Category Archives: clothing

Green Festival DC – Sustainability Show Off

Washington, D.C. 2013 Event Guide
See sustainability in action at the Green Festival DC.

We’re excited to be attending the upcoming Green Festival DC, at the DC Convention Center this coming weekend. It’s the ninth iteration of the festival which we’ve attended the last few years. What is the Green Festival? It’s a place to see and learn about sustainability from economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives. Like we often say here, there are many aspects to living with a sustainability mindset rather than one of blind consumption.

There’s yummy organic food and interesting speakers including iconic Ralph Nader. And a Green Kids Zone as well as an eco-fashion show. So the festival has something for almost everyone, with a focus on sustainability. There’s also lots of food samples, free Ford electric-car rides, and hundreds of vendors. We know from experience that the festival is fun and informative!

This year, there is an expanded emphasis on food, and who doesn’t like food? Food highlights include:

  • Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch and author of the best-selling book Foodopoly, who will speak about food policy
  • DC-based FRESHFARM Markets (FRESHFARM Markets FoodPrints Program) who will present special sessions on “Eating Healthy On A Budget”
  • An Organic Food Court and a Sustainable Beer & Wine Garden
  • Workshops on raising backyard chickens, composting, growing herbs and other sustainability topics.

According to its organizers, Green America and Global Exchange, tickets are $10 for a one day pass and $20 for a full weekend pass when purchased online at www.greenfestivals.org, or $15 and $25 at the door. (All tickets provide access to exhibit floor, all workshops/yoga classes, speakers and films.) And there is FREE admission for anyone who rides a bike to the event and parks with the Clif Bar bike valet, youth under eighteen, union members, volunteers and Green America and Global Exchange members.

Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place N.W. Hall A, in Washington, DC. Hour are Saturday, September 21st 10am – 6pm and Sunday, September 22nd 11am – 5pm.

The Mindful Consumer will be there, tweeting from @mindfulconsumer. Let us know if you’re going and we’ll try to meet you. Of course watch Twitter and this blog for our perspectives and announcements from the festival.

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Green Living is for EVERY Body

I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. I recycle, garden, worked at a farm, and am an advocate for greener living; I’m also fat. There is a perception that the ecofriendly community looks a certain way, lives a certain life, votes a certain way, and fits into a neat category of people… except they don’t. Ecofriendly people are old and young, democrat or republican, all races, all socioeconomic levels, and all sizes. Some people are surprised when they meet me that I’d rather chomp on turnip than cheese hamburger, or that I am a strong worker who can be in the farm dirt all day long. I am an advocate for Health at Every Size (HAES) which supports actions to make bodies healthier rather than just focus on weight loss. Here’s a link for more information http://www.haescommunity.org/

 

We cannot judge how people live, or what choices they make just by looking at them, or assuming that if they fall into one category, they are automatically excluded from another. Oftentimes my body makes me an outsider to many traditionally ecofriendly avenues. When we go to Greenfest (or other conscious style shopping places) I know that there will probably be no clothing that fits me. Oftentimes various organizations that promote vegetarianism or veganism use weight as a way to persuade people into a vegetarian lifestyle; in fact many times a fat body is shamed to promote vegetarianism including this advertisement by PCRS which uses both sexism, ageism and body shaming to promote veganism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIzngoAUoNM&list=PL-s1fMMoG8xVt7vMKGzskiAiRBtQ-GSqp&index=1 In order for a greener movement to be possible, we cannot continue to exclude people based on things like looks. ALL people matter and ALL actions are important.

The truth is that any step a person makes, whether a person does meatless Mondays occasionally, uses reusable bags at the grocery store, carpools, recycles, buys used, or ANY activity to make less footprint is imperative to creating a sustainable community: we are all neighbors on Earth. There is no way to know a person’s choices just by looking at them. Instead of assuming a person lives a certain way based on how they look, or who they vote for, understand that people who make earth friendly choices may not just be your hippie aunt with dreadlocks drinking kombucha but maybe your republican boss, the bodybuilder at your gym, your shy neighbor, or your heavy writer at TheMindfulConsumer.com.

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Drying Clothes on a Clothesline

 

Hanging Clothes on the Line

My towels hanging on the line
My towels hanging on the line

About two months ago I decided to spring for a clothesline.I wondered why we continued to use the old dryer in our rental when it has been so hot in the summer heat outside it felt like stepping into a dryer. Surprisingly, at one of those big home improvement stores I was able to find an inexpensive umbrella-style clothesline that was easy to install along with extra clothes pins. My mother used to hang clothes out on the line when I was growing up, so a few tips somehow stayed with me all these years. I will share with you a few reasons why you should try it, and a few tips on successful line drying.

Why Hang Clothes on the Line?

1. Energy savings. The sun is free and the dryer is a hog. I’ve found that in the 1 ½- 2 hours it took our dryer to dry a big load of towels, a warm sunny day dried them in the same amount of time.

2. Easy. Is it really easy to hang things on the line? It is. Truly. I find it relaxing and it only takes a few minutes to hang an entire load. A few free minutes of outdoor time can be relaxing. The way they look as they blow on the line is beautiful. I like to sneak between the damp clothes for a moment and pretend I am in a fort where no energy bill can get me.

3. Revolutionary. Instead of buying the newest, energy star product (hey, I love energy star appliances) this technique is ancient, free, and makes a statement that you don’t need to rely on energy to do everything.

4. Smell. Clothes on the line smell amazing. The way they look as they blow in the wind, and the fresh, clean, beautiful feeling is unmatchable. I dried my bed sheets and quilt on the line today and can’t wait to get in to my fresh, nice bed.

 

Tips on Line Hanging Success

1. Pin the clothes, towels, etc. with a tiny about of overhang on the line so you don’t get clothespins marks.

2. Most items of clothing hang better “upside down”, like pants, (hang them by the ankles instead of the waistband) or shirts (so you don’t get weird little marks on your shoulders from where the clothespins were). If you decide to hang your undergarments on the line, you can hang them on the inside so the neighbors don’t see.

3. Check the weather forecast. Enough said.

4. Hang things with space between them for air, and hang all things without an overlap so they dry faster.

5.Some things get kinda “crunchy” on the line, like towels. I feel like they give me extra exfoliation after my shower, and are super absorbent. If you don’t want the extra texture, some vinegar in the rise cycle is said to help alleviate the crunch and won’t smell after the clothes are dry. I have found that if you watch them, and take them down as soon as they dry, the likelihood of crunch is lower. Also, on a breezy day there is less likely to be roughness.

6. Some of the best and easiest things to hang on the line are towels and sheets. Even reducing a few loads of laundry a month is still so significant.

7. Check your homeowner’s association about whether or not they allow clotheslines. Ours (I kid you not) allow us to hang on a clothesline every day but Sunday (no, this isn’t the town from Footloose or a strange Puritan recreation village; that’s just what it says.) If you don’t have a yard, there are lots of indoor ways to hang clothes, too. From indoor clotheslines to foldaway racks. The benefit of hanging clothes indoors in the winter is that is also boosts the humidity in the house when it can get so dry.

 

I have really enjoyed the Zen-like activity of hanging clothes on the line. I also enjoy finding an activity that can cut down on utility costs, connect me to the past, and also become a statement of how I choose to use my energy. Instead of shoveling my wash into the dryer, I spend a few minutes outside, more observant of my surroundings. It forces me to pay attention to the wind, the air, the weather, and it rewards me with fresh smelling laundry that was dried for free.

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HallowGreen

It’s a few weeks until that unique holiday that somehow relates warding off death with costumes and candy. A head-scratcher for sure, yet Halloween purportedly has its origins 2000 years ago in an ancient Celtic festival celebrated on the night of October 31. That night, Celtics wore costumes to ward off what they believed were ghosts returning from the dead. They also built large bonfires to offer sacrifices to the Celtic gods.

Now, largely secular, Halloween is a significant boo-ming business for costume and candy companies. According to a History.com article, in the U.S. people spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday. With all of this consumption, what about the affects on the environment?

Besides the obvious challenges of candy and its affects on health, candy presents challenges to consumers concerned with fair trade and sustainability. Chocolate is particularly troublesome, with ties to slave and child labor in the harvesting of cocoa. GoodGuide uses scientists and other experts to provide “the world’s largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of consumer products.” Its candy evaluations show you options that might be greener than your normal choices.

Costumes are sold in the large box stores as well as specialty retailers. There are of course even costumer-only stores open in the weeks preceding the holiday. Like wedding dresses, many of these costumers get worn once. Children “need” to be different characters each year or the costumer from last year just doesn’t fit. However, these store-bought costumers and masks can be spooky in other ways. The EcoWaste Coalition tested a variety of Halloween products and results showed high levels of heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury in some of the samples. Fortunately, one can make their own costume. There are many do-it-yourself costume ideas online. You could also arrange a costume swap with other parents to trade. Or find a swap event on the National Cotume Swap Day site. Consignment and thrift stores might be sources of costume parts. Some communities hold costume design contests with focus on using recycled and sustainable materials. Finally, don’t throw it away when there are people who want but can’t afford costumes for their children.

Pumpkins are great fun to carve and see lit up. Buy those grown at a local farm if you can, rather than those shipped from distant lands. Using beeswax candles is more environmentally friendly than using paraffin-based candles. You can use the innards of the pumpkin to eat – both the seeds and pulp can be tasty. When it’s all over, the shell can be composted rather than thrown in the garbage; some communities even offer pumpkin recycling. So don’t just throw it away – there are many things you can do instead.

So while it can be intimidating to get ready for Halloween, don’t be scared about trying to be green on this black holiday.

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Eco-Friendly Flip Flops Bring Soul to Shoe Industry

Ethical Steps Towards a Better Lifestyle

I love flip flops, I admit it. Raised in Southern California, the progress of summer can be measured in the Y-shaped flip flop tan on the top of my foot. I stumbled upon Kyle Berner’s inspiring story of a trip to Thailand after graduate school that ended up sparking an interesting eco-friendly flip flop company

http://www.feelgoodz.com/

The basic low down on these flip flops is that they are made from natural rubber, biodegradable (the website claims that they take 4 to 5 years to biodegrade and can be chopped up and thrown in worm compost heaps, buried in the garden or used as a doorstop) a much faster time of biodegradability (see: NEVER) than the styrofoam flops sold in the store. I decided to interview Kyle and this is what I found out when I asked him why his company is different from others.

The key to our consciousness lies in the Materials Economy: Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, Disposal. We look at each and every step, diagnose/analyze, then ask ourselves “How can we do this in the most responsible way possible?” For example, on the extraction side: Our rubber is extracted from rubber trees by rubber tappers in Southern Thailand. We look to see how much these tappers are paid, what their living conditions are like, whether they have access to health insurance, etc. Turns out, there is currently no fair trade certification for natural rubber. So, in partnership with Trans Fair USA, we are going to pioneer it.”

When asked about the future of the company, he hopes to expand to a conscious line of products that embodies the company’s motto of, “Natural, Comfortable, Ethical”. Lastly Kyle says, “We want our readers to know that it’s fairly easy to take responsible steps with small actions. Whether it’s buying our flip-flops or even simply recycling at their homes, we support the conscious lifestyle.” Here at the Mindful Consumer, we couldn’t agree more. Ron and I haven’t ordered our flip flops yet, so we cannot yet attest to their comfort, but we look forward to it, and when it comes to mindful consumption we always enjoy when companies choose to put their best foot forward.

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Organic Cotton

What is organic cotton? What is the benefit of something being organic if I’m not going to eat it?  According to the Organic Trade Association conventionally grown cotton uses 25% of the insecticides and 10% of the pesticides used in the world. Not only does organic cotton need to be grown without genetically modified seeds, and without pesticides, but with an articulate knowledge to effectively weed and fertilize without chemicals. Although consumer interest for organic cotton increases 50% each year and producers cannot keep up with demand, not every farmer is choosing an organic route.  According to the International Trade Commission, many farmers cannot front the costs of changing their farms to organic cotton, which takes three years, plus costly certification and inspection. The crops are more labor intensive and are marketed to a smaller group than conventional cotton.

Although organic cotton production is on the rise, it is up to us, as mindful consumers to use the knowledge of organic cotton’s great benefit, and purchase when possible. If consumers consistently purchase organic cotton, the demand will continue to increase and we will be showing with our soft, luxurious organic cotton sheets (or shirts, or diapers, or stationary, or cotton balls) that we are sparing the environment millions of tons of pesticide that will inevitably get in our water, our land, and effect the local wildlife, not to mention the workers who spend hours in close proximity.

I am reminded of some of the first Mindful Consumers; the patriots in the Revolutionary War. They were protesting British goods by spinning and weaving their own cloth instead of purchasing it from England as they had done before. Although not as beautiful or intricate as English cloth, when the Americans wore their “home-spun” clothing they were making a bold statement about how they felt, and where their loyalties stood. Now, we do not have to sacrifice quality to wear our loyalties on our sleeves (pun intended). What you wear makes a statement about who you are, and tonight I will sleep a little bit better on my organic sheets.

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