IT STARTED to get a little nippy a few weeks ago, and the linen shirts hanging in my closet began to seem less appealing. So I thought I’d up my sweater count, from (believe it or not) two to maybe three or four (big grownup girls tend not to go for added bulk).
My favorite mid-level catalogues came cascading in and were happy to oblige. J.Jill offered a cable-stitch cotton sweater in stonewashed denim color (sorry, “ink heather”) or “smoky olive.” Madeleine, an aggressive-looking new (to me) large-format catalogue out of Germany, had a sweater in an interesting gray-and-black pattern with a funnel neck that looked easy to wear. And Faherty, a company I didn’t know, showed a “Legend” shirt-style Heathered Black Twill sweater. So I pulled the trigger, three times.
Then the packages started arriving. As we all no doubt know, UPS, Fedex and the US Post Office are doing handstands these days to deliver all the bits and pieces that Americans want/need and have learned are easier to get online, whether from traditional brick-and-mortar stores (when’s the last time you heard that term!?) or e-tailers. The elegant lobby of the Manhattan apartment building where I live has turned into a warehouse receiving department—and the doormen into receiving clerks, not a huge part of their previous job description.
First to arrive was J.Jill, in its basic gray/beige plastic envelope. Inside, the sweater was in yet another plastic bag, this one clear. Not lovely, for sure. The sweater was too large, so it went back for a smaller size, and therefore another plastic envelope and another plastic bag.
Then came the Faherty shirt, a revelation: The outside envelope was a paper Earthpack envelope, made by a company with a fairly dysfunctional website “with 100% recycled material.” And inside, the shirt was in a recyclable bag that proclaimed it was “made of paper.”
Madeleine’s contribution to my front hallway arrived in a white cardboard box, clean-looking but a finish that requires more finish work than plain brown cardboard. Inside, another plastic bag. And this from a company in Germany, where the Greens have had a major success and retailers have in the past been required to take back all the excess packaging from purchases and recycle it.
But here’s the odd thing: The J.Jill sweater, in all its plastic packaging, was made of all cotton. The Faherty shirt, so supple and soft and packaged in eco-conscious recyclable paper? Not a natural fiber in sight! It’s made of polyester, viscose (a semi-synthetic fiber, I read) and spandex. And Madeleine’s sweater has a recipe worthy of a spice rub: 50% wool, 21% cotton, 18% nylon, 10% cashmere, 1% spandex.
I’m not at all a purist. I have learned to love all those little polyesters and their synthetic friends. But I also love to open a box and see the goods held in place with crumpled Kraft paper instead of Sealed-Air “inflatable cushioning” or whatever they’re calling Bubble Wrap these days. And I like getting one giant box from Costco instead of seven separate deliveries from Amazon’s various vendors.
There’s too much waste in this new world of our making, and I’m a big part of it.