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, 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:

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

Saturday, February 24, 2007


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


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.