Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Green and Marvelous Darling, Simply Marvelous!

This past Saturday, Kate Holloway of Carbon Zero invited me to attend Fashion Takes Action’s The Green Gala: Midnight In The Garden, held at Toronto’s Distillery District. It was an evening of eco-runway fashion and carbon-low wine and cocktails – not to mention good old fashion schmoozing.

Fashion Takes Action, the brainchild of Kelly Drennan - a fashion and lifestyle publicist, advances a movement in the fashion industry to lighten the carbon load while looking simply marvelous, darling! Indeed the entire gala was planned to be as carbon light as possible – from the printing and energy-use to the décor and bevies.

In addition to the gala, this not-for-profit organization produced the Sustainable Style Show earlier that day, which featured a group of eco-friendly fashion and beauty vendors selling products and holiday gift ideas to eco savvy buyers.

Prior to the event, Kate Holloway and I pointed out to one other the eco-friendly qualities of our gala outfits. While I showed off my Canadian designed and made slacks and dress jacket, Kate received gold stars for her lovely bought-used-at-Kensington-market coat. Nothing says eco-chic like savvy reused.

Greening your Wardrobe
Whether couture is your bag or not, what’s in the bag when it comes to the planet concerns us all. The following is a guide to greening your wardrobe.

Locally Designed and Made.
Buying local makes a triple-whammy difference on the sustainable-friendly front: you reduce carbon miles, avoid sweatshops and support your local economy.

What’s the Big Deal?
Human Toil - Visit any retail clothing chain and check the Made-In tags. China, Malaysian and Indonesia are some of the countries bound to come up. What are the working conditions of those who created the garments in these countries? How can you know for sure? Chances are that women, even children, are forced to work long hours in uncomfortable environments to create the clothing that most of us wear. To find out more, visit Clean Clothes Campaign, which advocates for improved working conditions for garment makers. Traidcraft, which is all about Fair Trade, is another avenue for information and purchases. However, this leads us to the problem of….

Clothing Miles - Coupled with the human rights issue, how many miles do our garments travel to get to us? How much waste is produced in the process?

In an effort to reduce its footprint, Patagonia, the US-based outdoor and active gear company, has created a fascinating site entitled the Footprint Chronicles that tracks its garments’ travels, carbon miles, waste and energy use. For example, the footprint of one organic t-shirt (traveling from Turkey to California) is:

Distance - 12,617 km
CO2 – 1.6 kg
Waste – 170 grams
Energy – 4.7 kWh

Local Options
Due to globalization, finding clothing made in your country is challenging to say the least since clothing makers are drawn to cheap labour. In several cities, however, independent designers, whose pieces are made locally, have mobilized to bring their wares to you.

The Clothing Show – This biannual event brings Ontario designers to one location. It’s a great introduction to who’s out there and who you like.

Fashion Takes Action – Keep an eye out for more events from this new organization that features Toronto eco-designers.

Shop Cocoon – This retail space in Vancouver showcases local designers, providing them with much needed exposure.

Mudshark Streetwear – Online eco-clothing site that supports Canadian-designed and eco-friendly threads.

Eco friendly materials
Of course eco-friendly duds mean eco-friendly threads. Or in English, what’s in the materials? For a quick overview of nasty fabrics visit GreenChoices’ Environmental Impacts of Clothing.

Happily, bamboo, soy, linen, hemp and organic cotton are making their eco-friendly presence felt in some quarters. Companies like Cotton Ginny and American Apparel have undertaken to fold in sustainable fibers in their array of products.

GreenChoices offers a lowdown on sustainable fabrics. And for organic cotton near you, visit the Directory for Organic Cotton

Recycled clothing revamped.
Buy used – It seriously does not get any greener than buying used. Good Will, Value Village and vintage stores happily recycle our clothing, from receiving items we’ve grown tired of to selling them in the community.

Clothing Swap Party – If you have trouble buying clothes previously worn by strangers, why not organize a clothing swap party? Invite your friends to bring clothes they don’t wear anymore, arrange the articles in a room and collectively have at it. Kate Holloway regaled me with the many advantages to this arrangement. You know that what you’re trying on is a keeper when your friends vigorously nod their heads and beam. Isn’t this better than a retail clerk on commission claiming it looks great on you?

Revamped – Some savvy designers, such as Toronto-based Precocious, create from used sweaters and shirts. I myself sport one of her creations. Not only do I support recycled wares, but a local designer to boot.

In the News

The Climate for Change, by Al Gore

The Gospel of Green on The Fifth Estate
On tonight. Catch it on the CBC if you can.

Greenhouse takes heat, reuses it

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