A brilliant demonstration in social entrepreneurship and the fact that not all things need to be shiny and new came about through The Uniform Project. A female entrepreneur, Sheena Matheiken, decided to design a plain black dress to wear for 365 days in a row as a statement about eco-fashion, creativity, and to bring awareness to education. She designed a tunic-like dress that was reversible with a friend, made seven copies, and then made a blog and awareness campaign.
Goal: To wear the same dress for an entire calendar year.
Of course she spiced it up a bit with accessories and other pieces of clothing, but all of it was recycled, donated, or reused. Her goal was to raise money and awareness. Awareness around sustainable living, the uniqueness that a Uniform can encompass, and to support the Akanksha Foundation. This foundation is a grassroots movement that is changing education throughout India, and the money will specifically go toward funding uniforms and education expenses for children living in the slums of India.
She has fundraised over $103,000, in large part toward EBay matching all money donated during the holiday season. This is equivalent to the cost of sending 287 Indian children to school every year. Donations are still being accepted. Now that’s what I call a positive impact!
Check out her “uniform” transformation:
Check out her blog to watch the video of all 365 and beyond and to learn more!
Come Valentine’s Day there is a surplus of things for “her” but what about the men? Enter Junk Drawers. These playfully re-purposed briefs make romantic nights and the everyday a unique experience. A Minnesotan entrepreneur, Haley, founded Junk Drawers about two years ago and sells her goods on Etsy as well as at various festivals throughout the year. In her own words
“We take this fabric from its certain death
in a landfill and make clothes out of it.”
To put this into perspective, the apparel manufacturing industry discards a large amount of fabric, but small companies like Junk Drawers pick up the scraps and create value-added upcycled goods. The underwear is made of remnant scraps and commercial cuts discarded by apparel manufacturers as well as vintage fabrics. Each pair of undies is unique, due to the variety of fabrics available and their creative eye. Handmade in the US, you can support their small business and give him something that is truly one of a kind.
For some people, no lack of money nor genuine concern for the environment can stop a love for clothes and shopping. Those some people include me. But I try to follow these tips to both save money and stay as green as possible.
First, Look for quality clothing from eco conscious companies.
If your clothes last, you will generate less waste and save more money over time. Simple.
Companies like Patagonia and L.L. Bean also offer unconditional lifetime guarantees on their products. So they guarantee that even though you spend a little more, your clothes will literally last forever or be replaced. I have personally seen this from both companies. I have returned completely disintegrated shorts to Patagonia and received replacements and have returned a completely worn out L.L. Bean backpack and received a replacement. With both companies, they will fix the products if they can and otherwise will replace them either for free or for a small fee.
Additionally, Patagonia has begun a program to recycle all their fibers, so when your clothes are completely worn out, and you return them for new ones, rather than just throw the old clothes into the landfill, they will recycle the fibers and reuse them.
Just to clarify, neither company requires any sort of ownership proof (receipts or anything) so if you haven’t worn out the clothes and simply don’t want them or they don’t fit, make sure to pass them on to friends or even a thrift store. Any person can take advantage of the guarantee. Which leads me to…
Second, Buy used clothes.
Most people know this as a way to save money, but even for people who are scared or think it is dirty, follow a few simple tricks and you will be hooked.
- Look for names you know and trust. So look for Patagonia labels, or L.L. Bean. Products that were made well will last longer and will hold up to a heavy duty hot water wash.
- Think basics and try a lot on. I often go into thrift stores looking for something really specific, like black pants. I grabbed handfuls in my size, looking for labels I know. Usually of 15 or so pairs, only one will fit correctly. Other good thrift store finds are men’s button down shirts (often barely used), tee shirts and turtle necks, and wool blazers. Don’t expect to find perfect jeans or other clothes that are hard to fit, even when new.
- Natural fibers. Stick to cottons and wools. They will hold up better over time and are usually easier to get a proper cleaning out of.
- Boil trends down to basics. When shopping for trends, you obviously won’t find the latest designer duds, so look at trends in their simplest elements. This fall, mustard yellow is everywhere, so look down the aisles for that color. A basic mustard yellow tee or turtleneck mixed into your wardrobe will update what you already have.
- Don’t stick to the women’s (or Mens!) section. I often wear men’s pants and kids shirts and blazers.
- Make sure to bring your used clothing back! Letting someone else have a chance to wear your clothes is just as eco conscious as wearing used clothes yourself. The longer the lifecycle, the less waste!
About the Author
Ali Church is a designer living and studying in Philadelphia. She is one half of the duo behind see.saw, a design and aesthetics blog. Ali is an avid gardener, runner, and shopper and hopes to one day develop a triathlon incorporating all three.
Bamboo fabrics are becoming more and more popular, especially because manufacturers advertise just how soft the fabric feels and that it is more environmentally friendly than traditional fabric materials. The big problem is that many manufacturers are using these false claims to sell more of their high priced products that are far from being eco-friendly. The Federal Trade Commission is taking stand against these companies who are ‘Babmoo-zling’ consumers by making claims that their fabrics are actually bamboo. Instead, these manufacturers are using a man-made material called rayon that no way resembles bamboo.
What is Rayon?
Rayon is a man-made fiber that is created from the cellulose found in plants and tree which is then processed with dangerous chemicals. No matter which plant source the cellulose came from, the final product is always called rayon. So this means that even if bamboo were used to produce the rayon, there is no characteristics of the material that resemble bamboo. On top of that, the chemicals used emit dangerous air pollutants and possibly our health.
It’s bad enough that companies are using rayon as a material, but also making outrageous claims that their fabrics are eco friendly. Let’s look at some of the crazy claims and how they are completely false:
- “100% Bamboo Fiber”: It’s great that companies are using bamboo as a fabric, but rayon is no longer bamboo. This claim would make sense for a company that makes their fibers naturally from bamboo.
- “ecoKashmere“: Making the claim that rayon is anywhere near as soft and natural as cashmere wool is ridiculous.
- “Bamboo Comfort”: That’s great that rayon is comfortable, but once again it’s not bamboo. When bamboo is naturally made into a fiber, it is not nearly as soft and resembles fabrics like hemp.
- Biodegradable: Just because bamboo is biodegradable, doesn’t make rayon as well.
The FTC currently has complaints that are either settled or still pending against many major “Bamboo” fabric manufacturers including:
- Sami Designs, LLC,
- CSE, Inc or Mad Mod
- Pure Bamboo, LLC
- M Group
Don’t fall prey to any of these companies and be sure to research any “bamboo” clothing product before you buy. There is no reason that we should pay exorbitantly high prices for products that are nothing as the claims make them out to be.
Ecoprintworks provides high quality custom apparel and accessories, while providing responsible printing for companies and individuals. Along with using eco-friendly inks, they also print on organic and sustainably produced garments.
EcoPrintWorks was started by David Whitaker and Peter Imai, two individuals combining over 50 years in the screen-printing business. After running a printing business in the San Luis Obispo community for many years, both decided to make a change in their business philosophy by becoming more environmentally friendly and conscious for their workers health. Owner Peter Imai describes in more detail why they decided to make the switch:
We loved our business but we wanted to be more responsible with the decisions we were making. To us that meant making a move from PVC based Plastisol inks and conventional cotton to solvent free, water-based inks, and organic cotton garments. It’s a bit more expensive, but the response that we’ve gotten from customers is amazing. We’re happy to be able to provide a healthier work environment for our staff as well as a finished product that falls in line with our values. We hope you love the water-based prints as much as we do.
Permaset Aqua are water-based fabric inks produced by Australian company Colormaker. Permaset inks contain no toxic chemicals, are 100% solvent free and are safe to even use on baby clothes under the age of 2. They also do not contain any form of lead or other types of heavy metals. Prior to using Permaset, the main type of ink in the screen-printing industry was Plastisol, which contains Polyvinyl Chloride. These inks are extremely harmful to the environment as well as emitting dangerous vapors. Colormaker took this into account with Permaset Aqua by making them highly durable, excellent range of colors and dry more quickly than traditional water-based inks. EcoPrintWorks uses Permaset to provide not only a safer product, but also a more superior one as well.
Environmentally Friendly Suppliers
EcoPrintWorks gets its apparel and accessories from a variety of suppliers that use organic and renewable materials and have environmentally friendly business practices. A few of the companies include American Apparel, Earth Positive, ALO athletic wear, EcoBags.com and many others.
To order through EcoPrintWorks is very straight forward. Their website guides you through the entire process. You first start by getting on quote based off the the order size and the type of design you want to provide. They accept just about any type of art work you have or can provide you with ready to go artwork. It’s free of charge to use one of their designers to get the professional design you would desire. After placing the order and providing payment, their is a final approval process to ensure that everything is the way that it should be before getting printed. Once completed, everything is sent within 3 business days free of charge.
I was lucky enough to receive a sample of their work in the form of a reusable bag. The bag itself was made by EcoBags.com and the artwork was designed by one of their designers. As you can tell from the picture, the artwork is beautiful. The bag was made from 100% recycled cotton fibers and is extremely durable. I used the bag several times filled with produce and it held really strong. The colors printed on the bag are much more vibrant than displayed in the picture and have no signs of peeling. I cannot attest to the process of ordering products through this company, but they did a wonderful job with the bag I received and would definitely order through them if I needed printed apparel or bags.
Next time you get ready to throw out a piece of clothes, linen or textiles consider recycling as alternative option. Often times, fabrics being thrown away could be reused for another purpose or given to somebody else to get further use out of. Not only can you save some real cash, but also reduce your environment impact.
Textile Recycling Industry
The textile industry in America is a massive industry. Just go to any mall or shopping center, you are bound to find tons of clothing stores or home good stores. In America alone, there 11.9 million tons of textiles or just under 5% of all waste ended up in landfills in 2007.
With this much waste every year, this really opened the doors for textile recycling industry. Every year, fabric recyclers are able to save approximately 2.5 billion pounds of textiles or a little more than 1% of all postconsumer textiles wasted every year. Some of the fabrics are used by the recyclers and the rest is sold to manufacturers that make materials with the used materials. Contrary to what you may think, used textiles have a fairly high value and all parties are able to at least recover all costs in the process. What’s neat that many types of fabrics can be recycled in some fashion including cotton, fleece, denim, linens and many more.
The easiest way to recycle those extra fabrics laying around the house is to reuse textiles. All you need is a good all around sewing machine and your good to go. Whether you make repairs to existing items or creating unique pieces out of several different types of fabrics, it’s easy to see how you can really make a huge impact. Think of all the money you spent on buying the particular item, why not get more use out of it? Even if you didn’t spend a lot of money, why contribute to overfilled landfills when there was no reason to throw it out. Some great ways you can reuse fabrics include:
Photo by binaryape.
Quilting can be a wonderful idea for just about any type of fabric scraps laying around your house. Nothing is new about this concept, especially back in the days when there wasn’t a Jo-Ann fabric right down the street, along with many not living as lavishly as we do now. People had to be much more creative with what they had available. Try creating a new family tradition by finding clothing and other fabrics laying around the house and sew a quilt with your children. You can even make quilts or donate fabrics to make quilts for charity.
Just because you lost a button or an item has a small tear, there is no reason to throw it out. People are so sensitive to wearing something that is not in perfect condition, but will buy clothes already ripped or faded? Save yourself some money and either make simple repairs by yourself or get somebody you know who is good with a sewing machine to make them for you.
One great example of re-purposing is in terms of under shirts that I wear. By the time I am done with them, they usually are stretched out and can’t be reused as a fabric in other purposes. I reuse them by cutting them up for use as a small towels to wipe things up around the house. I save money on paper towels and I don’t have to throw those old shirts out.
Another great way to recycle those extra fabrics you have laying around the house is to donate them. Donating them allows other people to have items that you no longer want either free or a very inexpensively. Many people clothing items just sitting in their closet that were only worn a few times, if at all. Why not donate those items and allow others to get use out of them. Some great places to donate those items are:
- Salvation Army
- Purple Heart
- PlanetAid – They have bins all over the place to easily donate those old clothing items.
- Soles4Souls – Donate those old shoes.
- Used Clothing for Women
Photo by alanstanton.
There are other ways to recoup some of the cost of those clothing, while still providing a way for people to buy quality clothes at an affordable price:
- Ebay – Auction off the items.
- Consignment shops
- Classified ads
This past weekend, I went to a Consignment shop in nearby neighborhood with my fiance. I used to always hate going into places with used clothing when I was a child because it was not the “hip” thing to do. She has always loved to go into Consignment shops to find cool fabrics to make things with.
This really got me thinking about the the environmental impacts that clothes could be have. So, I decided to do a little research on the topic of clothing as it relates to the environment. I found an interesting article from Organic Consumers that talks about the effects of being wasteful when it comes to buying clothing:
Like most things you buy today, clothes are intended to phase out of fashion. As we attempt to keep up with fashion trends we end up accumulating more and more in our closets. Spurring on new buying, clothing prices have dropped 25%, and the volume of clothing we purchase has increased 75% between 1992 and 2002.
The worst part about all the clothes bought is not necessarily how the clothes are made, but the clothes hangers. Wire hangers cannot be recycled because the quality and quantity of metal contained in each hanger make it not worth recycling. Even if they decide to use wooden hangers, they are usually treated with dangerous chemicals.
Its pretty scary of all of the negative aspects associated with buying new clothing from retailers. After giving it some thought, I determined a few ways that we as the consumer can make a difference.
- Buying used clothing
- Buying Sustainable Clothing
- Choose quality over quantity
As with most people, I don’t see myself buying used clothing very often especially when it comes to business clothing. But, buying used clothing can be a huge savings benefit. There were clothes a little as a $1 while I was at the Consignment shop. I was really shocked at how many designer brands and new looking clothes they had. It is definitely worth considering before making your next trip to the mall to buy new clothing.
Another alternative is to buy eco-friendly clothes. A local new station in Minnesota wrote an article about Eco-Friendly Clothing
as an alternative when buying clothing. Birch Clothing is a small company that sells items produced from sustainable and recycle materials. They also use fair labor standards and produce their clothes in America. I have purchased from a similar company to Birch Clothing called American Apparel in the past and have been pleased with the quality and comfort of their clothes. Stores like these have slightly higher prices than traditional clothing stores, but are worth considering if you want to go green when buying clothes.
My favorite choice of the three is to just buy higher quality clothes in lower quantities. It’s that simple. I have been following this philosophy for years now. You can spend much less on clothing because you will be buying far less clothes and they will last you much longer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy the designer brands and spend huge amounts of money to get good quality. There are many high quality clothing brands that are moderately priced. The biggest thing is to stay away from buying clothes that are trendy as you will probably not wear them very long. If you buy clothes that fits well and has a simple design, you can’t go wrong.