September 18th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I posted 3 Reasons to Upcycle, which, if you haven't yet, you can read here. Today, I bring you 3 More Reasons to Upcycle.

Disclaimer: These reasons are not as lighthearted and uplifting, but they're just as important, if not more so. Please be warned that you may find some of the images to be disturbing.

1) Your recycling doesn't always get recycled

This one tends to catch people by surprise. We operate in such an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality when it comes to post-consumer waste, that we don't think about where our things go once they've been thrown out. What happens to that milk carton once it's hauled away by the recyclers? Is this plastic bottle going to be used to create a new bottle or end up in the ocean? Our relationship with China, where most of our recycling goes, only adds to the uncertainty.

Last year, China implemented Operation Green Fence to help tackle the contamination coming from US recycling. We were sending bales of recyclables mixed with garbage and hazardous waste, including used syringes (yikes). In order to protect their workers and curb pollution, China turned away recycling shipments that had a 1.5% or more contamination rate. This effectively meant that China wasn't accepting any bales from the United States, where Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) operate with a 10% threshold for contamination.

Storing the bales was one of the least cost-effective solutions, so waste corporations began looking at other options. And most of these options included finding another developing country to take our waste, regardless of the state of their waste and recycling infrastructure. So, who knows if our recyclables are actually being recycled?

While Operation Green Fence has officially ended, the recycling industry is forever changed by it--China's standards are still more stringent than before and the United States now realizes that our own waste infrastructure needs improvement.

Purchasing better sorting machines for the MRFs and hiring more manpower is expensive and not an immediate answer. The cheapest and easiest solution truly starts with the average citizen. First, if you don't need it, don't buy it (reduce!). Second, if you have it, use it again (reuse!). Using something again saves both energy and money, which is why we're such fans of upcycling. And if you need to throw something away, be sure to sort and separate your recyclables from your landfill waste. Please and thank you.

2) Lowering your landfill footprint

Here's a statistic for you: The average person contributes 1.5 tons of waste to landfills each year--that is the same weight as the heaviest of our even-toed ungulates (AKA the hippopotamus--hopefully this comes in handy the next time you go to pub trivia). Over your lifetime, you're essentially leaving a landfill footprint of about 100 tons, the same weight as a blue whale. There are over 7 billion of us living on this blue green planet, and that's a lot of garbage we're piling on top of it.

garbage-island-japan-tsunami

(An actual 100 ton garbage island. This is not the kind of mark I want to leave on the world.)

3) Lowering your overall footprint

But a lot of your garbage isn't making it to the landfill or the recycling plant--a lot of it is clogging up our oceans and waterways and contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And when they mistake plastic bits for food, our birds and marine life suffer.

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According to the EPA, our landfills in the United States are the 4th largest producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's contributing to climate change. So, not only does our garbage impact localized natural habitats, it's affecting everything on our planet, pole to pole.

When you combine this with the energy and natural resources saved by not producing brand new goods--like coal-sourced electricity, trees, fossil fuels, and metals extracted from the earth--by upcycling and reusing what you have, you're really doing the planet, and everyone who lives on it, a solid.

Patty

 

September 11th, 2014

Earlier, I posted a few upcycling projects from Pinterest that were both relatively easy and practical. This week, we're going to step it up and focus less on the practical and more on the artful. The colorful and astounding art featured below were all made using textiles and thread.

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Textile Moths and Butterflies by Yumi Okita (via Colossal)

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Gabriel Dawe (via Triangulation)

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Embroidered Landscapes by Teresa Barboza (via Colossal)

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Handwoven and dyed designs by Ptolemy Mann (via Ptolemy Mann)

We hope to see you at our Chop Challenge in Seattle, September 21 from 6-8pm!

Patty

 

September 4th, 2014

I'm bringing you a new feature to the blog, highlighting inspiring women who aim to make the fashion industry more sustainable. Welcome to the Women in Sustainable Fashion series!

Headshot-Shannon-Whitehead

First up is Shannon Whitehead. Shannon is the founder of Factory45, an accelerator program that gives designers and makers the resources to start sustainable businesses in the USA. Shannon got her start in 2010 when she co-founded {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists that was featured in The New York Times, Forbes.com, TheWallStreetJournal.com and Yahoo! News. Shannon has appeared as a speaker at the World Education Congress, ECO Fashion Week, SXSW, and as a guest lecturer at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

 

1. Tell us about Factory45. How does it embody what sustainable fashion means to you?

Factory45 is a Made in the USA accelerator program for designers and makers. Through six months and three modules, the program takes aspiring entrepreneurs through the process of setting up a supply chain, creating their brand presence and sales strategy, and then going to market. Factory45 provides the business tools and resources that aren’t taught in fashion school.

Having started my own sustainable apparel brand in 2010, I experienced first-hand how difficult it is for new designers to create ethical supply chains. The domestic manufacturing industry is hard to get into, so as I transitioned into my next phase of entrepreneurship, I realized I wanted to be a resource for others. My goal is to show people that you don’t have to offshore to questionable factories overseas. It’s possible to do good, transparent business right here at home.

2. How did you get involved in sustainable fashion? Where does your passion for it come from?

The big decisions in my life have all been a byproduct of travel. After college, I spent two years traveling around the world, meeting new people and gaining new experiences that completely changed my worldview. As I became more aware of how my personal choices affect the rest of the planet, a ripple effect started.

Originally, I only knew that I wanted the freedom to work for myself. As I began to explore what that looked like, a friend and I travelled to Central America and started researching the process of making clothing. We eventually launched {r}evolution apparel with the goal of moving the fashion industry in a more ethical and transparent direction.

Until then, I had never been that interested in fashion. My passion for sustainability and environmental awareness came to the forefront first. Seven years later, I can now say that my involvement in the sustainable fashion industry is what I feel called to do.

3. What do you feel is your impact on the industry?

Time will tell. For now, Factory45 is my personal way of combatting fast fashion. I truly believe that the local, independent designer has a place in this industry and can compete above and beyond the cheap and disposable goods churned out by big fast fashion brands.

If I can help small companies launch and succeed, then I believe fewer people will be shopping at stores like H&M and Forever21. Ultimately, I want to support small and local designers and show consumers that they are worth supporting.

4. What do you see as the future of clothing? How are we going to get there?

Storytelling. I think consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the story behind the clothes they wear. If we can start to engage shoppers with the deeper meaning behind their purchasing power, then I believe we’ll continue to see a change. We have to get to a point where clothing is no longer something that’s disposable and instead, is something we feel connected to.

5. Name 3 things the average person can do to lower their footprint as it relates to their clothes.

1) Buy less.

2) Buy used.

3) Buy from transparent companies.

6. What advice do you have for your fellow women trailblazers?

Don’t give into the doubts and fears. Push through the uncertainty. If we don’t change things -- who will?

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If you haven't yet, I highly recommend to everybody that they check out Shannon's well-written and compelling blog, especially the entries on the truth behind fast fashion and the 6 things you should know about your clothes.

Thank you, Shannon!

Patty

 

August 28th, 2014

(Photo: A rainbow chandelier made of old bottles!)

I've been writing about upcycling a LOT lately, but I haven't really gone into why everyone at GREEN EILEEN is so into it. So, here it is--three great reasons to upcycle. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for 3 more reasons to upcycle.

1) Creativity...

But not just creativity. The process of upcycling stretches your imagination with possibilities and potential, of course--but it also exercises the analytical side of your brain. You can see in your mind's eye that that old dusty wood pallet would make a great and needed bed for your dog (so creative of you!). How can you best utilize the pallets angles? What adjustments do you need to make to accommodate your dog's weight and size? Where will you need to reinforce with bolts and screws? Upcycling is such a great exercise in coming up with a new life for your things, but it's also an excellent practice in developing the engineering part of your brain.

dog pallet bed

2) Saves money!

Reusing an item instead of buying new almost always saves you money.

Let's do a little case study here. Say you'd like a new table where you can do all this crafting and upcycling. A quick search on Craigslist shows a couple of these tables for $20. On the IKEA website, you can purchase this table for $34, not including tax (and delivery fee should you go that route). This may only be a $14+ difference, but the impact on your wallet only gets bigger as you search for nicer, sturdier pieces.

3) Adds character

No one else is going to have the same thing you have when you upcycle and make things yourself. The look of your piece is going to be completely original.

Case in point:

178644281Patty

 

August 21st, 2014

Although our Chop Challenge is a month away, I wanted to provide some inspiration to our artists and crafters and you! You might not be able to participate in our event, but there are still many upcycling projects you can do--Pinterest is full of them. So, don't throw away that old t-shirt yet, try making one of these instead.

rosebathmat

Rose Bathmat

mensshirtskirt

Men's Shirt Skirt

placemats

Woven Placemats

babytoy

Baby toys

braidedrug

Braided Rug

Show us your upcycling projects by using #everydayupcycle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

Patty

 

July 24th, 2014

(Do not stick a child in a book, because that is not what I meant with this headline. I'm just really bad at writing headlines.)

GREEN EILEEN Seattle held a bookmark workshop for kids last week and the results were so imaginative! They took damaged fabric from used EILEEN FISHER clothing to create sharks, aliens, and other characters.

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1-Recently UpdatedFor information on upcoming workshops in Seattle and NY, check out the schedule here.

Patty

 

July 17th, 2014

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, we are huge proponents of upcycling--reusing materials and giving them new life not only lessens our footprint, it allows us to exercise our entrepreneurial and creative muscles. So whenever I come across new companies popping up with quality upcycling at the center of their business model, I get really excited. Here are a few (led by women, no less!) that I’ve been raving about lately:

Raven + Lily

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Raven + Lily is a women’s fashion company which employs underprivileged women in places like India and Ethiopia, many of whom have been affected by HIV. The goods they make are lovely--I’m a huge fan of the giraffe tank and the Tiffany Kunz fringe necklace made out of spent bullet casings. (Can we just talk about the poetry behind taking something that signifies death and destruction, and transforming it into a life-giving piece of art that gives women a way to support themselves and their families? So. Awesome.)

Sword & Plough

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The About page for Sword & Plough really says it best: “[Growing up in a military family,] The Nunez sisters wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face, and the power that every person has to help.” In addition to being gorgeous and utilitarian, the Sword & Plough bags are made 100% in the US by veteran service men and women. Social missions, they’re always in style.

TRMTAB

trimtab

One of the founders of TRMTAB grew up in her parents’ leather factory in India and wanted to do something about the leather scraps that are normally thrown away during production. The result is nothing short of luxurious--TRMTAB crafts the leather scraps into cozy sleeves of rich brown tones to protect your iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Kindles. If you were able to help fund this company on Kickstarter, color me jealous because the sleeves are limited edition and I totally missed out on getting a chevron-patterned case (so dreamy!). I can’t wait to see where this company goes and what they’ll do next.

Do you know of other businesses focused on upcycling? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

Patty

 

 

July 17th, 2014

It's summer in Seattle, which means GREEN EILEEN is gearing up for our second annual Chop Challenge! Don't know what the Chop Challenge is? Well, that's what I'm here for.

The Chop Challenge is an opportunity for artists, designers, and craft hobbyists to upcycle EILEEN FISHER clothing into functional items or works of art. The pieces are then auctioned off with proceeds going to support a community arts non-profit. This year, our non-profit partner is Arts Corps, an organization bringing hands-on arts education to children in low-income communities.

The auction is being held on September 21, 6-8pm at our Seattle location, and we would love for you to participate! If you'd like to create an upcycled piece or two, go here to register. Otherwise, show your support for the local arts by joining us at our auction on September 21st.

We also have this super slick video of last year's Chop Challenge, if you're curious about how the whole thing goes down.

And now I'm going to hand it off--if you have questions, please email Marnye - mwoodrum@greeneileen.org

Patty

 

July 10th, 2014

Just how I became interested in waste prevention is hard to pinpoint--it could be from my mom, who to this day still washes and reuses every resealable plastic bag in my parents’ house. I’d also be lying if I didn’t give a special early 90s shout-out to The Earth Day Special (available on VHS, you guys!). Regardless, I felt so strongly about the subject of waste that I went to grad school for it, which is where I came across this amazing video (it’s 20 minutes long, but every second is well worth it).

The Story of Stuff is the journey of how we came to accumulate so much… stuff! Our buying habits have changed drastically since World War II, to the extent that American houses have gotten twice as big to handle all the stuff we buy. And in the end, the more stuff we buy, the more stuff we throw out that ends up in landfills (not to mention all the other effects of our linear system of buying, as is so clearly explained in the video). So! In conclusion, for the sake of our communities, our environment, and our health, buy less and reuse reuse reuse!

Patty

 

June 26th, 2014

Seattle Central College’s School of Fashion Design and Development held their Project Repurpose fashion show on June 2nd. Each design was upcycled from damaged EILEEN FISHER clothing, sourced directly from the GREEN EILEEN Recycling Center. The focus for the students was on construction and functionality.

By tasking young designers with the challenge of designing into post consumer textile waste, we inspire the next generation of fashion influencers to think differently about the materials in the world around us. Thank you to Seattle Central for introducing this revolutionary way of thinking into your curriculum!

Collages

Some of these looks will be displayed in the GREEN EILEEN Seattle store in July, so if you’re in the neighborhood, come on in and take a look!

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