Friday, November 28, 2008

Eco-Fashion Standards - the Answer to Fast Fashion

You don’t have to be an eco-fashionista to see that there is a new sustainable sub-industry evolving in the fashion world and on Madison Avenue. There are shoes made from ex-Jeep bits, a wide variety of styles of clothes made from bamboo, organic cotton and now soy fibers.

Historically, the clothing manufacturing industry has served as the poster child for bad ethical behavior and unsustainable business practices. From sweatshops and unfair trade to the questionable materials used and shipped thousands of miles before landing in Wal-Mart.

Well, we are a demanding lot. ‘We’, the collective consumers in the US primarily, want lots of clothes, we only want them for maybe a year before tossing them, and we don’t want to pay much for them either. Over the past 10 years we have developed a hankering for fast fashion. Similar to fast food, fast fashion is quick, cheap and considered virtually disposable.
Some eye-popping facts about the garment industry:

According to the USDA, cotton is responsible for 25% of all the pesticides used in the US.

Due to the high demand and highly negative environmental impact of polyester and other synthetic textile production, the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has classified textile manufacturing facilities as ‘hazardous waste generators’.

According to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics database,

Chinese manufactured clothing accounts for 30% of the global apparel exports. I don’t have the statistics on how much of that comes to the US, but I bet it is a large percentage of that 30% and folks, that is a long carbon footprint. Not to mention that China does not have the same standards for industrial pollution we do . . . or for fair working conditions . . .

Pietra Rivoli, a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, surmised in her book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, that each year Americans buy 1 billion pieces of clothing made in China – that’s almost 4 items for each American!

The US National Labor Committee reports that some Chinese garment workers earn 12 – 18 cents per hour and work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions.

There is no way in a 500-word article to report all the various resources drained, toxins unleashed and how big and bad the giant carbon footprint of the industrial method to deliver fast fashion actually is. I’ll ask that you trust me on this or suggest doing further research on the topic. I’m more interested in talking about some of the innovators helping to make a dent of change in this industrial beast.

There are solutions!

Recycle. Reuse!
First of all, not enough can be said for the benefit of discovering your local consignment shop. My daughters and I have always been shameless used clothing lovers. Two clever moms created a booming franchise business called Milk Money, which offers used children’s clothing. It started as a way to create a solution for their own desire to share clothing with other mothers in their community and they ended up making a very chic environment within their stores that mothers and children enjoy lingering in.

Buy Local
Most of our clothes do a lot of travelling, which is not so good for the global carbon footprint. Whenever possible, find locally/regionally manufactured clothing. This may take a little homework, but some Internet sleuthing coupled with visits to small clothing stores may yield some interesting finds.

Know Where Your Garment Has Been
As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, there is an increased demand for more sustainable clothing and there are thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs taking up the call to create eco-chic clothing that costs less in environmental and human terms. Maybe not so much less in terms of dollars, but as with any commodity, as the supply increases to meet the demand, the pricing will come down. Meanwhile, I’d rather have fewer garments that are thoughtfully made than a closet full of fast fashion.

Two notable companies have created transparency in their manufacturing chains and offer consumers a way to track the origins of their garment and its trip to their closet or drawer. There are probably many following suit, but these are ones that I have direct experience with in terms of reviewing their product and tracing the trail of the clothes they sent me:

· Icebreakers – Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon says sustainability has been a non-negotiable part of the company’s core philosophy since it was founded in 1994. Since then, Icebreaker has emerged as an innovator in merino-based outdoor layering systems, claiming to be the first apparel company in the world to source merino direct from growers. Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon says sustainability has been a non-negotiable part of the company’s core philosophy since it was founded in 1994. Since then, Icebreaker has emerged as an innovator in merino-based outdoor layering systems, claiming to be the first apparel company in the world to source merino direct from growers. (read my review of the Icebreaker hoodie and the Baacode)

· Bernardo Green – Bernardo Fashions has developed a sustainable clothing line, called Bernardo Green, which is an eco-friendly suede collection made of biodegradable materials. One of the things Bernardo Fashion is known for is being the innovator of washable suede. Bernardo sticks primarily to outerwear. Bernardo Green offers a ‘code’ which allows trackability of the garment and its entire journey. (reach my review of the awesome Bernardo Green suede jacket)Green Standards?

As I review more and more ‘green’ products these days, I’m kind of baffled that there isn’t more of a standardized rating system. I googled ‘green product standards’ and I found the Green Seal of course, which is great for paper products and cleaners. The EPA even has a database for information on environmental products and services - if you go there and you can figure out what the standards are and actually find product lists, please let me know! It’s a little confusing. seems to have a rating system that works. It is a flexible system and offers an opportunity to become more educated about certain types of products and their inherent characteristics in terms of their basic product life cycle. It lends itself well to clothing products.
The four main categories are designed to rate a product from ‘cradle to grave’ and represent a product’s ‘basic lifecycle’. The categories used are: source material, manufacturing, use, and disposal. Every product offered on their website uses a rating box, which has all four of these categories represented by an icon. If the product meets or exceeds that category’s requirements, it will be displayed in color. If not, it is there, but in grey.

There is also a number rating for overall green attributes 1 - not so many: 100 - lots of good green attributes.

You can see an example of this on the image [at the top of this post]. Note that this hemp blouse, has a fairly good rating.

eat. blog. be merry!

GD Meg

Monday, November 17, 2008

the Power of Pomegranates

I’ve always been thoroughly fascinated with this fruit. The texture and cool demeanor of these seeds makes it almost impossible not to want to pinch them between your fingers and find ways to play with them. These complex little gems sometimes remind me of candy and other times of great colored corn kernels.

This ancient Medditeranean and Middle-Eastern fruit was the legend of Greek myths for its health benefits and Chinese medical practitioners recognize the juice for its help in promoting longevity. Western science has been catching up for the past few years with hundreds of studies on the health benefits of the pomegranate. The seeds, also known in more technical nutritional/botanical circles as ‘arils’ are packed with antioxidants.

Nutritional qualities and potential health benefits . . .

While some studies are still underway, pomegranate (or juice of) has been credited with preventing or inhibiting prostate and breast cancer; reducing several key heart disease risk factors; assisting in blood sugar challenges, including diabetes; protection against rheumatoid arthritis; and I have seen it referenced stringently at least once that it helps with erectile dysfunction. While that last one causes a few ponderous and probably silly thoughts, the most fascinating one to me is that it may inhibit the bacteria that causes dental plaque! I spend a lot of extra time with my favorite dental hygienist because I seem to have excessive plaque buildup, and if pomegranate juice can spare me even a few minutes in the chair, I’m paying attention!

Pomegranates are now being touted as one of the hot new “super foods” that both tastes good and is good for you. Nutritional research confirms that pomegranates contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron, plus compounds known as phytonutrients. The powerful antioxidants in the fruit also help slow down that crazy aging process and can destroy almost twice as many free radicals as red wine and seven times as many as green tea. Here’s one benefit that along with the dental thing makes me want to eat these magical fruits every day - some researchers suggest that the crunchy seeds help flush fats from the digestive tract.

What you probably didn’t know about pomeganates . . .

pomegranates are used for natural dyeing

pomegranates are the official logo of many cities in Turkey

the pomegranate is one of the main symbols of Armenia representing fertility, marriage and abundance

the pomegranate is a powerful religious symbol showing up in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions

The pomegranate growers in California have a nice website loaded with facts and pomegranate recipes. Honestly, I haven’t cooked with pomegranate in long enough that I can’t pull anything out of the memory banks. I was inspired to write this post because I’ve been seeing a lot about the amazing benefits of this fruit - and it is attached to this season, although it is most certainly NOT a regional food for those of us in the north east!

After reading and researching all this, I’m going to change that. I’ll get back to you with a good Green Diva tested recipe soon.

eat. blog. be merry!

GD Meg

Monday, November 10, 2008

Willie Nelson's Letter to Barack Obama - Save Sustainable Family Farms

Got another wonderful email from Willie Nelson last week . . .

I really love and appreciate the work Willie Nelson is doing with Farm Aid and the letter he wrote to our new president-elect, Barack Obama, which beautifully articulates the need to pay attention to family farmers. While there are so many urgent issues looming and competing for airspace for our new president, I can’t agree with Willie more that support of family and smaller local/regional farm systems can be part of the solution for many of the challenges that plague our country.
Family farms and regional farming systems help reduce the food production carbon footprint in so many ways, not the least of which is that it travels less of a distance if it is supporting a defined regional area.

If you visit your local farm stands and farmer’s markets and have ever belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, you have come to respect if not love your local farmers - and for good reason!

Thank you Willie for continuing to make noise (and great music) on this issue!

Willie’s letter . . .

Dear President-elect Barack Obama,

As President of Farm Aid, I’d like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly congratulate you on your historic victory. I’d also like to offer you every resource that Farm Aid has available to assist you in creating a new farm and food policy that supports a sustainable family farm system of agriculture.

I started Farm Aid in 1985 when family farmers were being forced off their land as a result of federal policy that paved the way for industrial agriculture. This shift replaced independent family farmers with factory farms that have wreaked havoc on our communities, our environment and our public health.

There is broad agreement that our farm and food system needs to be drastically reworked

Thank you Willie and thank you Mr. President-Elect!

eat. blog. be merry!

GD Meg