Eco Couture – Sustainable Fashion

Recycled Clothing as sculpture by artist, Derick Melander

Eco Couture – Sustainable Fashion (Week #41)

The WHAT and WHY:

This will be my second year participating in raising funds for Long Way Home, an organization that builds sustainable schools and teaches sustainable curriculum in Guatemala. As a reclamation artist I create art, fashion, furniture and buildings from found objects, textiles, building materials, and recycled resources.

Newburyport's Rubbish to Runway Fashion Show 2014

Newburyport’s Rubbish to Runway Fashion Show 2014

This year, instead of donating my leftover construction materials to Restore, Freecycle or Craigslist, I made them into fashions to raise money for a great cause. I wish I could show you this year’s fashions designs here, but I will have to wait until after the show (non-disclosure agreements).

Did you know that Americans dispose of 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year of which 99% could have been recycled? That’s the weight of the Statue of Liberty! That still puts 58 million tons of textiles and shoes into US landfills alone, according to the EPA.

As I transitioned from a large home into a 174 SF tiny house, I took a closer look at the fashion trade and its current sustainable offerings. Most of the industry has moved towards improving the LCA of their products as well as the social/cultural/environmental responsibility of their manufacturing process. As textiles made from natural materials are water and energy intensive; manufacturers are finding better ways of designing with polymers than can be recycled into future garments. This industry is still far behind.

Some high-end designers have pushed the sustainable envelope to another level and are producing biodegradable clothing and shoes.

It’s not just Timberland, Tom’s, Teva and Patagonia anymore – hurray! In 2012, Gucci announced its mostly biodegradable “Liquid Gold” castor oil seed plastic sunglasses, there is Icebreaker’s Merino Wool, or any of the five eco-shoes mentioned here.

H&M is teaming up with Puma to recycle clothes made from sustainable cotton into collections made from recycled cotton. This innovative manufacturing system is called Wornagain, which involves chemical textile to textile recycling.

You could even grow your own bio-degradable clothes like UK’s fashion designer, Suzanne Lee; watch her 6 minute TED talk.

After all, much of the $800 billion dollar fashion industry has consumers buying and discarding clothing faster than ever. It’s imperative that we, consumers and manufacturers alike, make more sustainable choices.

Examine your wardrobe purchasing and disposal practices to decrease your impact on the world’s resources.

The HOW:

1.Practice the 6 R’s when disposing of your clothes.

  • Rethink- is it made using Fair trade practices? Think about the energy used.
  • Reuse- Items that can be sold again or redesigned
  • Recycle, Upcycle or Repurpose- Re-making a product into something else
  • Repair- Fix items if they are torn or broken
  • Reduce- Cut down on the number of items we buy
  • Refuse- To refuse to use products which are not suitable or the right thing for the job

2.Cut in strips and reuse them for vegetable ties to your garden stakes. You can also repurpose your sheets as shrub covers for winter. Or repurpose them into costumes for holidays like Halloween or your next child or adult costume party.

4. Hold a neighborhood/friend shoe or clothing swap party. Everyone brings ten garments/shoes, any leftovers go to a crisis center in your community.

5. Find a non-profit that resells clothing to support those in need.

6. Make a reclamation art project into a designer fashion, or a chair, like these artists:

Note: is a non-profit organization and does not receive any funds from the product links we suggest.

The Deep Dive:

LCA, life cycle analysis of all stages of a product’s life

15 Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Companies You Should Know About in 2015

Cradle to Cradle, TED Talk from William McDonough, Remaking the Way We Make Things

Ingeo biopolymer (from renewable resources such as corn)

Recycle your old bras by donating to

Donate your sports shoes to See Your Kicks Make a Comeback

For the Love of Animals

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For the Love of Animals (Week #40)

The What:

World Animal Day often slips by on the calendar without notice. In 1931, October 4th was declared an animal rights and welfare day by a convention of ecologists in Italy. We have made some progress since then by outlawing certain animal cruelty practices in manufacturing, agribusiness, gaming, racing and animal husbandry.

We love, care and provide our pets with substantive, healthy lifestyles and yet many fail to grasp how little we care for animals outside this family circle. Daily, our dietary, fashion, personal products and other consumptive choices directly impact eco-systems, the environment, global communities and species extinction.

This week I want all of us to re-examine our dietary “wants” versus “needs.”

The Why:

“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”

You may be familiar with Bill McKibbens, Do the Math, explaining humanity’s demise if we exceed an additional 2 degrees celsius warming globally, 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, and five times that in the 2,795 gigatons carbon reserves of the oil companies.

A tiny house friend of mine forwarded a link for the movie Cowspiracy: A sustainability Secret, a few weeks ago and I have not been quite the same since seeing and understanding the impact of our global love of beef, burgers, pork and chicken. I suggest you see it now, live streaming on netflix. Thank you Leonardio de Caprio for producing this.

The effect of diet on CO2 emissions, oil, land and water use. From the movie, Cowspiracy

The effect of diet on CO2 emissions, oil, land and water use. From the movie, Cowspiracy

Throughout my long life I have changed my diet. Having been brought up in the Midwest as an omnivore (17 years), I quested for a more nourishing, healthy and satisfying diet that was Buddhist in nature (non-violent). Like many of my generations women, I have experimented with being a vegetarian (12 years), a macrobiotic (5 years), a fruitarian (4 years), an ovo-lactarian (3 years), and have been a flexitarian for most of my existence (25 years). I am committed to become a full-time ethical Vegan by the end of the year!

Skipping meat once a week is like changing a lightbulb in your house to stop global warming. A small step, but it is not enough to stem the tide. Five years ago I moved mostly to fish and seafood twice a week, and ate meat (free range, local farms only) a few times a month, if at all. I am starting with a 30-day Vegan challenge today.

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I think my love of animal secretions (milk and dairy) will be the most difficult practice to wrap my heart, head and body around. After all, I grew up in the grain, meat and cheese belt of this heartland. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Why not join me?

From the World Animal Day twitter account

From the World Animal Day twitter account


Three easy steps:

  1. Watch the movie, Cowspiracy, streaming on Netflix.
  2. Try the 30 day Vegan Challenge from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
  3. Get back to me on this page and let me know your thoughts and challenges.


Streaming on Netflix, the movie, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Doing The Math

How to improve your pet’s lifestyle



Sustainable Transport

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.16.50 AMSustainable Transport (Week #39)

The WHAT, WHY, and HOW of Sustainable Transportation:

Scientists tell us that every gallon of gas we burn in our vehicles is contributing about 24 pounds of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.  In 2013, 27% of all GHG Emissions came from transportation: of that 7% is due to aircraft, 7% to other non-road emissions such as ships, boats, trains and pipelines. That leaves 86% of GHG emissions that result from our passenger cars, SUV’s and pick-up trucks (63%) and the remaining from commercial trucking (23%).

What can we do to ameliorate this effect and decrease global warming and climate change?

  1. Have you considered converting your diesel to run on cooking oil? It can be done in four hours.
  2. Sell/recycle your old fossil fuel vehicle to obtain a hybrid, electric or solar car.
  3. Consider living without a vehicle.
  4. Locate your home in a walkable city.
  5. Get a bike.
  6. Join a carpool, best apps here.
  7. Share your car.
  8. (or live without a car altogether) or it is not a diesel automobile, there are some simple things you can do to increase your gas mileage and improve our environment.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.56.54 AMNo matter where you are in your sustainability evolution, my friends at wikipedia have a great detailed resource list and links to alternatives to fossil fuel automobiles including ZEV’s (zero emission vehicles). Check it out here.

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The Deep Dive:

National Center for Sustainable Transportation

Citi Transmitter Vehicle by Vincent Chan

Bill McKibben’s 7/2012 article on the Terrifying New Math in the Rolling Stone’s solutions for getting around town: Alternative Fuels, Green Transportation, and Improving Fuel Efficiency

EPA’s GHG emission passenger car calculator

US Dept. of Transportation’s GHG Emission Breakdown

World GHG Emissions Hit Record Level, 2011