When should a blanket just be a blanket?
I just wrote a really long post about the focus on the small-scale production of bespoke items in surfing culture at the moment. There's a pretty solid niche brand, handmade, homemade, up-cycling vibe in surfing culture at the moment, and it's great and I see lots of lovely things and I even purchase some of these things (especially swimwear). A lot of the time, this is about owning something unique or individualised or local, which is based on the use of small-run or second hand fabrics, many of which are sourced from jaunts to second hand stores. I wrote how great this is - financially, ethically and aesthetically. I was trying to set a tone for my point which would reflect that I like this DIY-esque approach, while allowing me to admit that I've got a bone to pick about one aspect of it. But instead of dancing around the issue, I've decided get straight to my point, which is this:
Can everyone please stop cutting up woollen blankets to make surfboard covers.
Currently, down here in the southern hemisphere, it's winter, which means that even in the most temperate places it gets really cold at night. Cold, which can in part be staved off by owning woollen blankets, which are expensive to buy new, but much more affordable if you buy them second hand. So I'm suggesting that those blankets could be put to better use. I mean, do our surfboards really need to be covered in cut up woollen blankets? Aren't there a bunch of other options that are less... useful?
The reason for all this is thinking about low income earners and homelessness and winter and being cold. For example, I just looked up the stats for homelessness in Australia based on the 2011 census (the 2013 numbers aren't available yet). I want to clarify that homelessness is not just about sleeping on the street, or not having family. Women and children escaping domestic violence partners are often homeless for a while. People in between affordable accommodation and teenagers kicked out of home who find themselves couch surfing are homeless. I just don't want to you to think that I'm going all out with a street-life assumption of what homelessness is. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not. But often being homeless - despite how it manifests - can also mean relying on others for things like, for example, bedding.
So, stats. Did you know that 1 in 200 people are homeless in Australia?
- NSW 28,190 (40.8 people per 10,000) +20.4% since 2006
- VIC 22,789 (42.6 people per 10,000) +20.7 since 2006
- QLD 19,838 (48.5 people per 10,000) -5.1% since 2006
- SA 5,985 (37.5 people per 10,000) +1.4% since 2006
- WA 9,592 (42.8 people per 10,000) +1.1% since 2006
- TAS 1,579 (31.9 people per 10,000) +32.9% since 2006
- NT 15,479 (730.7 people per 10,000) -7.8% since 2006
- ACT 1,785 (50 people per 10,000) +70.6% since 2006
And do you know what kind of accommodation they're living in? No, I didn't either.
- Improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out 6%
- Supported accommodation for the homeless 20%
- Staying temporarily with other households 17%
- Boarding houses 17%
- Other temporary lodging 1%
- “Severely” overcrowded dwellings 39%
You can check them out in more detail at Homelessness Australia.
But my 'please-don't-use-blankets-to-make-boardbags-because-people-legitimately-need-them' point is not just based on homelessness. It's also about those who are on a low income. I mean, people who earn the least usually can't afford the best quality housing or heating, so access to cheaper, quality, second-hand, woollen blankets seems to me a cosy if imperfect thing to consider. It's what I would consider.
I'm not trying to have a go at anyone. I don't think that it's about anyone doing the wrong thing, and maybe all those blankets are coming from other places. But even if they are, if they're not needed by your friends and family, maybe donate them to someone, or a local organisation that will distribute them. Because when I see people using second-hand wool blankets up to make covers for expensive surfboards, I just think... no. It's not necessary. In fact, I think it's kind of insulting. Our surfboards are fine. Our surfboards aren't cold.
In so many ways, up-cycling fabrics is a really great idea - please continue! - but maybe not everything needs to turned into something else. Maybe a blanket can just be... a blanket.