a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Cyber-Shopping Decreases Energy Use

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’m finally coming into holiday spirit this year and thinking about the consumables and thrift finds for friends and family – it’s more fun than ever to holiday shop when the giving is local and light on the planet.

I don’t buy much new stuff, but when I do, I’ve always liked online shopping. It’s fast and easy. However, I’ve been nagged by the thought that my new stuff has to travel many miles to find me and I can’t say, “I don’t need a bag” when checking out, like I would at a local store. I need to know, by the bottom line, is online shopping more eco-responsible than shopping at retail stores?

Much to my relief and surprise, I’ve heard some good news through Ideal Bite and Cool-Companies. A report by the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, a non-profit organization that helps companies and public institutions reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, show that internet shopping has significantly decreased energy demand since 1998 and could have an even larger impact on energy and resource savings into the future.

Despite their size, e-commerce warehouses use 1/16th of the energy used to operate retail stores. More e-commerce equals less need for retail space and the resources used to build and maintain it. This, of course, means saving open space and trees through both less construction and the decrease in paper use – a savings of as much as 2.7 million tons of paper per year. What about the environmental costs of shipping? More good news: ground shipping uses 1/10 the energy of driving yourself to the mall and even shipping 10 pounds of packages by air, uses 40% less fuel than the same purchase made by car.
Of course, all these energy savings means less power plants and less greenhouse gas pollution. And less driving and shopping means more free time for us. It’s becoming obvious that the balance of our future depends on our willingness to change our habits and perspective. It can be a win-win for our lives, our environment and the economy. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Vermont Is Not Flat

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Brattleboro, VT

Brattleboro has a dominant number of thriving local businesses, many of which thoroughly but subtly display their green creds. Thrift and vintage places – my personal eye candy – were especially irresistible, and practical, as it turned out. I suddenly needed a nail clipper/file and I found both, hidden amongst hundreds of antique collectibles of every category at a store called “Twice Upon A Time”. Proving, once again, that they don’t make things like they used to. These stores can be full of surprises – I have managed to stay out of mainstream drugstores for years by using thrift/vintage for basics like this – low cost and no packaging is a bonus.

I went back several times to Boomerang – a vintage and vintage-inspired clothing and accessories shop owned and operated by Loretta, who replanted her creative roots from LA. Here I found some fun and stylish used clothing – some are cleverly marked by era – Jerry was drawn to the 50’s while I found out I’m a 60’s – 70’s kind of girl. Boomerang also supports Rise Up International, a group of artists, ideallists and social entrepreneurs using the fashion industry to empower children out of poverty. Rise Up International doesn’t mess around when it comes to giving – they donate all profits to support free education centers, drug rehabilitation and art vocational schools in India, Central America and China.

As happened in a few different cases, I was readily engaged in conversation by the locals and felt welcomed, even as I accepted my designated title as a “flatlander”.
A haven for art, music, alternative health and recreation, “Brat” – as I brazenly use the local term – has not seen the last of me!

Thrift-Love, it’s not just about the clothes

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Reported on, Actress, Thandie Newton, on clothes – “It is grotesque how out of control manufacturing has become, and the excess, the pollution that’s caused by it. Vintage (clothing) is not only glorious and stylish, it’s also the way forward in terms of recycling. Whenever I go into great vintage stores, I wonder why we ever buy new things.”

Some celebs walk the walk – red carpet and otherwise – and Thandie gets going green.

The Change founder, Jerry Stifelman, knows the consumer end of fashion, and he loves all aspects of thrifting, especially the new clothing and accessory swap site, At Swango, you can find quality and style for a few dollars and the price of shipping, and you don’t have to leave home. Here’s more from Jerry on the experience of thriting:

For the core thrift customer, it’s a conscious, highly valued choice. For them, the glossy sterility of The Gap or Banana Republic pales in comparison to the possibilities of used clothing. The foundation of the thrift experience is that it is AN EXPERIENCE.

These assets include:
– DESTINY. Everything at a retail store is calculated to appeal to people. There is no thrill in buying a pair of jeans that a marketing department has predicted that a half a million people including yourself will purchase. At a thrift store, if you see a sweater, or a hat that appeals to you — it’s the only one there. It has taken its own path across space and time to reach you. It’s meant to be. It’s special. It’s meaningful.

– STORY. A new t shirt comes to you from a factory where it was made alongside thousands of others. A thrift store shirt has an utterly unique story — you don’t necessarily know what the story is — but you know it’s there.

– COMMUNITY. Like anything that involves a choice that deviates from the mainstream, there is a sense of community associated with the thrift experience. You know that others feel similarly and it creates an instant connection. The exchanges between thrift store employees and customers are more intimate, relaxed and less businesslike than between typical retail employees and customers — in fact, they are more apt to be genuine conversations — not just polite exchanges.

Fashion doesn’t get any better than this.

Take The Handmade Pledge – and then some

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Fair Trade, Organic, sustainable gifts are all the rage this year. If you doubt me, just surf awhile and see what pops up, or check out the Hollywood scene. You can add another list of must-be/haves to the list with the Buy Handmade Pledge. To date, 8,000 people have pledged to purchase only handmade gifts this year. I couldn’t resist – I signed on, too.

I admit that at first, I thought the pledge was encouraging people to make their own handmade gifts to give. Then I realized that this is much bigger – it’s about getting out of big-box stores selling us our slow death and into Farmer’s Markets, Co-ops, small local businesses and online sites. Oh, online sites. I looked into it and found out that the founder of the Buy Handmade Pledge has a website that hosts dozens of artists making really creative stuff. I saw clothing and jewelry and a pretty, ruffled apron. Cool! But, wait a minute – most of the art, though original, creative and fun, was not made with organic or sustainable materials…

I’m starting to feel a disconnet… While I’m thinking evolution, they are thinking… ‘what’s good for people who make handmade things’ and as a marketing strategy, it’s a bit mischievious. I credit Buy Handmade for not listing or linking to this site or the artists, but it didn’t take me long to find my way there anyway.

Buying more stuff that you don’t really need (a ruffled apron?), even if it is handmade, is a nice change from buying it at Target, but it’s not of the magnitude needed right now to set back the ticking clock on the time bomb of consumerism. What we really need is for people making handmade stuff (in addition to other producers) to think about what they are using to make their handmade stuff.

I’m making gifts this year. Treats with Fair Trade and organic ingredients and napkins made from reclaimed fabric. Total Sum Game. Happy Holidays.

Knit One, Green, Too

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of holiday gifts, handmade/homemade says so much more than, “I went to the mall and bought this for you.” Knitting is the newest of yogic-type activities and is spreading into all social and age groups as a way to slow down, develop a skill and make something. Of course, knitting yarns of old have all the same problems as other modern textiles – cottons and wools and polyesters are full of pesticides and further toxifying in the dying process. I have a distinct and disturbing memory of the rancid smell of the skeins of yarn from my childhood – now I know what it was.

Knitters, don’t despair. It’s now easy to find a wide variety of eco-yarns, many of them also Fair Trade certified. What is an organic yarn? Cotton varieties must meet established USDA standards, grown without pesticides or toxic fertilizers. Wool yarn must not only be processed without toxic chemicals, but come from sheep fed and raised under organic standards as well.

With any problem, comes many more solutions. Eco-Yarns are now being made from many sustainable sources, including hemp, recycled silk, bamboo and Banana Palm fibre. The natural dyes cast beautiful, earthy colors and I was surprised to find so many styles and colors available at this online store,

Here are other features and benefits:

Vegan friendly & low impact – No animal cruelty or wasted resources

Exceptional lustre & drape – Hangs and hugs the body beautifully

Natural fibre cottage industry yarn – Comfortable and individual (not mass-produced)

Fibre Reactive Dyed – Minimal water used for maximum colourfastness

Hand dyed skeins – No two skeins will be exactly the same

Of course, any eco-conscious knitmaster will want the right needles. Laughing gives you sustainably sourced and unique selections.

There’s not much more meaningful in a gift than something you’ve made by hand with both the planet and your loved one in mind. Enjoy.

Greenspace Event Follow-up

Monday, August 6th, 2007

CARRBORO – The residents of 116 Old Pittsboro Road didn’t spend the last night in their rental house packing boxes.They hosted a potluck dinner, downtown parade and fashion show in a last-ditch effort to keep their vision for the residence off Greensboro Street alive.

The 10.5 acres — mostly wooded, within walking distance of downtown — could provide a community garden, a public greenway and a public amphitheater, the residents say.

The circa 1912 brick home could be a center for community and sustainability, with conferences and demonstrations of sustainable technologies.

But the Carrboro Greenspace Collective, as the renters and their supporters call themselves, has not yet found a buyer who can meet the $1.4 million asking price.

They hoped that raising awareness about the property Saturday would do that.

Waving large, colorful depictions of a butterfly, dragonfly and sun on sticks, nearly 50 people paraded to a drum beat from the rental home to dance on the Weaver Street Market lawn Saturday evening. Some wore green arm bands. Others carried banners that read “Save the Carrboro Greenspace” and “For the commons: not landlords or bureaucracy.”

Tamara Tal, a member of the collective, passed out orange information sheets. She envisions the space to be one where people can share ideas and food without the regulations that many town public properties now have.

“There has to come a time in society when we start valuing the community,” she said, “the safety community brings, and the public health having greenspace brings.”


Whole Lotta Croc – Shoe Fad Falls Short

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Sometimes, consumer trends come along that feel more like an invasion rather than a fun fad or good idea. Crocs managed to appear on the – dare I call it “fashion” – scene at warp speed. I barely had time to take in the sight of this obtrusive, brightly-colored, space-age-looking footwear before it seemed to land everywhere on earth. Whole Foods Market already stocks a glaring, overflowing rack of these things in every color and size, stealing space from their usually earth-friendly products.
Attempting to decipher the vague description of ingredients in these fully plasticized shoes makes them all the more suspect. Although I found information about a material called, Croslite PCCR (proprietary closed cell resin), it told me only that it is a petroleum based foam. Not good news for the environment or the animals and people in it.

I’m sure this stuff wears well (meaning it will last forever in a landfill) but the marketing that comes with it encourages consumers to own a pair in every color. Of course, accoutrements followed – stick-ons made of more Croc material, sold for $8.00/set. How long can these things stay “fashionable”? After all, just how many pairs of acid-washed jeans are hanging out in landfills as we speak?

Ok, I know these shoes make some sense if you say, live on a boat or, for growing little kids who always need durable shoes at a reasonable cost. I suppose they can be handed down as they grow out of them and are actually a little bit cute on the foot of a of a five-year-old. But, can we grown-ups just – well, grow up? If you have other, um, observations to make, go to and let it out.

Instead of unthinkingly jumping on another brain-washing trend wagon, look into the generous selection of sustainably-minded, eco-friendly shoe companies who are establishing their reputation for quality, fashion and consciousness. My feet are particular to Blackspot and Earth. Also check out Simple Shoes and Worn Again.

Got another Earth-friendly favorite in Footwear? Let us know about it!

Sassy Knitwear Remakes Fashion Well

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

You haven’t seen anything in the refashion world until you’ve seen Sassy Knitwear from Minneapolis. I was wandering through the new Farmer’s Market last month, which, interestingly, is located in the very heart of Downtown, complete with sky-scraping condos, shops, restaurants and a River walk. The place was booming with local vendors, including a few chickens and a donkey on a leash. Down on the Farm meets Urbania!

My eye was caught by a large, lovingly displayed selection of clothing in one corner, separated in sections for men, women and babies. And, there they were, a man a woman and a baby, the owners and designers of this comfortable-looking, urban-yet-casual clothing and accessories business. The couple themselves looked fashionably relaxed – this really cute baby sat on Dad’s back and I couldn’t resist saying hello and browsing through their area – even though I was still adhering to my “buy nothing new pledge”.

Then I read their sign more closely and realized that these luxurious items were all made from vintage fabrics and pre-worn, remade clothing – the highest quallity and most unique styling I’ve seen yet. I dove in and immediately found something really special that was like nothing I’d seen on anyone. This purchase was a feel-good deal all around – reused, locally-made, one of a kind, keep forever experience and I had kept my pledge. Here’s me in my super-fantastic Sassy Knitwear top!

Sassy Knitwear is getting a big, stylish start for a small, family-owned company, selling weekly at this Farmers market and featured at a few local places in town. Their web site selections are growing. Check it out and read more about their mission at Sassy Knitwear.

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