crawford, College of Wooster
“Using satellites to understand the impact of Arctic sea ice decline on marine phytoplankton”
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/1/19 

Walt Carson, University of Pittsburgh
“Biodiversity collapse and the future of the Eastern Deciduous Forest biome”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Derek Sawyer, Ohio State University
Marine sedimentology/Geomechanics/Hurricanes 
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/8/19 

Sarah Carmichael, Appalachian State University Geochemistry/Geomicrobiology
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/15/19 

Ryan Martin, Case Western Reserve
“The sources of variation for evolutionary change”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Richard Becker, University of Toledo
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234
Remote sensing/Hazardous algal blooms

Matt Crawford, Kent State University
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Friday, 11/22/19 

Carly Ziter, Concordia University
“Thinking outside the park: a landscape ecology approach to urban ecosystem services”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Kevin Befus, University of Wyoming
Surface-water groundwater interactions/Ecohydrology/Critical zone
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 12/6/19 

Daniel Herms, Davey Tree
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Hazardous Algal Blooms in Lake Erie: Current State of the Science and Technology

by Bob Heath

Blue-green algae bloom on the shore of Catawaba Island, Ohio, in Lake Erie, summer 2009. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For a full day, the topic of discussion among academics, federal and state government officials, ecosystem managers, non- governmental organizations, the public, and even a few retired professors attending the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference hosted by the University of Toledo on September 12, was the damaging effects of recurrent algal blooms on the Lake Erie ecosystem and current efforts to abate them. The conference was produced by The Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant, an organization that promotes research in the Lake Erie and the Great Lakes with funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The green scum shown in this image from October 2011 was the worst algae bloom Lake Erie had experienced in decades. Vibrant green filaments extend out from the northern shore. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The premise of the conference was that the Lake Erie ecosystem begins at the crests of the watershed on both sides of the border. Remediation of the recurrent cyanobacterial (i.e. blue-green algae) blooms that damage water quality, harm wildlife and threaten human health requires understanding the causes of these blooms and removing those causes from the watershed with the goal of a healthier ecosystem for the physical, social and economic benefit of all stakeholders. Below is a synopsis and synthesis of the 14 papers presented at the conference.

Better Prediction of HABs (Hazardous Algal Blooms) in Lake Erie

The ability to predict the timing and extent of cyanobacterial blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie is a measure of how well scientists understand the causes of these blooms, sometimes referred to as hazardous algal blooms (HABs). The better that scientists understand the causes of HABs, the better they can predict them. Past predictions were so-so. In some years, the predictions were accurate but, in other years, they missed the mark. Something was missing in the equations used to predict these algal-bloom events, but what was it?

Dr. Rick Stumpf, an oceanographer at NOAA, presented improvements in the ability of scientists to predict when HABs  occur and how intense they will be. The size of the annual HAB in the western basin of Lake Erie is determined by the amount of bioavailable phosphorus (BAP) that is loaded into the basin, largely through the Maumee River. Only BAP loaded into the lake from early March through mid-June leads to the bloom. Recent studies have shown that the extent of the bloom also is determined by the temperature of the water in June through mid-July, even though the bloom reaches its largest size in mid-August through early September.

Maumee River

Using only the spring BAP loading to the lake, the HAB in 2019 would have been predicted to be among the largest on record. On a scale of 1 to 10, it would have been predicted to be about a 9.0 or 9.5. However–and this is the important point–because June was wetter and cooler than normal, the bloom was predicted to be modest, at 7.5. Observations to date indicate that the bloom appears to be about 7.5, exactly as predicted. This indicates that scientists are understanding the causes of these events better because the predictions are borne out by the observed extent of the HAB.

Progress to Abate P (Phosphorus) Loading to Lake Erie

Example of phosphorus buildup in water

In addition to the ability to predict HABs, scientists want to be able to prevent the blooms–or at least to diminish them.  Many years of study into the land-use effects on Lake Erie’s water quality have shown that the majority of phosphorus loaded into the lake is from agricultural activities, primarily from the Maumee River watershed. BAP runs off fields in one of two ways: from the surface of the field as erosion or from drainage through tiles placed below ground that empty into streams and eventually into Lake Erie. Abatement is achieved best by having tile drainage pass through a phosphorus filter, a device that traps phosphate on industrial slag before it runs into streams. The filter is an efficient device but also an extremely expensive one, precluding its use on all farm fields.

Example of a potential source of phosphorus

Not all farm fields, however, bleed phosphorus equally. Some fields are much more potent sources of phosphorus. Scientists  are looking for ways to identify these phosphorus hot spots and remediate them with phosphorus filters or other techniques. These other techniques include riparian buffer strips between fields and streams, the use of cover crops to retain phosphorus, and constructed wetlands. None of these techniques alone is sufficiently effective. The best approaches seem to be a combination of these techniques used in sub-watershed hot spots. 

Identification of the source of the phosphorus has been relatively easy, and technological advances have readily identified procedures and practices that are likely to be effective. Implementation of these procedures and practices, however, will require substantial public funding and cooperation by a majority of individual farmers. Implementation also will require a well-informed public to provide the necessary political will and societal patience to achieve the eventual outcome of a healthier Lake Erie. Likely, it will take at least a generation to achieve the intended results.

Can that happen, or is this a hopeless pipe dream? The success of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Management Plan shows that it is possible to achieve the necessary cooperation between many layers of government and society. The Chesapeake Bay experience may well serve as a template scenario of management development and implementation.

Climate Strike Draws More Than 4 Million Worldwide, More Than 250 in Kent Participate

By Lorraine McCarty

More than 4 million people participated in a worldwide climate strike on September 20, including the estimated 250 to  300 individuals–from students to the elderly–who gathered at Risman Plaza on the campus of Kent State University, carrying signs and speaking about environmental justice for future generations. According to, the strikes drew the largest crowds ever, sending a collective message to elected officials and world leaders that swift climate action is needed now. 

Jeff Ingram (left) and Doc provided the drumming

The local strikers included Jeff Ingram and Doc, who played their drums to encourage people to stop and listen to the speakers, and Renee Zimelis-Ruchotzke, who encouraged speakers and singers to take a turn on the microphone.

Lila, a high school student, said that it was hard to think about the possibility that her children won’t have what we have now. She said that she can’t vote yet but is encouraging those who can vote to elect good leaders. 

Another speaker talked about the need for a new president and vice president. Other speakers talked about how corporations put profits over people when they should be putting people and the planet over profits. 

Jess, who works in the solar energy industry, said that people don’t need to burn anything to create energy. All that is needed, he said, is to connect to the sun. Jess noted, however, that Ohio has a dismal goal of 5% renewables, compared to 50% to 100% in other states.

Kevyn Breeden sings an original song “Gardens of Dust”

A freshman fashion design student talked about the lack of  sustainability in the fashion and clothing industries. Other speakers encourage people to “be the change you want.” Kevin sang an original song titled “Garden of Dust,” which described possible consequences that people and the planet face with climate change. Other inspiring songs and chants were interspersed with the speakers.

Here are more photos from the local climate strike:

Fashion–What’s It Got to Do with Sustainability?

by Lorraine McCarty

At the Sixth Annual Environmental Science and Design Research Symposium held at Kent State University earlier this year, I was surprised to see a session on fashion. But I learned that fashion as we now know it is not environmentally sustainable and needs help from all involved to influence changes. Noel Palomo-Lovinski, an associate professor in the Department of Fashion Design & Merchandising at Kent State University, spoke passionately about the subject. She stressed that every step in the clothing-production process uses a great deal of the planet’s resources. For example,  cotton, which is thought of as a natural fiber, uses enormous amounts of water and chemicals and undergoes intensive washing with more water and with other chemicals.

Noel Palomo-Lovinski

Then there are many fabrics that are petroleum based. Clothing production creates a lot of carbon dioxide pollution and is rated right behind the oil industry. Most people, said Palomo-Lovinski, don’t know how harmful clothes are to the environment.
People want to spend less money but get more for each dollar, said Palomo-Lovinski. She added it costs more and more to make clothing today, and there also are environmental  consequences.

She talked about how customers love all the colors and patterns, but they don’t see the rivers of dyes because most fabrics are manufactured overseas. Those dyes, she said, get on people’s skin when they wear cotton clothes. To make matters worse, all of the chemicals used in the clothing industry do not go away and instead leech into the soil and water. She then stressed the need to be transparent about the process.
Time is irrelevant now in fashion, said Palomo-Lovinski. In two weeks, a new line of fashion can be manufactured and shipped all over the globe. She cited Zara and H & M as doing this. Because the fashion industry is operating at a faster and faster pace, said Palomo-Lovinski, the time people use their clothing also speeds up, further damaging the environment. The problem, she added, is getting worse and worse. Because people want cheap clothing, Palomo-Lovinski explained, it’s often made of inferior fabric and wears out sooner. She showed a picture of a fashions from the 1990s compared to now. They were extremely similar in appearance, so why, she asked, do we need to constantly reinvent the same fashions? All of this leads to an enormous amount of waste, said  Palomo-Lovinski.

Clothing ends up in landfills because people don’t process used clothing fast enough. Of the clothing given to Goodwill, for example, 80% of it goes to Central America and Africa, which means that their clothing industry can’t compete. In the end, she noted, much of the donated clothing ends up in both countries’ landfills.
So, what’s the next step for fashion designers? Palomo-Lovinski insisted that the way forward is not to distract from larger issues and feel good temporarily. Fashion designers, she said, need to think about sustainable-product service systems, which would require designers and consumers to do the following:

  • Co-design clothing with consumers to get them to hold on to clothing longer.
  • Repair clothing yourself, or have the designer change the clothing item for a better fit.
  • Take a clothing item back to the original company (For example, Eileen Fischer takes back the company’s clothing and then resells it. The company knows which chemicals were used to make the items and thus can recycle the items appropriately.)
  • Upcycle clothing to extend its use.
  • Dispose of unwanted clothing appropriately, such as shredding it or reusing it.
  • Act globally and think locally, a practice in which collaborative designers focus on economic systems, environmental health and social well-being to influence customers toward a long-term perspective on clothing use.
  • Involve the marketing and communications fields in the clothing business.
  • Follow best practices, one of which involves localized points of manufacturing where different types of designers for different types of consumers all interact and therefore create a closed loop.

Designers today, said Palomo-Lovinski, are learning about the many issues in the larger world. She added that it is important to think about the designers of today as being at the center of  that larger world, which includes marketing, customers, client motivation, a systems mindset and application of technology.

All of these components, said Palomo-Lovinski, overlap to affect environmental health, social well-being, and economics. To continue to be relevant, she added, designers need to focus on the industry’s consequences for the world as a whole. She also suggested that people voice their concern for the effect of the clothing-production process on the environment at the ballot box and with their money (in terms of clothing purchases), which can help motivate companies to be sustainable producers of clothing. “Society today demand a new generation of professionals that can design not only products but systems for living as well,” said Palomo-Lovinski.

While not part of the symposium, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, said during a television interview with Christiane Amanpour (Amanpour & Co., April 8, 2019) that even the high-fashion industry and the manufacturers of top brands are discussing the topic of sustainability. Amanpour talked with Wintour about the criticism the fashion industry has faced for being the second most polluting industry in the world during an existential environmental crisis while at the same time people are buying much more clothing than they ever did but using it for a much shorter amount of time. Amanpouralso referenced Stella McCartney and others who are trying to get people to use less of products such as leather, plastic and fur. Wintour replied that everyone she knows in the industry is aware of not only the disposable economy in fashion and its impact on the environment but also the overall climate crisis. She added that businesses are making five-year plans about what to do to help. “We [along with other industries] have been at fault and [want to do] what can we do in the very short amount of time we have to course correct. . . . It’s an urgency for everybody within the industry. There are organizations like Fair Fashion and others across the globe [working] to see what we can all do to correct it.”

More recently, the Akron Beacon Journal reported on August 23 that used clothing is a new trend, with department stores making room for gently worn outfits in attempts to lure customers away from second-hand clothing stores. J.C. Penny  and Macy’s, for example, are piloting a program to set aside one section in select stores for used merchandise sold by ThreadUP. Neiman Marcus, according to the article, was the first big chain to embrace the trend by buying a minority stake in Fashionphile, an online seller of pre-owned designer accessories, and will allow customers to sell pre-owned designer clothing to Fashionphile in Neiman Marcus stores, in the hope that customers will spend the money from those sale at Neiman Marcus rather than elsewhere. The initiative these stores have taken is seen as a response to customers who do not want to see their clothes end up in a landfill. While the resale business is just a small percentage of retail sales, it is growing exponentially and is expected to increase from $24 billion last year to $52 billion by 2023, according to a report by GlobalData produced for ThreadUP.