ecofriendly

Wrapped in Nature: Clothing Is An Agricultural Product, by Mary Kingsley

Cotton Plant in Fall

This piece was written by Mary Kingsley of forthcoming sustainable brand, Lady Farmer. Images provided by Lady Farmer. I met Mary and her daughter, Emma, at an event they hosted here in Charlottesville and they're the real deal - they even run a farm in Maryland! Read more about the brand in the footer of this post or on lady-farmer.com

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Here’s a question. Where do your clothes come from? 


The first thing you might think of is the retailer: LL Bean, TJ Maxx, Target, etc. But before that, before they land in the store, where do your clothes come from?

This might stump a few, but many people have a sense that our clothing nowadays is produced overseas, so you might be thinking China, Vietnam or Bangladesh. But before that, before they are actually sewn together, where do your clothes come from?

Before it’s all sewn together, clothing is made of some kind of material, and unless it’s something completely synthetic, that material is going to be fabric from some kind of plant such as cotton, flax or hemp. So going back that far, where do your clothes come from? 

Your clothes come from seeds placed in the ground with the intention of creating the raw material for a textile, almost certainly on a farm somewhere.

Clothing is essentially an agricultural product.

Agriculture, of course, is commonly associated with food production. In that industry we’ve recently experienced a huge increase in consumer concern with sourcing, as evidenced by the boom in organic foods, the proliferation of neighborhood farm markets and the rise of demand for local produce, meat and dairy. After decades of non-transparency in our food system and the resulting epidemic of metabolic problems, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, certain cancers, and more, consumers are exercising their right to question the health effects of pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in food production, and the environmental consequences of certain industrial farming practices.

There’s a movement towards fresher, simpler, healthier, maybe not-always-so-quick-and-convenient food, real food. Slow food. People are caring about what they put in their bodies. They are asking where their food comes from, what’s done to it, what’s added to it and how far it travels before it lands on our plates.

Hemp and Organic Cotton Fabric to be used in Lady Farmer goods

Likewise, consumers are beginning to care what they put ON their bodies and can begin asking not only where their clothes come from, but how the materials are cultivated, and how the process affects the product itself, the producers and manufacturers, and certainly the environment.  

They are waking up to the fact that current practices in apparel manufacturing present significant health hazards. Our skin is our largest body organ and absorbs the toxic chemicals being used not only in the growing of the textiles but in the processing, treating, and dyeing of garments. For instance, your brightly colored clothing accessories might well contain dangerous amounts of lead. And many of the chemicals used in the dying of fabrics can cause cancer and/or be disruptive to normal hormonal functioning.

All of those cozy fleece jackets and the ubiquitous yoga pants? Turns out they’re full of microscopic plastic bits that are showing up in our seafood! Watch out for the hazardous chemicals in your outdoor gear that “can cause adverse impacts...on the reproductive system and immune systems.” As for sleepwear for your child, beware those containing the “flame retardant,” shown to cause hyperactivity and reduced IQ.

The issues and concerns in the apparel industry are closely parallel to the problems in the food system. Yet because most textile farming and apparel production now takes place overseas, the health, environmental and human rights problems have been largely out of sight and therefore easily ignored by an unconscious consumer base. Cheap, easily affordable and accessible clothing supplied by retailers heavily invested in feeding this widespread consumer frenzy has created a juggernaut of addictive buying and toxic waste.

The average American creates 65 pounds of textile waste every year, creating an annual 10.5 million tons of clothing in landfills. Most components of these textiles are full of toxic chemicals and never break down.

Brown fabric dyed with black walnuts

When we think of clothing as an agricultural product - a result of soil and rain, sunshine, and microbes - we begin to understand it as one of our essential needs, an expression of the natural world. With this framing and perspective, we can become informed and use our power as consumers to shape the future.

The understanding of clothing as a basic human need affecting us every moment as we live and breathe, something that has its beginning as seed and is nourished by our own shared environment, this grounds us in our elemental connection with the earth, the bearer and sustainer of all life as we know it.

When we begin to care about these things is when we begin to care about our choices and recognize their power. It is at this juncture that true change can occur.  

Everyone eats and everyone needs clothes, but when these basic human needs come at the cost of our own well being, then something has to change. We believe that with this understanding, consumers will embrace “slow fashion” in much the same way as they have “slow-food,” and in doing so will rediscover something that goes well beyond what they’re eating or wearing.

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Lady Farmer

Founded in 2016, Lady Farmer was formed in response to the growing movement of women who identify with nature and its cycles, simple comforts, tradition and sustainability. Our community of women is invested in real change - in themselves, their families, their communities - in a way that is accessible on a daily basis, from what they plant to what they eat to what they wear. We want to make our ladies’ lives simpler and strengthen our connections to each other and the earth. Any woman interested in the intersection of her own well-being and that of the planet will find a place here.

YSTR Clothing: Made to Order, Effortless, Ethical

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review
I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive items for review from YSTR Clothing, and there are some affiliate links throughout.


The first thing you should know about YSTR is that their clothes perfectly encapsulate laid back, California cool. 


The second thing you should know about YSTR is that their items are made to order in the USA out of eco-friendly and deadstock fabrics, packed in biodegradable eco-plastic, and sold in a range of prices that make it easy for anyone to find something that will suit them at a price that won't make them squirm.

It's so wonderful to be in the ethical fashion space during a time of massive change and innovation. When I first started blogging, companies that considered every little detail of manufacturing - design, raw materials, manufacturing, packing, long term education - simply didn't exist, or they weren't prominent enough to show up on anyone's radar. Now, they might not quite be mainstream, but they're out there, and that means they can set an example for the rest of the industry.

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

YSTR was founded as an antidote to the fast fashion industry, which depletes natural resources at an alarming rate, creates a throwaway culture that saps the intention from our purchases, and relies on exploitative labor around the globe. I'm (still) reading Corban Addison's A Harvest of Thorns and it has illuminated for me how quickly one type of injustice can lead to several others. When it comes to the global fashion industry, if you can spot one type of exploitation, you can be certain that others lurk just beneath the surface. It's completely overwhelming.

YSTR keeps everything in house to ensure that they can monitor their resources and work force responsibly. When you place an order, the team gets started cutting and sewing your order. The made-to-order model is a key to building a sustainable business model because it means that YSTR never has unwanted inventory sitting around on their shelves.
  YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

But what makes YSTR particularly unique is that their brand is just as much about building sustainable community as it is about business. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll cover that in tomorrow's post.

The collection ranges from casual to semi-formal, but the aesthetic is absolutely cohesive. With that in mind, I wanted to mix and match some items to show you how they can work together.

In the first outfit, I'm wearing the Hardy Jumpsuit in Black ($198) with a simple tassel necklace from Love Justly and my favorite Melissa sandals. Made from an eco-friendly viscose and linen blend, it's soft, opaque, and slightly textured.

In the second outfit, I'm wearing the jumpsuit with the Edie Top ($68) and an old pair of espadrilles. The high boat neck and soft, ribbed cotton makes this piece perfect for everyday wear. I'm always on the hunt for flattering tops and tees that have a flattering, higher neckline because I find myself leaning over to pick up boxes of goods at the thrift shop all the time, and I'd prefer not to flash anyone while doing it.

I'm wearing a Medium in both items (my measurements are 34-28-38 and I'm "pear shaped").

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

In addition to offering mix and match pieces, YSTR offers a capsule subscription box with three tiers, great for someone who's in need of a wardrobe refresh and doesn't have the time or the interest to select individual styles. Each box contains 2-3 items with a total traditional retail value of $500, offered at a starting price of $99 a month, and subscribers can skip a month whenever they feel like it. Learn more about it here, then order your box here.

I'll be sharing two more looks and additional information tomorrow, so make sure to come back.

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Get $15 off your YSTR purchase with code, VIPXSTYLEWISE

5 Ways to Zero-Waste Your Morning Routine

5 ways to make your morning routine more zero waste with plaine products
This post is part of a paid collaboration with Plaine Products and I received product for review. Stay tuned for a detailed product review and giveaway.

1. Buy your coffee or tea in compostable bags.

Check your coffee bag or tea box to see if the packaging used is compostable. Some coffee bags have plastic components or are coated with film, which makes it difficult to recycle or compost them. Likewise, not all tea bags are created equal. Make sure the brand you buy uses natural fiber-based bags and strings instead of nylon.

A few of my favorite sustainable options: Virginia-roasted Red Rooster Coffee | Numi Organic Tea

2. Choose compostable or mesh coffee filters. 

Although most paper coffee filters will biodegrade, it's better for the environment to buy unbleached filters, as bleach filters may carry residual chemicals that can leach into the ground. My preference is to use a mesh, metal filter that simply requires a quick rinse after use each morning.

My favorite sustainable option: Coffee Gator Pour Over Coffee Maker

3. Wash your hands with bar soap. 

Bar soap requires far less packaging than liquid pump soaps, and some varieties come completely free of packaging, which makes them zero-waste on the consumer end. Best to stay away from antibacterial hand soaps anyway, as they contribute to the growth of super-bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics, making us less able to fight serious infections. We don't need antibacterial ingredients to rid ourselves of germs: soap works by physically loosening grime and microbes from our bodies and rinsing them away.

My favorite sustainable option: Freedom Soap Company*

5 ways to make your morning routine more zero waste with plaine products

4. Buy recycled or Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified toilet paper.

According to Leotie Lovely, US residents alone require about 7 million trees' worth of toilet paper each year. For a more sustainable option, choose toilet paper made from post-consumer recycled paper (Trader Joe's sells a version) or, at the very least, find brands that are part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program.

5. Buy your shower care items in refillable containers from Plaine Products.

The amount of plastic a typical woman requires just to get ready for the day is mind-boggling. I don't even want to think about how many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash I've purchased over the years, but I'm sure it numbers in the several hundreds. According to EWG's Skin Deep, the average adult uses 9 personal care products each morning, most of it packaged in plastic or glass that, even if recyclable, is destined to go through an exorbitantly inefficient system - and probably travel the world a few times - in order to be reused. And plastic never biodegrades.

I've been furiously seeking out alternatives, but shampoo bars weren't working on my thin hair, especially as it grew longer (a bit of residue doesn't hurt in a pixie cut, but is pretty obvious on fine, straight hair). I needed something gentle, lightweight, and natural.

Plaine Products was, quite honestly, my last hope, and they came through. The company, which produces all natural shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in refillable, stainless steel pump bottles, was founded by sisters, Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster, after Lindsey had an aha moment in the shower one day. In her words:

I was working at an environmental nonprofit and living in The Bahamas. In the islands there is no “away” to throw your trash. So plastic is everywhere. Overflowing the too-small landfills, on the beaches, in the water, along the side of the road. Once you start to notice single-use plastic you realize it’s everywhere.  
Then you start reading. Half of all plastic is used once and thrown away. More than half of all sea turtles have eaten plastic. Over 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die from plastic pollution every year. Everyone who has been tested has some residue of plastic chemicals in their body. The list goes on. 

Lindsey's environmental background and Alison's attention to quality control helped them develop a simple but effective line of products that makes going low-waste possible for everyone. You can buy their products in 16 ounce containers ($30 each) or travel sizes ($5 each) one by one or through a subscription service, which comes every 4 months. Each time you order, you'll be given the option to request a return label for your empty bottles, and Plaine Products will reuse them for future orders. You keep the pump bottle from your first order to use with your refill.

Plaine Products sends orders in EcoEnclose packaging, which is made of 100% post-consumer/post-industrial recycled materials.

My favorite sustainable option: Plaine Products Three Pack Subscription

I'll be doing a full review and giveaway on Plaine Products next week, so come back for more information about the ingredients and my overall experience.

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Shop Plaine Products here. 


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EWC Zero Waste Challenge: All the Gory Details of My Repeated Failures

An Update On My Zero Waste Efforts
This stock photo really spoke to me because I had the privilege of waiting for a small herd of deer to cross my path on the way to work earlier this week. 

If you didn't catch my introduction to this challenge earlier in the week, please read this post before proceeding.

To say this week's Zero Waste efforts did not go well would be an understatement. Even one of my concerted attempts to make life more zero waste resulted in more waste.

Let's start from where I left off:

Monday

I don't work on Mondays, so to some extent I could control my day - and the waste I produced - a little bit better. I made Risotto using arborio rice and mushrooms covered in plastic for lunch, and covered half of my remaining onion with plastic wrap (I know, I know. There's really no excuse for still using plastic wrap, but I always convince myself that it's better than all the water waste that would result from using a storage container. I don't think that's true, probably, but given this article, could it maybe be true?).

Later in the day, I went out to dinner with friends and used a paper napkin.

Today's Waste:
  1. Coffee Filter (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. Packaging on virtually all lunch recipe items
  3. Paper napkin
  4. 2-3 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Toilet Paper (but it was post-consumer recycled if that helps)

Tuesday

The dreaded grocery day, which puts a real strain on my efforts to go zero waste. 

But before we get there...I received my pour-over coffee maker with reusable filter Monday, so I was able to go filter-free Tuesday morning and my coffee tasted great, too (I bought this coffee maker if anyone's interested). Bad news is that I ate a granola bar for breakfast and it was covered in plastic. 

On Tuesdays, one of my sweet volunteers brings us bagels from the local bagel shop (shout out to Bodo's!) and my bagel was covered in wax paper. I threw it in the shop's single stream trash can, so who knows what will become of it. At work, I also tend to use a lot of paper towels to wipe off grubby donations and surfaces. 

Because we're lazy (and traffic in C-ville is insane during rush hour), Daniel and I decided to go to the closest grocery store instead of Whole Foods, so it was difficult to totally void packaging. I bought more mini potatoes covered in packaging, plus chopped carrots and a pre-made salad (I factored in a lot of details on the salad, including how much more packaging I would have created if I'd bought a full bottle of dressing and a full bag of cheese to go with my unpackaged romaine). I also got a package of Goldfish, which is technically paper with foil inside, so it might be recyclable. Will have to check before I toss it. 

I also sent a package in a plastic mailer, so there's that.

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar packaging
  2. Bagel Wrapper (?)
  3. Several Paper Towels (half sheets)
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Plastic wrapping on a myriad of produce items from grocery store
  7. Plastic mailer

Wednesday

Wednesday was super busy at work, so I can't remember much else. Oh! I made Red Beans and Rice with sausage for dinner, so that generated some waste. Fortunately, the can is recyclable and the brown rice I use comes in a cardboard container, but the sausage was wrapped in plastic and I covered the leftovers in plastic wrap (I know, I know).

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (used at work)
  3. Toilet Paper
  4. Cotton Ball
  5. Plastic covering Amy's Frozen Lunch
  6. Plastic packaging on Andouille sausage
  7. Plastic Wrap

Thursday

After I wrote my last post on this subject, I had the brilliant idea of purchasing reusable produce bags to make grocery shopping easier. They arrived in a large box surrounded by plastic bubble wrap (which is weird since they're made of mesh), which was sort of a *headdesk* moment for me. Had to throw the bubble wrap away, but at least I may start making progress at the grocery store.

I had leftover beans and rice for lunch, so no additional waste! I ate some tuna for dinner and the can was recyclable (as is the mayo container). 

Daniel and I headed to Trader Joe's for a couple of things and I bought a refrigerated cinnamon roll kit in one of those biscuit cartons that pops when you press on it. Theoretically, the whole thing should have been recyclable because it's cardboard, but there was a big piece of plastic packaging holding the small, plastic-sealed container of frosting inside the tube, so that's another headdesk for the day.

Also, got some packages in the mail. A couple were wrapped in plastic mailers.

Today's Waste:
  1. Banana Peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic from Cinnamon Rolls
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Floss
  7. Plastic mailers

Friday

Our lawn guy gave me free lunch in a styrofoam container (people give me a lot of food at the thrift shop; it's incredible). I made some potato soup for dinner and wrapped my leftover onion in plastic wrap. 

Today's Waste:
  1. Styrofoam Container
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic Wrap
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball

What I've Learned So Far:

Well, that's 32 trash bullet points listed for 5 days. I know I can easily get that number down if I just strategize a little better.
  • I'm not going to quit toilet paper anytime soon, but I think I'll try to seek out post-consumer recycled options for the long term.
  • Gotta find better cotton ball and paper towel options.
  • Do a better job of weighing convenience versus reducing waste for produce and other grocery items.

For what it's worth, my husband already thinks I'm a crunchy hippie and I've barely skimmed the surface of this whole zero waste thing. You have to start somewhere. 

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Check out the triumphs and struggles of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition on their blogs:



EWC Zero Waste Challenge: Introduction + Days 1-2

zero waste challenge with the ethical writers coalition
Graphic by Elizabeth Stilwell

After a lively conversation about how difficult it is to go zero waste without losing friends and being mean to service workers (this may be an exaggeration, but it's awfully hard to say no to paper and plastic items when you're not totally in control of your shopping and eating), me and a handful of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition decided to take on a 2 week long Zero Waste Challenge.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. Baseline is not sending anything to the landfill.
  2. As long as you can (responsibly) recycle it or compost it, it doesn't count as waste.
  3. You have to verify that the items you put in your recycling or compost bins are actually recyclable.
  4. You must document how much waste you produce and why, honestly.
  5. Waste produced on your behalf at restaurants and other public places counts as your waste, too.

For the first couple of days, instead of actively going zero waste, I decided to carefully monitor my normal habits at home. Since I'd already purchased food and kitchen implements that produce waste, I used what I had. For simplicity's sake, I'll just be listing the waste I produced.

Saturday

  • Coffee filter
  • Pre-packaged spinach bag
  • Plastic produce bag containing cucumber
  • Plastic wrap and styrofoam tray from mini red potatoes packaging
  • Cotton ball 
  • Toilet paper
  • 3 paper towels
  • Pre-packaged snack cake plastic
  • 3 pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil (recyclable, but I forgot to put them in recycling bin)
  • Onion skin (compostable, but I didn't compost it)

Sunday

  • Coffee filter
  • Pre-packaged lasagna with plastic wrap and soiled cardboard (not recyclable)
  • Banana peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  • Tea bag (compostable, but didn't compost it)
  • Napkins used at restaurant
  • Cotton ball
  • Toilet paper
  • 2 paper towels

What I learned so far:

The saddest thing on this list are the items I could have composted or recycled that I just didn't think about. My local farmer's market has a communal compost bin, but I'm afraid they'll be closing up for the fall pretty soon, so I'll need to examine better ways to compost (plus, I hardly ever make it to the farmer's market - Saturdays are for sleeping in!).

I should also note that I chose potatoes wrapped in plastic over the alternative because they were the only mini russet potatoes available and they looked fresher than the unpackaged, full sized variety. I really need to get myself some reusable produce bags, though (I'm going to do that today!).

I just ordered a pour-over coffee kit with a reusable filter with birthday money from my mother-in-law (thanks, Kathy!), so that will take care of my coffee filter usage longterm (I'm excited about finding daily rituals to force me out of bed when the mornings are dark, so I'm also thinking this pour-over switch will help with my mental health through the winter months).

I never use straws anymore, so I avoided that issue altogether when I ate out Sunday night.

Shopping List:

  • Reusable Cotton Balls (I have pads, but they don't absorb toner very well)
  • Reusable Produce Bags
  • Composting setup

I'll post again in a few days!


If you'd like to participate in this challenge with the Ethical Writers Coalition, just make sure to tag us (#ethicalwritersco and @ethicalwriters + #ewczerowastechallenge) on social media!


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See why I'm trying to go Zero Waste here.

the moral wardrobe: Liz Alig Ada skirt

liz alig review

Liz Alig has been on the ethical fashion scene for several years and had a wildly popular (well, wildly popular in my mind, at least) dress made out of flour sacks, which they still produce. This season's line offers lots of versatile options in recycled cotton sourced from old t-shirts. Liz Alig sent me the Ada skirt to review today.

Liz Alig products are designed in Indianapolis, Indiana (woot woot! I was born in nearby Anderson) with 100% recycled or organic fabrics and fair labor standards. They also incorporate traditional textile and weaving work done by artisans around the world. The Ada skirt was made in partnership with a fair trade organization in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Learn more about their mission here

liz alig ada skirt
liz alig
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Skirt - c/o Liz Alig; Necklace: handmade via (of)matter on etsy; Sandals - Sseko Designs

The coolest thing about this skirt is that all of the fabric is sourced from old t-shirts, but that also means that you can't select an exact color. I think I would have been happy with anything, but I can't resist heather gray, so I'm happy with the one I received.

I like the zig zag hem and the foldover top. It's a great skirt for weekend wear. I wore this outfit for a belated anniversary dinner at a new-ish Neapolitan pizza joint in town. I do want to mention, however, that though the skirt is advertised as a versatile dress/skirt combo, the seam edge is unfinished on the foldover portion that can be pulled up into a tube top, so it will be a bit obvious you're wearing a multi-use item. Also, an important note on fit: there is no elastic in the waistband and I had to pull this one over my head since it wouldn't go over my hips. This could pose a problem for people with different body proportions.

Check out Julia's behind-the-scenes post for more about Liz Alig. 
Follow Liz Alig on twitter, instagram, and facebook. Check out the Fall '15 line, too.

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Stay tuned for another product review and a giveaway coming later this week!

RIP beautiful overgrown backyard bush. My landlady had it cut down last week. :(

interview: Joy Martinello of Gaia Couture

sustainable fashion boutique

I'm so excited to introduce you to Joy Martinello, founder of Gaia Couture, a sustainable and ethical boutique for women. Joy has had a really interesting ethical journey and is chock full of information about the industry. 

The intersection of eco-friendly and fair trade isn't discussed enough - often they're two separate conversations - so it's rather timely that we're talking about it today with Earth Day and Fashion Revolution Day just a few days away. I hope you enjoy the interview and learn something new!


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First, tell me a bit about yourself.

I was born in outside Chicago, IL, moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida when I was 10 and grew up the rest of the way in the West Palm Beach area.
I have always been in love with clothing and costumes. I was a child actress and studied costume design in college at Tufts University in Boston which opened my mind to exploring both the creativity available to us in the world of fabrics and colors, as well sartorial philosophy and why people wear what they do. It was also in college that I became aware of the many degradations being visited upon our beautiful earth and upon workers via the garment industry. For many years it’s been a dream of mine to do something creative with my clothing skills that would help promote sustainable fashion...
I started Gaia Couture with the hope that we can keep growing and changing our inventory to reflect what women ages 25-60 are looking for in clothes that fit their lifestyle. We had our lovely [brick and mortar] shop for a year and a half and then it became clear that our online store was going to be the more sustainable version of our business so we closed the brick and mortar shop in January. My theory is if we can offer beautiful styles that become customer favorites and people turn more and more often to buying eco fashion, we can start to elevate the demand for organic clothing which will mean more sustainable bamboo forests and organic cotton fields, more factories where workers are treated fairly, and more opportunities to do business with integrity in a way that will create a more just and happy world for all.
As I’m working hard to get Gaia Couture off the ground (with some wonderful help from some amazing women), I also have a full time job in the adventure travel industry. I send people to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands among other places. For that job I went to Kenya in November and it was unbelievable. We in the US don’t really have a context other than Disney for what it’s like to be the wild habitat of these animals. Standing 10 feet from lions or elephants or looking out across the vast plains at Mt. Kilimanjaro put me in powerful connection with the Earth and its extraordinary beauty—just a few more reasons to fight for cleaner clothing manufacturing.

Was there a particular moment or experience that made you consider how your consumer habits affected people and planet? 

I had been sheltered as a child, raised by parents who didn’t believe in global warming and didn’t see any problems with the use of harsh chemicals in our world. It was when I went to college and lived in a cooperative house in my sophomore year that I was finally confronted the with consequences of our many damaging choices as a culture. I finally realized how polluted our planet had become and how many people were suffering unnecessarily all over the world. From that time on I vowed to do what I could to make positive change. Everyone needs food, shelter and clothing (and art!) and I vowed to contribute to these needs in ways that support healing and well being for the planet and everyone.

gaia couture eco-friendly

What about sourcing? Do you manufacture your own line or buy from small brands? How do you ensure that products were produced ethically and sustainably? 

Gaia Couture is a retailer that carries other people’s lines. We have made the pledge that our clothes are at least 90% organic, leaving space for things like Lycra or Spandex as people like their clothes to stretch (they wouldn't fit well or wear well if they didn't). We choose designers who are involved in every aspect of their production and who guarantee having followed strict Fair Trade guidelines. These people know where their cotton comes from, where their bamboo comes from and they inspect their production facilities regularly for any abuses. 
We do carry some fabrics that don’t fit into the “certified organic” category yet that are sustainably made using closed loop systems that do not release any toxins into the environment (or negligible amounts). Modal® made from beech trees, Tencel® made from birch trees, and bamboo are such fabrics. Chemicals are required to break down these tough fibers into fabric; however, the manufacturers we work with have data showing that their systems are closed loops and not polluting. 
I’ve recently added prAna’s hemp/organic cotton yoga wear to our site. Hemp is grown in China without pesticides yet it comes from many sources and probably some polluting happens at different farms, as it is unregulated. Beaver Theodosakis and his people at PrAna have assured me that they know where this hemp came from and it has not been grown with any pesticides. 
At some level, it becomes a matter of trust. I personally know all the designers I buy clothes from and I know them to be ethical people who want positive change as much as I do. Yes, we have to make a living so we all have to sell clothes, but at the end of the day it’s right livelihood that matters to these people, that matters to me. I’m committed to living a true life that’s grounded in loving kindness, this means being kind to the Earth, kind to all the people who make the clothes, kind to all people who buy the clothes, and being kind to myself too. Kindness is the only thing that really matters.

Do you find it difficult to source items that are both eco-friendly and labor-friendly? In what ways do you see the eco and fair trade movements working together? How could they communicate more effectively? 

Actually, if a garment is made from organic fabrics, it’s fairly common to find out that this designer also adheres to Fair Trade practices with their manufacturing. Most designers willing to limit their fabric choices and design more expensive clothes using organic fabrics, rather than making a quick buck with fast fashion and synthetics, are also going to go the extra mile and make sure their garments are ethically produced. 
The opposite is more common, where we run across lovely garments that are made using Fair Trade standards yet that are made from synthetics and commercially produced cotton etc. These people have good intentions probably yet are not willing to sacrifice the use of cheaper fabrics to protect the environment. Hopefully they will come around. 
The economics are still not with us unfortunately, which is why if you believe in protecting the environment it’s very important to tell your friends and family about the use of pesticides and about the gigantic piles of synthetic clothing taking centuries to biodegrade in landfills. More people buying organic will bring the prices down. It’s happened with organic food. Now it simply must happen with fabrics.

sustainable fashion boutique

What's your favorite item from the current collection? 

Right now my favorite piece is the Convertible Dress. It’s a great example of a super versatile clothing piece that can be worn two different ways (both sides can be worn as the front.) The designer, Blue Canoe, knows people are paying more for an organic dress. Not only does an organic dress have to look sexy and stylish, as it does, it also has to offer better value than a synthetic dress you’d wear a few times and throw away. The Convertible Dress is well made, super soft and flatters many body types.

What are your goals for Gaia Couture in the coming years? 

My dream is to have Gaia Couture become an online department store for gorgeous women’s clothes for every event in a woman’s life. I want Gaia to become a lifestyle brand that offers fashions, accessories, lingerie, jewelry, shoes, active wear, yoga clothes—everything a woman needs to look fabulous and have luscious life, all in one place. I want Gaia to sell enough clothes that we can make a powerful impact in how clothes are manufactured all over the world. I want to support and encourage young designers by showcasing their clothes to a loyal Gaia following. I’m a designer, too, and I’d like to have a Gaia line someday too. 
In short, I want to give traditional retailers a run for their money and gather enough support for organic clothing that finally making clothes any other way, and indeed living life in any other way, is shown for what it really is: irresponsible and completely unnecessary. 
People want to do good. People want to make choices that help others and protect our beautiful Earth. In this complex world they just don’t know how to follow through with those choices. With the emerging success and visibility of Gaia Couture, I’m hoping women everywhere will have an online place where choosing to do good suddenly gets a lot easier (and more fashionable.)


And finally, since Earth Day is this Wednesday, what's your favorite park or natural landmark? 

There’s nothing quite like an old growth forest, and when I think about my love for the Earth, I think about the countless hours I've spent sitting by Salmon River in the Mt. Hood National Forest here in Oregon marveling at the exquisite beauty and lushness. Nature is enormously healing for me. It breaks my heart to think these forests may all disappear. It’s happening in the rainforests in Brazil and Peru, why not here in this rainforest? People felt about those forests the way I feel about this one and now they’re irrevocably gone. It’s unbelievable. 
We’re all connected, and people felt fine about cutting down those forests because people like us in the US felt fine about buying the burgers that come from the cows now grazing that on that denuded land. Where will it end? When will we finally make better choices to protect our glorious planet? 
I think, if people have to shop, which they do as they have to buy clothes, hopefully shopping at Gaia Couture will help.
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Thanks for your time, Joy! Stay tuned for a review of some Gaia Couture items.