Sustainability in Action: Post-Holiday Clothing Swap

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The Sustainable Fashion Collaborative (SFC) put on their second event this past Sunday, a clothing swap held at Bella Luna in Jamaica Plain, a restaurant that prides itself on supporting local non-profits.  During Boston Fashion Week 2013, the SFC exhibited sustainably-made fashions in a show that also included works highlighting issues in the garment industry.  For the Post-Holiday Clothing Swap, attendees were instructed to bring 5-10 pieces of unwanted clothing or accessories that were still “quality”. In exchange, participants received tokens for the number of items accepted for the swap to trade in for selections brought by others and free pizza!

I decided to bring mostly clothing and accessories that I have bought over the years but never wore, most still with tags.  The event workers collected all the items first to display “boutique style” on racks organized by type.  Anything rejected was donated to Rosie’s Closet (like one of my BNWT J. Crew skirts. Go figure!)  While the clothing was being arranged, swappers waited at the bar where lucky for me they had Downeast Cider on tap!

When it came time to start swapping, it became clear to me that I did not share the same definition of “quality” as my fellow swappers and those deciding what to accept or reject clearly dropped their standards at some point as they went through items.  Many things could be described as wacky, ugly, pilled, ripped or just plain worn out.  Most of it was just boring.  I had 8 tokens but really strained my taste to find even 2 to bring home.

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As events go, I would say this was a good idea with room to improve execution.  The organizers probably need to find a way to have the clothing dropped off earlier so they have time to really sort through it.

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My Holiday Haul

I have always thought holiday shopping is a great metaphor for all that is unsustainable about our culture.  Shopping, much of it manic and mindless, for large quantities of cheap goods that turn out to be of questionable value and you can never be sure they are actually wanted.  University of Minnesota economist Joel Waldfogel coined the phrase “deadweight of Christmas” with research that essentially indicates whatever you buy as a gift for another person during the holiday season will turn out to have less to no value for the recipient.  While I have no issue with holiday gift-giving I do think it should evolve into something less wasteful.  So I do apply certain principles when choosing gifts for others – sustainably produced, environmentally friendly, etc. – however I don’t have much control over what they buy for me.  This is not the most comfortable of topics to bring up with people.  There is no polite way to say “please don’t buy me anything made in a Bangladeshi death trap factory.”  I started by dropping hints that I preferred edible and drinkable gifts and that went surprisingly well.  I have even noticed that people find it easier to buy chocolates or a bottle of wine.  As I have babbled about my concerns on consumer goods over time, it seems my friends and family have responded.  Among the items I received this year were:

Señorío de Vizcántar organic olive oil from Cordoba, Spain
Taza Chocolate, organic and sustainably produced from the cacao growers to the factory in Somerville
Lodge Cast Iron Fry Pan, made in the USA from a 100-year old company
Reusable Produce bags from Crate and Barrel

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Festive (But Office Appropriate) Party Outfit

What to wear to my conservative office holiday party that is still fun and seasonal?  I searched around a variety of eco-oriented shopping sites for something but just didn’t find anything that fit the bill.  I wish I didn’t admire the mass-produced clothing at J Crew so much, but as I have previously noted, there is no shortage of castoffs on Ebay.  There I found the Phoebe dress in black watch plaid which garnered many compliments at my office party at the Union Bar & Grille.

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While looking for navy tights to add some warmth – a color that is not that easy to come by – I discovered the brand commando at Neiman Marcus.  These are made in the USA and work just like Spanx.

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I have a pair of navy patent leather Cole Haan heels that I love and have worn so much the heel was ground down to a pulp with the nail poking out the bottom.  I thought they would complete the outfit really well but they were unwearable.  I brought them to Alton Place Shoe Repair in my effort to fix rather than buy new.  For $25 they did quite a good job which I would not have though possible considering the state they were in.  The shop is located a few blocks from Coolidge Corner and but is only open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

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Sustainable Baby Shower Gift

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Recently I was invited to the baby shower of a colleague and I was left with the dilemma of buying something off the baby registry or imposing my “green” ethics on her.  While I do feel very strongly that it is important stick to my principles of avoiding waste and negative environmental impacts, I don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate to hit someone on the head with it at their own party!  Over the past two years since my nephew was born I have seen first-hand how easily the cheaply-made and ethically-questionable cr@p piles up (sorry sis!) and a lot of it the moms-to-be don’t even ask for.  How do you veer inoffensively off the registry? Books.  What child has too many books?  The bigger challenge was to find books printed in the USA at the Prudential Center Barnes and Noble, but I settled on two classics from my own childhood: Good Night Moon and Madeline.

The next hurdle was how to wrap them up cute with environmentally friendly materials.  Having never really investigated Paper Source too much I was pleasantly surprised at the options at their Boylston Street location.  They have a wide selection of wrapping paper made from recycled materials which you can purchase in small quantities rather than buying yards and yards that you will never use up.  The owl-themed paper I chose received more than a few compliments!  Ribbon was a bit more difficult so I went with natural raffia.  Apparently the search for raffia by Paper Source’s founder ended up spinning off a new company more than 15 years ago – Waste Not Paper – which is committed to environmental stewardship.  About 25% of the baby shower cards available touted some eco-conscious feature such as organic cotton, recycled paper or non-toxic soy ink including the one I picked by Karen Jean Organics.

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