Friday, December 28, 2007

The end of the year



It's been a while, a long while since I've posted to this blog. I am surprised that the year is coming to an end so quickly, my year of only buying "sustainable" clothing. I put sustainable in quotations because it is a constant struggle to decide what is truly sustainable. I struggle with wondering if mankind can even sustain it's basic needs, let alone it's wants. And I freely admit that I want way more than I need.

Christmastime always brings this want into focus. Not only my desire for objects, but my desire to give other people things. This year I tried to give many pieces of artwork, which I justified to myself by telling myself they are pieces of paper and biodegradable. But I did give this artwork in frames I bought from the store, and despite my good intentions of bringing my own bags, there was still a pile of un-recyclable plastic wrap that each frame came individually wrapped in. It could be worse, but I know it could have been better. For family I bought a lot of presents from Gaiam as well as food presents that I felt pretty good about. Even then, I knew these items would be delivered in tons of packaging, including plastic bags that the organic cotton shirts I bought would come in. So, although I tried to be sustainable with my holiday choices, there was a lot of room for improvement.

My friends have all been very respectful of my choices in their choices of presents for me, from great books, to solar chargers to organic yoga pants they seemed to understand and make an attempt to get me things that followed in my beliefs.

My family made some choices that reflected my beliefs, but a couple that they just completely ignored. This is frustrating, because I know it comes out of a desire to want to get me nice things, yet it ends up making me feel terrible in the end. Conveying that less is more seems nearly impossible sometimes, I wish I could explain that I'd rather have one organic tee shirt and nothing else than an organic tee and five other non-sustainable items. I guess it comes with time, and the year before there were no sustainable items in the gifts I received.

As for the end of the year, I am not planning any spending spree on once forbidden items, it seems easy enough to continue on as I have. Over the months I have longed for a couple of totally unsustainable items, but I haven't given in and really never felt like I was missing out on something so badly. I am looking forward to another year of shopping at Envi, Greenloop, Title Nine, Gaiam, Kaight and the other wonderful places I have purchased items for over the past year. I feel better that my money is going to a conscientious group of people and items that are if not totally sustainable, on their way to creating a sustainable future. I think this is perhaps the first time I've ever kept a New Year's resolution the whole year and it feels pretty good. Hopefully I can figure out one for 2008 that can have the same personal impact.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just Ask

I have started to realize how important it is to just ask for sustainable clothing, even if you are pretty sure a place doesn't carry it. First of all you can be surprised, many places are experimenting with carrying some organic options. Sadly they are often hidden and mixed in with everything else. Asking can often be a way of "training" the salesperson to understand what organic or sustainable is. I have been met by many a salesperson that asked me if "organic is a brand?" Until the sales staff is asked, they often won't bother to learn anything about it. I have also been in the situation where one person is aware that they carry a sustainable item and another isn't, it lets the store know that they should inform their whole staff on the sustainable options. Be sure once you ask you double check the tags yourself, I have also been told things are organic when really they just meant that they were cotton.

So while you're asking, you can ask the staff at Nordstrom to steer you towards these:

I love the World Wildlife Fund's hotter than I should be shirt, although I am not sure if I have the nerve to wear it. It is a great message, a little sassy, and bound to start conversations. A nice balance between the eco doomsayer tees and flowery eco hippy tees. I must admit I have a few of both. I saw these tees at Nordstroms and they are very soft and nicely cut.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ok, I should be here more than once a month!



So things have been busy to say the least, everywhere but the clothing department. I have not been thinking about clothing much this summer, and have honestly been frustrated by the choices when I've gone out to look. But, a little clothing hiatus produced some pleasant surprises when I stepped back into the mall on a recent 97 degree day.

We went to get a gift for a friend at the Levi's store and while there, I found new men's and women's eco styles, and older styles on sale for $20! That's a bargain in case you haven't ever bought a pair of organic jeans! The newer styles were great and a little more versatile for my figure. I was excited to see that for guys they have 514s in eco now, my husband's cut of choice.
I walked away with four new pairs of jeans that day, which is great because I have about the same amount that are disintegrating into feathery cotton puffs.

On the way out I was walking through Nordstrom and saw a shirt that said "Green is the New Black" the cynic in me said, oh yeah right, I bet that shirt's green. So I went up and checked and it was %100 organic cotton. Another pleasant surprise. They had 6 different styles that day. I bought a couple, though they are a little preachier than I would usually own. The nice thing about wearing a glaring green message on your chest is that you feel even more impelled to practice what you preach. Of course this is marketed to teens, and I alas, am not one, but i will wear it with pride anyway.

So my last pleasant surprise was that when looking online to find a pic of one of the tees I bought, I saw that Seven for all Mankind finally make organic jeans! These, of course are no bargain, but there are plenty of teenage girls and adult women that walk around with Sevens anyway. So I think it's great that they are introducing organics in their line.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Socks at Walgreens.?.


I am in Indiana visiting my family, and to say there are little less organic items in stores around here is putting it mildly....But, I had to go to the local Walgreens to pick up some things for the kids and I found 3 pairs of earthables socks, for myself. I have never seen this brand before, but two pairs were made of hemp and one out of bamboo. They are lightweight and had pretty nice colors. I don't know if they were made by Walgreens, because I can't find a company website on line. They were on sale for $2 a pair, and there were only a few pairs left at the Walgreens here, but they are woth checking out if you are near a Walgreens.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see the Walgreens carried Jason personal care products. It is nice to see environmentally friendly natural products in a store like Walgreens, especially in a town like Valparaiso where there is not a Whole Foods anywhere near by. The CVS in Providence cannot even make the same boast and is seriously lacking in natural/organic care products.

Now if I can only find some Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore souvenir tee shirts that are also organic, I'll be all set.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

salsa


The new thrill in my life has been to go out salsa dancing on Wednesday nights at the Black Rep here in Providence. Since I haven't danced socially since high school, and have never done any latin dancing at all, I realized my evening wardrobe can use some additions. Although I have been getting a lot of mileage out of some nice wide-leg Edun trouser-style jeans and silk/hemp blend cami from The Oko Box, I am itching for some other choices. I need things that are nice looking, easy to move in, cool, and that stay put when you're twirling around like a top.

First on my salsa wardrobe wish list would be some more skirts. I found this %100 organic cotton W's Solimar skirt skirt on Patagonia's site. There are other patterns that have a great contemporary feel to them, but I liked the touch of red in this one. This skirt would look great pared with a strappy red tank, also from Patagonia. Both could also easily be dressed down with some thongs during the day.

For a little dressier evening, this black hemp and silk blend Stewart and Brown dress is gorgeous, and would be nice and cool on the dance floor. The eyelet detailing is really pretty, and gives it a sweet touch that is a little less racy. I think it's the kind of detail that can also make it a dress that doesn't seem too over-done during the day.

As I said, this is still the early stages of a wish list, so I'll let you know how they pan out, if I get any of them. For the record, The Under The Canopy tanks I purchased from Whole Foods have been my best buy this year. I definitely recommend them as a closet staple. They are pretty, flattering and versatile.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

on Target? no, but getting a little better


For a while now I have lamented that Target seems way behind in organic clothing, as in I've never seen a piece of organic cotton clothing in the store. I would think they would be a little quicker on the uptake of sustainable clothing, because they are so progressive using great, cutting edge designers. Cool and tempting but why not sustainable?

Although I have not hit clothing gold at Target (and haven't seen anything that will suggest I might sometime soon) I did find two happy surprises. One was a set of organic sheets for my son's bed. They are light blue, and fitted sheet, flat sheet and one pillow case were bundled on sale for $20! The color choices were a bit limited, but there were four choices that could accommodate a lot of different rooms.

I also found some nice green organic dish towels. These were not on the web site, but only in the store. On line I also saw organic bath towels, and though I didn't notice them in the store, I also wasn't looking for bath towels at the time. The sheets and dish towels were both on nice end-cap displays, very obvious and easy to find.

I know there are a lot of great companies out there selling organic sheets outside of big box marts, but I also think these are the places where average americans will likely make their first organic purchases, so I think it is a good sign when you see anything sustainable in those places.

I haven't been back to see if the organic line at H&M has arrived at the local mall, but I'm not holding my breath. I was recently in Sweden, home of H&M, expecting the huge line of organic products that was promised on their web site half a year ago. I was disappointed to only find a hand full of tops in two different cuts.

The wait continues.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oh where, oh where


Where have we been?

Well, here and there, but not so much in front of the computer. I can't speak for Jen Long, but I know when the warm weather hit, I basically have spent ever minute I can outside. In striving to be more sustainable with the choices I make in other aspects of my life, I've spent the last month moving dirt and compost, digging stumps and rocks, and generally making the ground more hospitable for some edible plants. I've always loved gardening, but have stuck mainly to flowers. This year I doubled the size of my vegetable garden and then added a planting area in another part of the yard with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and lots of perennial herbs.

Yeah, yeah, enough about food, what about clothes? Well, funny you should ask. (OK, nobody's asking me) Since the mall becomes more and more depressing each time I go and leave empty handed , for lack of sustainable options, I find myself getting my shopping fix at Whole Foods lately. What, you say? back to food? Well, kind of. I have noticed recently that Whole Foods seems to be experimenting with more and more clothing options. Granted, not a ton, but since I happen to be there several times a week anyway, I am very excited to check out some apparel after buying my beets and chard.

A few months back I bought a couple of Green Label tees there that I like. They are great, but admittedly super casual. Recently, though, I noticed that they have had a nice (albeit small) selection of Under the Canopy long sleeve shirts and tanks. I bought one tank, brought it home and wore it almost three days straight. (OK, say gross if you want, but I didn't do ANY heavy labor the first two) In any case the fit was great, and it was pretty flattering. I've worn it around the house with shorts, but I've also worn it out at night salsa dancing, and it works well in either situation. So, I went back and got a second in another color as well as a long sleeve scoop neck. ( The picture here says PURE, but the one I bought has no printing on it, which I like a little more)

They are a little pricey, $42 each, but the cotton feels really nice and the cuts are great, feeling more like something you'd buy at Saks then at the supermarket. That said, when I got to the register to buy the second two, a week later they both rang up at $22 a piece! They weren't marked as being on sale, so I am not sure if it was an accident, but it certainly was a deal.

Now if they can just put some Loomstates or Del Fortes on their end caps, I'll be all set. Well, maybe not all set, as it would be a little tougher to explain why the grocery bill was that high.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Second Time Around

I have spring fever and I have it bad. The last three days have been in the 70s. Depending on where you are reading this from, 70 degree weather may not sound like a big deal, but after a week and a half straight of 30 to 40 degree rain and sleet, it is very welcome.

So two things happen to me when I have spring fever. The first thing is that I have to stop myself from taking out a second mortgage on my home to buy everything that catches my eye at the local plant nurseries. The second is that I have to stop myself from taking out a second mortgage so that I can buy a new wardrobe that somehow flatters my wintry white legs, and keeps me cool, while still being comfortable.

So since second mortgages are out (we finally just paid ours off, yay!) This year I'm turning to used clothing boutiques, and Savers. Second Time Around on Thayer street in Providence recently saved me from going to a black tie wedding in jeans and a tee shirt. With only 45 minutes to shop, I found a great black dress that I will definitely wear again. They carry lots of gently used designer clothes and boutique extras. (I stick to the used clothing) You can find anything from Prada shoes, to a Milly blouse, to a pair of used Miss Sixty jeans.

Another great resource for Rhode Islanders is Into The Wardrobe, which also boasts a beautiful collection of used designer clothing. There is a wide selection and price range. You may find a pair of Gucci pants and then on the next rack something from Banana Republic, or Marc by Marc Jacobs.

For those who would like to go online and get their used clothing glitz on, there is Rodeo Drive Resale. I've gotten a couple of pairs of used designer jeans there in the past, citizens of Humanity and 7 for All Mankind. They have a wide range of articles. Some pieces there are new overstock, so if you are trying to buy only used clothing pay attention as to if it says new or not. They are very clear about which items are new.

So until more of these designers wise up and go organic, I'll be buying used. I read that 7 is supposed to be coming out with an organic jean, so I'll keep you posted if I find it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Grass IS Greener on the Other Coast of the Country

I just returned from a trip to the West Coast, with my husband and sons to visit my brother and his family in San Jose. While we were there, we stayed in a "Green Hotel" in San Francisco, went thrift shopping for clothes, and visited an organic vineyard in the Los Gatos/Santa Cruz area. I will be writing a blog about the great clothes I found, our sustainable stay at the Orchard Garden Hotel, and our visit with the wine maker. But first I wanted to mention something that really struck me as unique to the visit: the presence of green articles in the newspaper almost daily in the San Jose Mercury News.

Being in the center of the world's high tech industry, I expected to see plenty in the news about computers and other technologies. Being in the state governed by Supreme Eco-steward Arnold Schwarzenegger, I expected to hear a lot about sustainability and climate change. But the combination of the two brought much more than I expected: DAILY reports on green topics. Reports about efforts to persuade industry to recognize global climate change and to invest in addressing it. Reports about the technologies being developed to solve it. Here in Silicon Valley, California was the right combination: brilliantly persuasive people (politics), and brilliant people finding ways (technology) . I was really impressed and energized by the articles that spread out in front of me every morning at my brother's table.

Upon return home to a cold and rainy East Coast, I thought maybe it really wasn't all that greener over there. Maybe it was just that I was on vacation and actually had free moments to sit down and soak in a newspaper. And if I did that here, not far from Cambridge after all, I might just catch a lot of the same news. So I did a little experiment to see if it was just my daily routine or if there really is just a shortfall of green news on the East Coast.

To be fair, my experiment was not exactly the same as reading a newspaper. Instead I searched three newspaper websites for articles dated April 6-12, 2007 (the dates I was on vacation) with the keywords: "green sustainable climate change global warming environment". Here are the results (which may reflect more on each newspaper's websites more than their actual printed papers):

San Jose Mercury: 15 Articles
Boston Globe: 0 Articles in the one-week timeframe, 1 Article in the past month (March 18)
Providence Journal: 1 Article (April 8)

See for yourself:

San Jose Mercury News
04/06/07
04/07/07
04/10/07
04/11/07
04/12/07

Boston Globe
03/18/07
Providence Journal
04/08/07

It seems to me we have a lot of catching up to do out here! I hope to be part it!
Meanwhile, enjoy all the articles!





Monday, April 9, 2007

Skinny and skinny and skinny.


Over at Levis, there were a few new additions to their organic line that were nice looking. The best of them were in the skinny jean category, which I'm not always sure I can pull off. That said, there are a lot of skinny young things out there running around in them, so why not make them organic?

Levis did have another non-skinny eco-jean offering, which was the traditional shrink to fit 501s. These are in the red line and carry the heftiest price tag I've seen so far for organic jeans, $245. Damn. Not fully remembering how the shrink to fit era worked, I am intimidated by the fact that when you buy them, they don't fit at all, and you have to kind of guess what size they'll shrink down to. A gamble I might be willing to take at another price, but $245, ouch. Has anyone tried them? What were your results? The thing I like about them is that they are a classic cut, which would probably work better on me...but it's a lot of money to spend on jeans that I know already fit perfectly, let alone ones that may shrink too much or too little.

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of H&M's organic line, which is supposed to be arriving here in Providence next week. H&M's website says that the line will be available in all stores nation wide, so this seems like a great way to get some widely available and reasonably priced organic clothing.

As soon as I have a weekend free, I am planning on visiting my friend Leita from the Y, who also happens to be a seamstress who reinvents used clothing to give it a second life. I have been eager to turn a much loved pair of 7 jeans into a jean skirt. The samples I've seen of her work are great.

I have been really interested in places and people that rethink used clothing, because as of right now I don't have the skills to do it myself. As we move (hopefully) into a more sustainable future, people like Leita will and should be valuable resources. It is a worthwhile search to find someone in your area that can turn something that was once loved, but now needs a little tweaking, into something you can wear for another couple of years.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Global Girlfriend

women made.
eco
-friendly.
fair trade.


If you are interested in any of the above (and you probably are or you wouldn't be reading this right now) check out Global Girlfriend. Here you will find not only beautifully styled, hand-made organic cotton apparel, you will find yourself in the company of women caring about women, caring about the planet, and caring about style. Each purchase you make here will benefit women's cooperatives or non-profit organizations that support women's human rights across the globe. You will be helping impoverished women help themselves while you treat yourself to garments that are "lovingly produced from seed to sewing machine."
Beautiful. Earnest. Green.

...and affordable.
I first purchased the two t-shirts, sweater and skirt
in the images above (no that's not me!) from Global Girlfriend almost two months ago. I don't know what took me so long to post this blog, but don't take that as a non-endorsement of their products! Because when I revisited GG's website tonight to refresh myself about their mission and values, I found myself ordering more items. But first let me tell you about the ones I already own...

The green sweater was only $36.00 (on sale from $72). It's merino wool, lightweight yet warm. I have worn it several times and I really like its texture and color. It's great for work with a skirt, or more casual with jeans. I ordered a large, but for a little more fitted look I would recommend a medium.

The skirt was only $28.00. I haven't worn it yet thanks to winter never easing it's grip on us here is Providence, but I am looking forward to wearing it soon!

The white scoop neck t-shirt has a simple, appealing neckline and shape and will be one of those constantly worn basics. At $26.00, it's more than I would spend on something similar at Old Navy, but it's still bound to cost only pennies per wearing. And just think of all the chemicals those pennies are saving from the environment! (One caution - I ordered a medium, and it fit perfectly, but after washing it is now just a little snug. I would recommend ordering a larger size on this item as the cotton does not seem to be pre-shrunk.)

My favorite of all is the blue empire waist t-shirt. It's casually elegant with it's empire waist and lightly gathered bustline. It's elongating with its extra long waist and sleeves. It has the sweetest micro-lace detailing on the neckline and sleeves that make me like to look at my wrists the way nice shoes make you enjoy looking at your feet. It's charming and feminine without trying too hard. And it is sooooooo soft! I like it so much I bought another tonight. And guess what? It is now on sale for only $14.00!

And what else did I buy tonight? Two more scoop neck t-shirts, but short-sleeved for summer, and in a size larger. One white, one lime green.

And I am helping an order of Franciscan nuns in India who employ and care for 120 disadvantaged and handicapped women. And I am helping 300 small organic farmers. And a colony of knitters in Nepal.

And although India and Nepal are far from local, certainly the reduction of farming chemicals anywhere in the world benefits us all. I think the positives harvested in the organic farming process and the improvements in the lives of impoverished women offset at least some of the negative aspects of shipping, if not carbon. And hopefully UPS isn't rolling out empty planes or trucks, so the impact of shipping my small orders is lessened by the thousands of other small orders in the cargo.

But if you would like to shop locally and remove all doubt, check the Global Girlfriend store locator. If you live in Rhode Island, stop in at Most Naturally in Narragansett - you can find Global Girlfriend items there! I'll be checking it out next time I go surfing! If winter ever ceases... Or if I can find a recycled winter weight wet suit.... Anyone want to sell me a second hand surf board?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Howie love them


Howies makes me want to cry, tears of joy and tears of pain.

Let's start with the joy. First, their clothing is great. Tons of style, and not just basics, but not trendy enough that you'd want to toss them a season later. They use lots of organic and recycled cotton, and buy accredited, sustainable wool. They also manufacture clothing in a way that is highly durable. Highly durable means longer life, which means less crap for the land fills.

As far as a company, they seem very socially responsible and honest. They are not claiming to be the perfect green company, they are smart enough to know there is always room for improvement, but that said, they seem amazing. They are using some of their own profits to do "Little Big Voice Lectures" where they are going to teach people how to promote their own causes in a way that is plausible for someone without a lot of money behind them. And as I said earlier they are using sustainable materials, making durable items.

Good people making good products doing good things for the environment, why the tears you ask? They are in the UK, that is why. I am not in the UK. That means there is a whole lot of carbon related guilt between myself and any piece of their clothing. Some of you might be saying, uh...Jenn, do you think your Levis Eco orginated in Providence Rhode Island? Right...no... not so much. But I honestly don't know if shipping one individually bought item from over seas is as efficiently shipped as a company shipping many items from overseas. Maybe it's exactly the same thing. It might be smart to do some research. Some research is definitely in order.

I also cried tears of pain when I read their David and Goliath battle with Levis. I would much rather support the little guy, whose whole business is trying to be ethical, than the big corporation that occasionally makes an effort to do the right thing. So, I am a little sad that I have some Levis Eco, but no Howies jeans to call my own. I still do believe that big corporations like Levis need to get on board with sustainability for our world to have a chance, but I'd like to see the smaller guy do well and get some credit, especially when they were doing it first.

Hopefully we'll see more small companies with the ideals of Howies cropping up here in the US. Places like Patagonia have been doing the right thing and leading the way for a long time, but they don't have the same indy-kid style that Howies has. They do have the same love of the planet, love of outdoor sports, and understanding from being outdoors how much the environment has been negatively impacted by poor choices by human beings.

So for the time being I will adore the clothes from afar, becauset I'm not sure I should purchase them yet. Is there a Terra Pass for shipping? Not yet, but maybe there should be.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm blue, but it's ok

Before I get bloggin about how blue I am, check out this fabric design by Natalie Wright, very apropos to the no impact man post. For the record, I am not sure if the fabrics she uses are sustainable or not, but her blog definitely has a sustainable vibe about it.

My purchases from both Patagonia and The Oko Box arrived on the same day. As I opened them up, my friend Simone commented, " You're kind of doing a blue thing now" To which I commented "no, I'm not," and then looking down at the new clothes in front of me, "Oh, I guess I am."

It wasn't entirely intended. When I went on the Patagonia site, I immediately loved this eco-waffle tee, but I did not immediately love the colors. The coral/peach was...just not something I'd wear. There was all black and all white, which I would wear but didn't have the two-tone raglan thing going on, which set it apart from a million other organic tees (right, as if there are a million to choose from). I will probably end up buying a version in black too. ( designers at Patagonia, why not a black and white combo??) There was also a pretty crazy yellow, but again, not so much me. So two-tone blue it was. I did also get the Diego Scoop top, which was in Raffia (otherwise known as beige), and the only other color choice for that was blue.

The tiramisu tank, made from a hemp/silk blend that I purchased from The Oko Box came in blue. I had ordered it in black, but it showed up in blue. (that's not me in the pic of the tank to the right, btw) It was actually a nice surprise, because the blue ended up being really lovely. But that in addition to the long sleeve organic cotton shirt I also bought from them ended up being a whole lot of blue.

Blah,blah, so what's the point Jenn? I guess it's just that at the end of month three, I am definitely making some trade-offs as far as color choices, but it's not that bad. The biggest concession I thought I would have to make in trying to buy only sustainable clothing for a year was that I would slowly devolve into a very crunchy looking hippie girl, and that's not who I am. Or, maybe, it's not what I want to look like. My husband is starting to argue that it is who I am. I think there will be more people willing to make sustainable choices if they feel they can retain their individual style while doing so. There are a lot of sustainable choices out there, but they are definitely more limited and you have to make some trade-offs. That said, so far I don't have rainbows flying out of my ass and I haven't been invited to any Phish shows. (apologies to anyone who does have rainbows flying out of their ass, and the kindly phish guys)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Extreme Extremists going to Extreme Extremes

There were more than a few people* that emailed me about No Impact Man, after reading an article in the New York Times on the 22nd about him. The Times article was called "The Year without Toilet Paper", and though an interesting article, I found it really trivialized what Colin Beavan (no impact man) was trying to do. I am sure the title of the article drew more readers than others might have, but for the NYTimes to essentially focus on potty talk to sell an article was a little annoying to me.

It amazes me how angry or disgusted people got about this man's year long experiment to try to erase his impact on the earth. I notice that people love to call any environmental decision extreme. The best way to exploit this, in this particular article, was to play on the teepee issue. I do use toilet paper (seventh generation when I shop) and I'm not yet ready to give it up, but for the sake of argument, I will say that it seems a little extreme to cut down a tree to wipe your ass with. I have to believe at some point, that we are all so detached from the realities of our every day consumption, that we have no idea how extreme our lifestyles actually are.

I am not where Colin Beavan is, but I have to applaud him for trying to figure some things out for himself. People think he is so extreme because they don't look at, and don't want to really look at the extreme impact of their own daily habits. We should applaud someone like this, who is in essence doing the research for all of us, living the life, figuring out what fits, what works and what doesn't. Am I adopting the same lifestyle? No, but sometimes I think it is worth going to more extreme measures to come back to a place that was better than where you started.

*said people, please don't stop sending me articles!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At the mall....not so much.


Being at the mall is a draining experience. I always find it a little depressing and overwhelming, but I ventured in to buy a pair of organic Levi's for my friend Ginger's (aka Jen G.) birthday. While I was there, I figured I would not just assume that nothing was organic or sustainable, but go ahead and ask.

I got a lot of blank stares from the salespersons at Nordstroms when I asked if they had any sustainable clothing. I rephrased to ask if they had any organic clothing or clothing made from bamboo or soy products. Still no luck, although while in Nordstroms I saw some nice higher-end organic sheets and bedding in their small home/gift department. A small little victory to see anything organic in Nordstroms, but not the thing I was looking for.

When I went into J Crew, there were a lot of items that looked as if they might be sustainable, but again when I asked, nothing actually was. That was a recurring frustration... items that had a green style, without actually being green. The saleswoman there was very nice and said that there had been a lot of people asking for sustainable products lately. I felt a little better that she at least knew what I was talking about, but still was depressed that not one item in that huge store was organic.

In store after store I was pointed to the store's "natural" products, otherwise known as cotton. I did not take the time to explain how unnatural conventionally grown cotton is, or at least how unnatural I find it to be. I suppose I could have, but I didn't. Maybe I should have, but I didn't want to get into it that day, and most salespeople I met didn't seem as if they'd be very receptive anyway.

When I finally got to Levis, they were all very nice and recognized me, which made me wonder if they were just a really good sales staff, or if nobody but me was coming in and buying the organic Levis. Hopefully not the latter. In any case, I got Ginger's jeans and another pair of skinny organic jeans for myself.

So, other than Levis, there were slim organic pickins at the mall, not a big surprise, but disappointing anyway.

When I finally got out of the mall, the warm March weather gave me a little summer longing, so I went online to look for some summer clothes. I found some organic shorts at the title nine store along with some cute hemp sneakers. Neither of these products were very clearly marked as sustainable and organic in their naming, and as far as I could tell there were not more sustainable products on the site. It is hard to know, since you can't tell by quickly browsing, but have to click on individual items to read the material descriptions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Enticed by Design: Terra Plana

Another NYC find - this Terra Plana leather bag at United Nude. A steal at $75.

Officially, purses and shoes are exempt from our New Year's Resolution to buy only organic or sustainable clothing. But we had seen Terra Plana shoes on the Internet and were impressed by their aim "to be the most innovative and sustainable designer shoe brand in the world". So when we passed the United Nude Shop we had to go in and check out what Terra Plana shoes looked and felt like up close. The shoes were unique and desirable, but it was this purse that really grabbed my attention.

I was drawn to its simple shape, clean lines, and attention to detail. It's functional too - holds my laptop, cell phone and I-pod neatly, while having a few extra pockets for other items. The leather is vegetable tanned so that no chromium (a compound considered by the EPA to be highly toxic to humans and a probable carcinogen) is in its environmental footprint. And most of the remaining materials, such as the fabric on the handles and shoulder pad, are recycled from other discarded products.

So while I wasn't required by our pledge to buy only an organic or sustainable purse, Terra Plana enticed me by design to widen the scope of my resolve! And that feels as great as it looks!

Tees at the Supemarket

What not to Wear? How about diuron, naled, s,s,s-tributyl phosphorotrithioate, dicfol and aldicarb, some of many chemicals used on conventionally grown cotton that are considered PAN (pesticide action network) Bad Actor pesticides, because they are known to be carcinogens, reproductive or developmental toxicants, have high acute toxicity, are neurotoxics or pollute groundwater. None of which are making me so excited about cozying up to the cheap target tee I often wear to sleep in.

So, I was psyched to find some reasonably priced organic tees for $29 at Whole Foods. Green Label Organic makes sweatshop free, low impact dyed, 100% organic cotton tees in both men's and women's cuts. I chose one with a hummingbird, and one with a skull design that says Live Green or Die. It is generally not my style to wear shirts with a political message, or any message, but I liked the design so I went with it anyway. Some of their designs are a little crunchy for my taste, and most carry a message, but the messages are good. Be sure to check out the BUMMER tee.

I love Loomstate as a company and really like their tees, but they come in at a pricier $49-$59 range. The styles are nature inspired, but generally sans anything that could be construed as dogmatic. Though they are expensive, you can often find them on sale at places like BlueFly. Currently I haven't found any of their tees at Bluefly, but they have some great Loomstate jeans on sale for $59.

In theory, I like to try to buy and support the organic brands before they go on sale, but some items can feel prohibitively expensive. If I am going to buy things on sale, I should probably make an effort to buy from companies like greenloop, who only sell sustainable clothing, instead of places like Bluefly that sell everything. But I'm not going to beat myself up over the occaisional on-sale Edun eluxury purchase.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

More Vintage Finds



A week has flown by since our trip to NYC - high time I shared my finds!

Like Jen, I fell in love with Hairy Mary's. Though I wasn't as lucky as Jen was fit-wise with the georgeous dresses made from vintage fabrics (jealous!!), I did find a couple of classic vintage items that I am sure will become staples in my wardrobe.

The first is a vintage 70's guaze and lace blouse that quenched my winter's thirst for something sweet for the summer. At $45, its a bit more than I would have paid in 1975 (when $45 was all I could earn from nine nights of babysitting), but in terms of sustainability, that's only $1.50 a year for its 30 years of charming style. A real bargain when you think of it that way! Besides, I would only have to babysit one night these days to recoup my expense! And I get to enjoy a beautiful garment that is new to me all the while triggering happy memories of my first pairs of big bell Levi's and Earth shoes, and my first Led Zeppelin album...something a lot of the 70's inspired new fashions attempt to do, but not nearly as authentically. If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving...this shirt!

My second purchase from Hairy Mary's is the belt shown above. It was hand made by a mysterious NYC local who left it there and disappeared. So I don't think it qualifies as vintage, but I think it qualifies as sustainable since it was locally handmade. OK so it is black and I say I never wear black. That is mostly true, but every now and then, someone gives me a black or gray gift in the form of a shirt or sweater, and it would be unsustainable for me NOT to wear them right? But without the appropriate accessories, like the essential black leather belt, the items just sit in my closet. Now I get to break them out. And you will get to enjoy how pasty pale, but uber chic I will look in them!

How used?


It seems as if buying used or vintage clothing is the most sustainable way to go if you want to have the least amount of environmental impact. This is a great interim solution for a lot of the problems that the apparel industry causes for the environment, but it relies on the assumption that lots of people are going to discard lots of items way before they are used up. I know many people who have been excited by a barely used purchase, found at a good price, myself included. I recently was pretty psyched about a wool sweater I scored at Savers for $4. It was as if it hadn't been worn at all. I remember seeing the same sweater new at Nordstroms within the last year. I should feel great about that, right? But what it really points to is a not very well thought out original purchase.

I am all for organic, used and reclaimed materials, but maybe the first step towards purchasing with greener intentions is to really consider the quality and life of the purchase and consider if you will want to wear it for years to come. I purchased a sundress in 1992, that was more than likely not very environmentally manufactured. That said, it could possibly be one of my most environmentally sound purchases because I have worn it many times every summer since then. It is starting to get a little shabby, and I wouldn't wear it to a nice dinner, but it is still perfect to hang out in all afternoon in the sweltering heat. I wouldn't want to purchase the same dress made by the same manufacturer today, because there are much better methods to make a dress, but I hope that I can try to use a little more foresight with my purchases to find things that I won't be sick of by the end of the year.

This said, I am a little torn about a consignment shop I love here in Providence. The owner is nice and does a great job editing her selection of clothing she. Unfortunately, she requires that clothes are from the last couple years, if you want to consign. This does mean that she carries a lot of current and trendy items, but it also means she is encouraging more rampant thoughtless consumerism. I am torn because it is better that the items be used then discarded, but the person consigning is being "rewarded" for buying new items often and then selling them off before they are anywhere near the end of their useful life.

Other vintage or consignment stores that don't promote the same 2 year old time limit can theoretically exercise better environmental practices while still allowing a little more flexibility. They have more of a grand clothing swap vibe. It is possible that you could buy a used item, take care of it and wear it for a few years and then donate or consign it for something else that is new to you.

I am a big fan of clothing swaps, you just need to make sure you start chatting up some friends about your size to invite. Unfortunately, I am a gigantor, so it doesn't happen that often.

Anyone that knows me, knows I'm guilty of pretty much everything I mentioned, but I am trying to reform. I am also trying to rethink things that I have always taken as positive, like used=good. Check out Rusty Zipper for all kinds of used and vintage finds.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What's Old is New, or I love Hairy Mary's

One thing about buying new sustainable clothing, is that there are a lot of solids and not always a lot of color, often for good reason, as dyes and inks can be a not-so-eco addition to an article of clothing.

Usually I don't find myself wearing a lot of bright colors anyway, and my wardrobe is full of solids...so what's the big deal? I suppose it's a bit of the you don't want it until you can't have it. So, although there are definitely printed and colorful pieces of apparel out there that are sustainable and new, used clothing offers a great alternative, and is pretty much the most sustainable thing you can purchase.

One issue I generally have with buying used or vintage clothing is that I am a relatively big person, 6 foot to be exact, with a very long waist. This often spells lots of excitement when finding something great on the rack, to be followed by a huge amount of disappointment when I try said item on and find that I look like a sad kid who outgrew her clothes. So when we found Hairy Mary's on Sunday morning we were psyched. Not only did they have a nice selection of vintage clothing, but they also carried a ton of one-of-a-kind originals, all repurposed from old garments. The updates of the dresses and shirts often made them more flexible then the original, so they are able to fit a wider range of body types. I gravitated to some of the wilder mixes of prints, but they carried a wide range of patterns and colors.

The owner of the shop was also incredibly nice. He is a musician, and his wife is an artist and designer (they own the store together) . I felt good buying from him, I don't know if I would get the same feeling if confronted with the board of directors at Target or Gap, or Nordstroms for that matter. Who would I rather give my money to, a stuffed suit, or a genuinely nice guy who takes the time to sit and chat? Pretty easy answer I think.

Apologies for not having better pictures, I need to move beyond using the built-in camera on my laptop. If anyone wants to send pictures of great vintage finds, or other sustainable clothing, please email lichenthreads@gmail.com

Monday, March 5, 2007

love/hate NYC...or blogging at 2am

Every time I am in New York City I am always overcome with so many mixed emotions. Frank jealousy is usually one of the first to bubble up, mixed with a humbling adoration for the gorgeous bits of creative genius tucked in around every corner, plastered on any random wall, or most humbling of all, walking by you. By that I don't mean celebrity siting, that's not really my thing, more the random artist/writers/musicians that seem to be everywhere. The beauty of the sweet little boutiques filled with dresses that are nothing less than works of art, the subway tile at The Liquor Bar, breathtaking street art pasted to a crumbling wall, and the effortless eclectic style of the 20 something New York hipster are all things that fill me with a sense of awe, desire and lust. The creative force in NYC is undeniable.

But creating is a blessing and a curse. New York is full of creations, every where you look there is more to buy. For a person trying to shrink her ecological footprint by making better consumer choices, the sheer magnitude of non-green items can be overwhelming and a little spirit crushing. Shop after shop we went into, drawn by the gorgeous designs, but let down that the items we craved were not green.

Please, don't get me wrong. There were green purchases to be found, and had we carefully planned and researched where every green store in Manhattan was, we would probably have had better luck. But this was a casual fun weekend, not so planned out, and the casual sampling of stores did not yield a ton of results. Yes, I guess I was pouting like a baby being in the middle of stores who's aesthetics I loved, but had nothing green to offer me. And, yes, I had guilty pangs of jealousy watching a friend I was with fill her shopping bags with items I probably would have purchased in December before making my sustainable clothing resolution.

I was a little mopey by Sunday morning, when I found some awesome retail therapy in vintage clothing and original pieces from reclaimed materials at Hairy Mary's... which I will detail at length in the next blog because the store was so great it deserves more consideration and lovin then my bleary-eyed, exhausted self can give it at the moment. It's now 3:30 am and my insomnia is sure to bite me in the ass in the morning. I am also a little afraid to see what this rambling looks like with less groggy eyes and a cup of coffee.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sweet Skins

My new fuzzy hoodie was your fizzy drink bottle!
Sweet Skins makes this super comfy Eco-fleece hoodie from 2-liter bottles - who knew soda bottles could feel so soft and cozy?

I love the simple design - it has a flattering contour, exposed serger stitching, and I'm a sucker for its belled sleeves. And it's comes in such a nice rich brown... anyone who knows me knows about my penchant for brown.

BTW...Is that a Providence thing? My friend Laurence was visiting this weekend from Brooklyn, and pointed out that everyone in Providence wears brown, as opposed to the NYC black standard. I thought she was nuts, but when I looked across the counter at Taqueria Pacifica, there were five diners in a row all dressed in brown silkscreened shirts. Hmmm....

But back to Sweet Skins...There is a wrap version of this hoodie that you should check out. It's really elegant, and it's what I originally hoped to purchase, but the site seemed to be sold out of it in my size and kept defaulting the order form to the pullover. I'm not disappointed though - I'm very happy with my purchase. I may just have to go back for the wrap version one of these days though! And maybe I'll do something crazy like order it in blue!

Green or Gimmick?
So I have been wondering about the whole Eco-fleece thing - is it really a sustainable choice? Does it use just as much energy in the recycling process as it does to make it fresh? Or is all polar fleece (polyester fleece) made out of recycled soda bottles? Is calling it Eco-fleece just a marketing scheme for up-pricing it?

I sleuthed around a little on the Internet and here is what I found, thanks to Answers.com, among others:

Polyester fleece Making polyester fleece from recycled PET bottles is a significant means to reducing the amount of plastic that is otherwise buried in landfills. One manufacturer estimates that for every meter of polyester fabric made of 80% recycled PET, eight plastic beverage bottles are kept out of landfills. Patagonia, the leading manufacturer of recycled polyester fleece garments, estimates that 25 soda bottles go into each jacket made from the fabric. Recycling PET into polyester is also alleged to be less damaging to the environment even than growing organic cotton, because cotton leaches nutrients from soil and requires so much open space to grow. The energy used to make polyester from recycled PET bottles is also significantly less than that needed to heat the chemicals for virgin polyester.

So my verdict is:
GREEN!

Kudos to the ladies at Sweet Skins for making this lovely green hoodie in its warm and earthy brown!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Greenish


Before I get all ranty, I wanted to point out this great one-of-a-kind hoody I found from Brooklyn Industries, handmade from from t-shirt remnants and fabric scraps. It is not organic, but still pretty cool and green to make something out of materials that would usually be disposed of.

I know there are many out there that roll their eyes at the idea of buying only sustainable clothing for a year being hard, and I must admit that sometimes I am embarassed to view it as such a challenge. But I am amazed at how often people look at me like I'm nuts or think it's impossible. I am also surprised at how often people are ready to try and point out all of the hypocrisies of someone trying to do something green.

I've often heard things like, oh sure they bring their own bags but look at the car they drive. Or, they buy food at the farmer's market but then they go home to their air-conditioned house. Sure there is pretty much always a way to be greener, but it is not as if that means you should avoid doing anything at all. It also seems that as someone adopts one green lifestyle change into their everyday life, that others tend to follow, and sometimes doing a little at a time is a good way not to be overwhelmed.

I know I have been guilty of the hypocrisy finger pointing. I am not sure what makes everyone so eager to do it. Is it our way of protecting ourselves from having to do the same thing? I know it is not always done in ill will, and it is good to ask questions and be critical. But I also think that sometimes it acts as a protective shield against having to make any changes yourself.

So why not live and let live? We so often want people to think the way we do, and do things the way we do. I guess because it makes it easier on us. If everyone in a city biked to work, people would be safer on their bikes and not be expected to wear the same clothing as when some are biking and some are not. Conversely someone who loves driving to work, would be more likely to find a place he worked at that accomodated drivers with parking spaces, if everyone they worked with drove. So I guess it's in our nature to want the people around us to do what we do.

I admit that I wish everyone demanded organic materials for their clothing, because then it would be easier for me to find the things I want. In the meantime, I hope I can not be too pushy, and just try to show people some of the great things that are out there. There will always be greener people out there, but maybe if people see some average somewhat hypocritical Joe like me making these changes, that it's maybe not so hard to make a couple themselves.

Jenn H-L

Oh yeah, a side note, for those that haven't managed to bring themselves to bike everywhere yet (that would be me, but I swear it's on my to do list) you might try a Terra Pass to offset your car's carbon emissions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Cost of Organic


Who can afford organic clothing? Everyday, this topic comes up, from people saying "I wish I could" with a shrug to people getting angry and feeling that it is elitist. I am at a reasonably comfortable place in my life, and still most of my new organic purchases have been on sale. From my Loomstate jeans bought on sale at eluxury, to my hoody from twice shy, I haven't paid full price for many items. Even on sale many of these could be found much cheaper someplace else.

I can see why people feel angry when confronted by a $180 pair of jeans, but at the same time there are many willing to pay that amount for non-organic jeans. It would be nice if people did consider organic a luxury item. If every pair of Seven for all Mankind , Citizens of Humanity, and True Religion jeans were organic, there would be a lot more farmers able to make a transition to organic cotton. So to the people that claim organic is for the elite, I have to almost wish it was more so. If organic and sustainable materials were more valued in luxury items we'd be living in a much more sustainable environment.

I would argue also, that there are a lot of people that would consider themselves too poor to buy organic, but think nothing of buying four or five on sale shirts at Target when they really only need one. Many of these are given away at the end of the season to Goodwill or Salvation Army. We are so used to getting throw-away items. You treat something differently that you spend more money on.

There are people that treat items with value whether they bought it for five dollars or fifty dollars. I am still embarassed to remember talking to my friend Jen (Guertin....most of my female friends seem to be named Jen) who was darning socks, and saying to her "why spend all that time when you can buy a pack of 6 for like 3 bucks" she replied, " I just feel bad throwing them away" I felt really stupid at the time about what I had said, but I was absolutely in the buy cheap, often, then toss mindset. It is kind of easy to fall into because it is all around you.

There are places like Wal-mart that are making organic accessible to a larger market. I still have trouble getting past their issues with employment practices, to purchase anything from Walmart yet, but they are making a huge impact. Should we get excited or nervous when big business embraces greener lifestyles? I'm not sure, but I know there are a lot of americans unwilling to go anywhere but big box-mart for anything, so I'd rather they buy organic if they do.

The hidden costs of not buying organic or sustainable are high, but invisible at point of purchase. Is there a way to convince people they should spend a little more for something which has very real benefits? Quality over quantity?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

organic tights

Every morning it's the same thing - I get up and go bleary-eyed to my closet and try to figure out what to wear to work. Sometimes it's easy, but lately, I find myself staring blankly because I am missing a crucial item that ties a lot of my pieces together - my tights. I just popped a jagged fingernail through the knee of my last pair of chocolate browns and now I have nothing to coordinate my boots to my skirts. It's a disaster!

And a real test of my organic clothing pledge.

It would be so easy to go to CVS and get an emergency pair, but I am determined to keep my promises! So off to the internet I went, and lo and behold:

Maggie's Functional Organics!
They sell all kinds of things from camisoles and underwear to flat and textured tights made of 73% organic cotton.

I liked what their website had to say about their company, which since 1992 has dedicated itself to seeking out:
-Raw materials that are grown organically and sustainably
-Processors that provide livable working conditions, and workers who have control of their lives
-Processing standards that assure quality with the minimum of "additives"
-Pricing and business policies that support partnership
-Customers that believe all of the above matters

So I ordered a pair of chocolate brown textured tights. After they arrive, I'll let you know how they look and feel, and after a couple washings and wearings, I'll tell you how they are holding up.

Meanwhile, what the hell am I going to wear to work tomorrow? Not those same trouser pants again - that my low heels are too short for causing the cuffs to drag on the ground, and my high heels are too painful for besides having the gift of getting caught in the cuffs and sending me tripping down the stairs or off the sidewalk. You know, the trousers with the grass stain on the left knee...

Speaking of wardrobe pains and dangers, here's a trick of mine that I devised to get extra life out of my tights after I have busted a toe through the tip of the foot, and want to keep wearing them despite the agony that will soon set in as the hole slips over any single available toe and tightens like a noose around a hanged man:
wear a pair of socks under them and a pair of boots over them that are higher than the sock-line! The sock keeps your toes webbed together so the sinister hole can't single one out for its death grip.

Maybe I should try this as a hole preventative in the first place!
Or get more pedicures.

BTW...does anyone ever darn socks anymore?
Happy greening!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mr. Levis

So, my husband will only wear Levis. I've known him since my freshman year at RISD and have never seen him in a pair of jeans that wasn't Levis. I can understand it, it makes things simple. So recently when the new organic line of Levis arrived at the store I was psyched. Here was a way for him to buy something organic without compromising his personal style. Alas, he came back from the store this weekend with a nice new pair of Levis, but not organic. I can't really be upset, he never vowed to go organic for a year, but I was disappointed. I thought this would be an easy one.

I bought two pairs of Levis organic jeans, however, and I'm pretty happy with them. One pair of very dark wash, skinny jeans and one pair of "vintage" boot cut. I wear them both a lot. I am pretty happy with the price, too. Levis is making both high-end and mid-range eco jeans. Both pairs I bought were about 65 dollars, which I thought was pretty reasonable for organic denim.

A lot of the choices for going organic, or not, come down to price. What's reasonable? I guess it's different for every person. I hear the phrase "I can't afford it" a lot. And while sometimes this is true, I think it often comes down to a mentality of why get one when you can buy five? In a society where a celebrity is lampooned for showing up in the same article of clothing twice, we are trained to want more and more. I am definitely not immune to this, on the contrary, I have been guilty of walking out of Target in the past with 4 new shirts because they were on sale for 6 bucks a piece. I didn't need the shirts, but they were kind of cool, and I kind of wanted them, and they were really cheap.

If people returned to buying fewer, but higher quality items it could make a huge impact.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Envi


Today I am breaking out my new unicorn shirt bought online from Envi. It is quite beautiful, if I may say so myself. Designed by Twice Shy, I don't feel like it was a compromise at all to buy this shirt, more like love at first sight. This is not me in the picture, but a lovely headless model from the Envi site.

So, there is a third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides saved by buying an organic tee over a conventionally grown cotton tee. It feels like a small contribution right now. Does it matter? I hope so. I feel good about the purchase, but also like it's just one drop in the bucket. I need only look around at the piles of cotton shirts in my house, to see how much more of an impact I would have made by now , had I made the organic choice every time.

Unforunately, I look around and see a lot of beloved articles of clothing that I wouldn't own either. The local band shirts that I'll wear until they are threadbare, warm cotton sweaters and a pile of jeans that I really love wearing. Why can't Joes Jeans make their jeans with organic cotton? Loomstate seems to have figured it out beautifully. How do you get more people on board?

Of course it seems like every hipster on the planet is already on the American Apparel band wagon. I think that the sweatshop free, made in LA vote, is a step in the right direction. The problem is, Threadless-buying, band-merch-purchasing, thrifty hipsters rarely if ever want to wear a cream colored organic tee, which is American Apparel's only organic option. Although they do have some black organic panties I will need to purchase eventually.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Becoming the change...

For my 2007 New Years Resolution I volunteered to embrace Jenn's pledge to buy only organic or sustainable clothing. Why? I want to walk the walk. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, I want to "be the change you want to see in the world". And both the world and I need a lot of change!

I had been "thinking" the walk for many years now, and I had even taken a step or two on the path:

In the 80's, my children and I painted "Stop Acid Rain" signs for the Sierra Club in Cleveland, Ohio. The signs were put on a boat that sailed around Lake Erie to draw awareness to the problem.

In the '90s I gave up eating veal after learning that the young calves were chained inside tiny crates designed to keep them from moving so that the meat would remain tender.

In 2001, I became a vegetarian after reading Jane Goodall's A Reason for Hope, and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, which made me aware of the cruel practices that agribusiness conducts against the animals we eat. Learning about the overcrowded, feces-laden cages and pens the animals are forced to live in, and the clipping of beaks and tails required to keep them from pecking or biting the animals they are crammed against, as well as the use of ill-suited and often cannibalistic feeds weighed on my conscience and took my appetite for meat away. In time (about two years) I returned to eating meat, but very infrequently. I began purchasing organic meat and cage free eggs, in the hopes that the animals involved had been treated more humanely. That said, I am almost finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma which sheds light on some of the so-called "organic" or "cage free" labelling, and I am sure I will be revising my grocery selections once again.

In 2003, I was the only toy designer in attendance at the EnvironDesign conference in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, I was so inspired by the "Cradle to Cradle" message of speakers William McDonough and Michael Braungart that I tried to convince Hasbro President Alan Hassenfeld to replace the PVC (vinyl) used in manufacturing the My Little Pony toys that I had been designing with something less harmful to the environment. Mr. Hassenfeld heard me out quite receptively, but then I was called to the Corporate Communications directors office to make sure I was not going to speak publicly about the matter, and then called to my immediate supervisor's office for a warning against voicing my concerns to Alan again, if I valued my career and my employment at Hasbro!

So with bills, a mortgage, and tuition to pay for my son's college education, I quietly continued to design ponies and other conventionally manufactured products while awaiting the opportunity to change my career path - an opportunity that I expected to be ready for once my son Mike graduated. Which proudly happened last June!

So now, the time is right to finally get my head and my feet on the same path, and walk the walk! And the first step is this simple pledge to buy only organic and sustainable clothing. Not only will I be walking the walk, I will be unable to avoid learning about all the difficulties and opportunities this simple principle presents, which will hopefully lead me to a green career path.

I am very excited to be taking this step right now!

-Now I have an inspiring friend (Jenn Hrabota-Lesser) who shares the same desire for aligning career and lifestyle with sustainability values, and we can turn to each other for support, ideas and motivation.

-Now it seems there are many more people, resources and businesses delving into green than just three years ago; more people to connect with and to learn from.

- Now my children are grown and I have more free hours to devote to making a better world for them and their children.

- Now I am in the second half of my life, and though I have more hours per day, I have less days left to make the world a better place.

So if not now, then when?

It has to be now!

The New Year's Resolution

As far as New Year's Resolutions go, my track record has been far from perfect. Good intentions but slow follow through. Three (four?) years ago my resolution was to not use any plastic or paper bags at point of purchase. I broke that by the end of January that year, but years later have pretty much incorporated it into my life. So although the resolution eventually worked, my resolve was tested and often foiled by lack of preparation and general forgetfulness. I would occasionally feel totally defeated by asking for no bag a second to late and watching the guy at the CVS say, "ok, whatever" and quickly deposit it in the trash basket next to him.

After that year I decided I should try to set less hard and fast rules, like use less bags, instead of no bags. Cook at home more often, as opposed to cook every meal at home. Still positive resolutions, but in a more manageable light.

So, what happened this year? I'm going back to hard and fast rules, possibly against my better judgement. Or, I should say, the rules seem pretty hard to me. For the year, I plan to buy only organic or sustainable clothing.

I know that I have friends that would laugh and think it is ridiculous to find it hard at all. They've rarely bought something that wasn't from Savers, Goodwill or Salvation Army, and I think they're awesome for that. I have other friends that think it's the dumbest thing they've heard in a while and don't see the point.

Why is it so hard for me? I like clothes in a way that I feel shallow and embarassed to admit. I know there are more important things in the world then clothes, but I just like them. Fashion makes me happy, whether it's hideous fashion or gorgeous, classic or insane, I find people's personal expression through the clothing that they wear totally interesting. So the first thing that's hard is I just generally like clothes, and it's a bummer to have to knock out a huge majority of the clothing I would normally look at to purchase.

The second thing that's hard is that with two young kids, I can't really spend the time going through the racks at Sal's Army or Savers like I could a few years ago. I love finding a great piece of used clothing, but it usually takes a little (or a lot) more effort than buying new.

The third thing is that it tends to be a lot more expensive to by new organic clothing. I think it's worth it not to trash the planet and it's inhabitants, but I can't deny the fact that there are some really good-looking and super cheap clothes at the local target.

Ok, so that's already a very long first post. Enough for now.
Jenn