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Green Up Your Garments

Lisa Curwen

Eco-Fashionista

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Curwen, a fashion industry veteran and founder of Lisa Curwen Studio.  She got her Master’s degree studying, researching, and publishing on the subject of sustainable practices for the fashion and textile industry. She is a former treasurer of Fashion Group International (FGI.org) and has taught an Eco Fashion course as an adjunct faculty member of the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design (RMCAD). She really knows her fabrics.  Read on!

Interview with Lisa Curwen:

S3:  What do you focus on mostly in your studio?

LISA:  Recently, I have been designing tablecloths and tea towels for a company called Amelie Michel.  The company is located in Connecticut, but will be having a pop-up sale in Denver at Wash Park Studio. Thursday Sept. 13th through Wednesday September 19th, 10am-5pm every day.

I have also designed home furnishings textiles, many of which are sold in showrooms in the Denver Design Center and at Calico Home. In addition, I re-upholster furniture as a hobby.

 

S3:  What do you see as the more sustainable aspects of the fashion industry?

LISA:   Sustainble practices must include the social (fair labor practices), the environmental (non-toxic techonology and organic farming), and the economic aspects (being able to make a profit). All three have to be present to have a viable model. Historically, it used to be much harder for companies to be profitable while implementing sustainable practices in both the labor market and environmentally friendly textile manufacturing; but it is more accepted now, and almost required, for companies to operate in a socially responsible manner.

 

S3:  What are some ways the fashion industry practices sustainability?

LISA:  Reduce the amount of packaging, reduce transportation (energy usage) in the supply chain by using smaller and more local supply chains, reduce water usage and pesticides for farming, make sure effluents from textile manufacturing don’t go into water supplies,  create prodcuts that use closed loop lifecycles.

 

S3:  What is the best way for fashion consumers to support eco-fashion?

LISA:  First and foremost, do research on companies.  Find the ones that are more socially responsible and support them. 

Consume less! Launder clothing in cold water and hang or dry flat to reduce energy usage. The biggest load on the environment comes at the consumer level in the care of clothing.  Buy organic cotton products.  Avoid textiles that use a lot of chemicals in their manufacturing such as rayon and leather products, however Tencel (trademark symbol) is an environmentally friendly brand of rayon. Resell, recycle, or repurpose your garments. Buy wool, alpaca or PLA (a naturally derived polyester).

 

S3:  What other choices can fashion consumers make to live more sustainably?

LISA:  Buy fewer new clothes and ones that have longevity.  Frequent thrift stores and consignment stores.

Beware of “green washing”! 

Research companies for authentic certifications – Listen to/watch the news and watch for business practices.

Put pressure on companies to be more ecologically/sustainability focused.

Support initiatives that are more sustainability focused.

 

S3:  Do you think “slow fashion” hurts fashion trends?

LISA:   Slow fashion is just a different way to approach fashion.  For instance, it might mean buying more classic styling that can be worn for a longer time.  One could always accessorize with updated fashion items, but keep the bulk of their wardrobe changing less frequently.

 

S3:  What do you see as the number one choice people can make towards living more sustainably?

LISA:

#1:  Reduce energy usage (Consume less, drive less, recycle, reduce at home, change diet, invest in LED light bulbs, change climate controls to be more eco-friendly, turn off lights, etc.)

#2:  Compost (Divert from the landfill)

#3:  Buy less (See above tips)

 

S3:  Which companies would you suggest people who are passionate about slowing the effects of climate change invest in?

LISA:  Socially conscious companies.  Invest from the heart.  Vote with your wallet.

Having said all that, it is super challenging to be a purist.  Taking steps to be more green with your garments is a start.

Here are some tips to “green up” your garments:

  • Go to or host clothing swaps (have a party with friends and swap outfits)
  • Fix it when it’s broken (sew back on buttons, darn socks, repair zippers, tears, etc.)
  • Give clothing to charities when you’ve out grown them. Even clothes that can no longer be worn are useful for certain charities like The Little Red School House which turns fabrics into rags for shops and cleaning companies.  (Second hand clothing is sent to other countries like Kenya)

 

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Zero Market

I live in Denver, Colorado and there is a fantastic new store called “Zero Market” here.  It’s located in a re-purposed airport building near where I live.  They have lotions, laundry soap, shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, tea, essential oils, cleaners, and so much more that people can buy using their own containers.

You can also buy reusable containers here.  They have stainless steel containers and reusable cutlery for waste-free lunches.  For your plastic-bag-free shopping, they have mesh and cotton produce bags.  They have reusable straws, coffee cups, drink bottles, shopping bags, bamboo toothbrushes and much more.

If you’ve taken on the #SustainableThree #WasteNotWantNot2018 DAY 10 challenge of trying buying in bulk using TARE weighted containers, you know it’s a learning process.  Sometimes the learning process is occurring for the cashier at the supermarket who is not used to dealing with TARE/bulk weighing process and ringing up of net weight products. 

Sometimes the learning is for us who have grown up throwing away or recycling packaging for items like cereal, flour, rice, coffee, tea, laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste and such.  Knowing that everything goes somewhere and all that packaging either ends up in a landfill or using more fossil fuel energy to be recycled, it can feel really good to shop in bulk.

Zero Market is a store where they’ve fully embraced shopping in bulk and are passionate about reducing packaging.  It’s truly a treat to shop here.

 

Owned by Lyndsey and Jesse Manderson, this store is a pleasure to explore.  Their passion for the planet radiates from the shelves…and their smiling faces.

An ideal field trip might be to put several Mason jars (Mason jars have a standard weight, so no need to pre-weigh and label before going to the store) into a reusable bag in a backpack or bicycle basket and go Zero Market shopping.  On a beautiful day, it would mean fresh air, sunshine, exercise and a conscience cleansing shopping trip.  You could have a coffee at the nearby Logan House cafe while there.  Then, cycle home and put away your items.

I’ve included some photos for inspiration.

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Leave Your Leaves

Leaf Recycling Made Easy

Leaves are falling like crazy where we are right now.  It’s Autumn…when the trees have absorbed all the nutrients they need and take that inside to prepare for winter.  When the leaves’ job is finished, they naturally fall to the ground.

Don’t burn those leaves!  Burning leaves contributed to air pollution.  Instead, rake them up and put them in bags in your garage or the back of your yard or garden.  When you start your compost pile in the spring, you can use those leaves to get it started and continue to “feed” your compost throughout the winter and into next summer.

Fallen leaves carry 50-80% of the nutrients a tree extracts from the soil and air.  These nutrients include carbon, potassium and phosphorous.  So another great option is to mulch them into your lawn in the fall.  They will do their work over winter and help your grass health.

Mulching your leaves and spreading them over your garden limits weed growth and adds organic matter and protects the soil.  It’s like a blanket for your garden to keep it warm through the winter!

Another option is to using city-wide leaf recycling or composting programs.

One example is Denver, CO’s Leaf Drop Program:

Denver Leaf Drop

Try this link as a launching point and keep those leaves out of the landfill:

Google It!

Here is another read about leaf recycling:

5 DIY fall landscape tips that will save you money

BONUS!

Don’t know what to do with your Halloween pumpkins?

You can cut them up and add them to your compost.

You can peel them, cut them up and freeze them for later. Or, roast them and puree them for soups or pies.

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Cycle Up Your CDs

What to Do with Your Old CDs and DVDs

Most people these days use iTunes, Pandora, Spotify or the like to get their music.  But, what if you used to be a big CD collector?  Ever subscribe to that BMG Music Club?  If you’re like many people, most of your CDs are collecting dust somewhere in your home.  But, they don’t exactly bio-degrade, so what should you do?

Here is the SustainableThree.com guide to finding uses for your old CDs and DVDs:

1.  If they are playable, consider selling them and get paid! If you have the original case and insert, they are worth cash!  You can sell them at retailers like:

Stores like Twist and Shout will buy your CDs, DVDs and Games

Deluttr has a web site and an app. Using the app, you can scan the bar code on your CD case and easily enter your CDs into their system for payment.  You get about $0.40 per CD, but if you have a large enough quantity, you could get paid a decent amount for decluttering!

Game Stop will accept old video games

You could try to sell them on eBay or Craigslist or NextDoor and get ca$h.

2.  If your CDs or DVDs have passed their playing lifespan (too scratched or smudged to play), there are literally endless ways to re-use them:

  • Even if you don’t think you are crafty or creative, there are limitless creative possibilities on the web. Check out some of these links for ideas:

CD UpCycling

Google Images for CD Recycling

Pinterest for CD Recycling

Tumblr for CD Recycling

  • Personally, I use the CDs as labels for my crops in my garden. This has two benefits.  It creates an interesting way to label plants AND it scares birds away so you can enjoy more of your bounty!

Write the name of the plant you are growing with a permanent marker on the back side (the shiny one) of the CD

Attach the CD to a stick using a screw or glue or zip strip or twist tie.

Put the stick in the ground in the row where your plant is growing.

  • Places like R.A.F.T. (Resource Area for Teachers) will use your old CDs in craft projects for teachers, schools and participants in their programs. You can donate all sorts of items to them and even get a donation receipt.

3.  The last resort is recycling. Because CD plastic is a #7 type, it is not usually accepted in your local curbside recycling program.  Here are some other options:

Earth911.com has a recycling locator for all sorts of items as well as great advice on what to do with CDs (& their cases)

You can also try CD Recycling Center of America

Or try Recycle Now

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