Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion—A Guide to Staying Stylish While Keeping the Environment in Mind

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Clothing, Fashion, Front Page, Slideshow

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Before last month, the last time I read an entire book was December 1999, after I got the third Harry Potter book for Christmas.

However, I completely absorbed myself in “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline on a Saturday afternoon as a result of her easy-to-read writing style and well-researched chapters. Cline sets out to investigate the impact of “fast fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and H&M—stores that have prices so low that clothing becomes practically disposable—on the environment, the economy, and the typical American consumer’s lifestyle. But it starts out as a personal story beginning when Cline finds herself at Kmart. Standing in front of an expansive rack, she recklessly purchases seven pairs of $7 canvas flip flops that had been marked down from $15 and is inspired to look into today’s fashion consumer lifestyle.

The result? A book covers so many topics that it’s impossible to touch on everything in a review. Cline discusses how clothing has become a trillion-dollar global industry, the plummeting price of apparel, the move to overseas production, the separation between cost and quality, the effect of our increased consumption on the environment, and so much more. After reading this book, I was inspired to reflect upon my own fashion choices. I’ve made some changes as a result….

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VW Feels the Force of Greenpeace — Time and Again

December 1, 2012 by  
Filed under 2012, Blog, Car, Carbon, Europe, Front Page, Industries, Slideshow

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With Star Wars back in the news, thanks to the recent Disney purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd., it looks like the intergalactic legend will continue somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. Somewhat closer to home, the Star Wars iconography has been effectively used by environmental campaigners Greenpeace to launch their own assault on the lack of eco-credentials of many car manufacturers, with Volkswagen firmly in its sights.

What could be called the “Car Wars” saga began as a Superbowl ad in 2011. VW premiered a Star Wars themed commercial for the Passat packed with cute kids in the costumes of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, C3P0, et al. Greenpeace was, at the time, involved in campaigning against VW’s continued opposition to proposed changes to CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations in the States and to European laws seeking to impose stricter limits on the C02 emissions of new vehicles. Greenpeace claims that VW and other car manufacturers are lobbying against worldwide initiatives to reduce emissions and, whilst boasting of their latest eco concept cars, are failing to bring truly accessible greener cars to market….

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Groovy Globe: Chic and Conscious Clothing

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As a consumer who tries to purchase organic and ethical products, I’ve discovered how difficult it is to find clothing that matches my values.

When I look through my pantry, I see fair-trade coffee, hormone-free poultry, organic fruits and vegetables, and Rainforest Alliance Certified tea bags. All of these products were purchased from within minutes of home at my local supermarket. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how much easier it’s become to purchase environmentally conscious foods without having to go to a specialized store.

But when I look through my closet, I see an expanse of polyester, rayon, nylon, viscose, and, of course, cotton — which, according to groovyglobe.net, is the most toxic crop on the planet as it accounts for a quarter of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of worldwide pesticide sales.

An Easy Choice

Recently, I was introduced to Groovy Globe, which sells 100-percent organic apparel. T-shirts are made from 100 percent organic cotton and totes are made from 100 percent recycled cotton, as well as silicone wristbands. Never has it been so easy to make an eco-friendly fashion statement for less than $30–$40….

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Home Builders and Remodelers Are Greener Than Ever

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According to a recent report released by McGraw-Hill, 33% of home builders are committed to going green by 2016. Similarly, 34% of home remodelers have claimed that they plan to implement eco-friendly practices by 2016. Just last year, only 17% of home builders and 15% of home remodelers expressed interest in developing strategies to increase the energy efficiency and decrease the carbon footprint of homes….

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Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort: Sustainability in an Island Paradise

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The inspiration for a successful, environmentally friendly luxury resort on Aruba’s Eagle Beach started from a love of nature and animals.

Ewald Biemans, originally from Austria, founded Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts 25 years ago on the island paradise. With only 104 rooms, the hotel is situated away from the loud hotspots and high rise buildings on Aruba, but restaurants and shopping areas are accessible in the nearby capital of Oranjestad.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts sits on 14 acres of white sand and has been called one of the few “Dream Beaches of the World.” This romantic, boutique-style hotel caters to adults only. It offers beach weddings, a professional wedding planner, and “green” weddings….

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Build or Remodel Your Home with Eco-Friendly Products

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If you’re lucky enough to have the time and money to build your own home (or more likely, have it built by others), then there’s absolutely no reason you can’t get the greenest house in existence, thanks to building companies that specialize in just this sort of construction.

But just because the rest of us are relegated to purchasing previously lived-in structures (or even new but already fully constructed homes) that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part for the environment when we do upgrades.

So whether you’re interested in building a green home from scratch, or you’re looking to renovate the home you already own in a way that is in keeping with your environmental sensibilities, there are a ton of ecofriendly products to help you meet your goals on the home front….

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Sustainable Fabrics: Eco-Friendly Clothing

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If you’re interested in finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint with small, daily changes to your lifestyle, there are a lot of options to cut waste and reduce pollution on a personal level. You can recycle, use green cleaning solvents, switch to organic foods, and make many of your own products at home in bulk (5-gallon buckets of homemade laundry detergent, for example) in order to cut back on disposable packaging waste.

But did you know that you can also support sustainable farming by purchasing clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics? Not only are there a wide variety of clothing options out there (with even some big-name designers jumping on the bandwagon), but there are also plenty of reasons to make the change….

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The Green Garmento – An Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning Tote

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“Using The Green Garmento for your dry cleaning is similar to the reusable totes movement, which started as something grocery stores were offering and has changed the way people do their grocery shopping,” says Jennie Nigrosh, president and co-founder of The Green Garmento.

Nigrosh’s product is a dry cleaning bag that consumers use over and over again, both as a hamper at home and as a way to transport their dry cleaning without plastic bags. “Way beyond the fact that we have an interesting product that helps make life easier, helps to organize your closet, and helps you be green all at the same time,” Nigrosh adds, “it’s a new category.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Nigrosh by phone from her California office to learn more about The Green Garmento as well as its acceptance in the dry-cleaning world and in homes around the nation….

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Fox Elipsus Shares Music, Fun, and Serious Messages on Free US Concert Tour

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In many ways, Fox Elipsus reminds me of a wandering minstrel from the days of yore. He travels alone from town to town, singing and playing his music to delight the local folk. He is also a messenger, sharing serious thoughts about the environment, peace, education, and so much more, mixed in with light-hearted fun, engaging banter, and an awesome musical performance. And he does it all for free.

Joe and I were privileged Monday night to attend one of Fox’s 250 concerts on his 2010 Momentum tour — his third annual tour, with many more to come. His shows are all held in coffeehouses, bookstores (we saw him at Borders in Davenport, Iowa), and other congenial meeting places that allow him to set up and play without charging him for the space.

Born and raised in Oxford, England, 29-year-old Fox Elipsus (born Fox Salehi [SAL-uh-hee]) was caught by two fevers as a very young boy — music and the state of the planet.

“When I was about three or four,” he told me in a phone interview on his way to his next gig today, “I was extremely concerned with what is going on in the world. And I was crazy about a musician who concentrated on environmental themes. So I started writing my little four-year-old songs about the environment. I was also really into the Live Aid Concert for Africa.

“Throughout my education, I was motivated to try to fix the world. I found so much that was depressing, and I wanted to do something about it. As long as I can remember, it has been an innate need. And, now, I want to inspire other people to help, too, through my music.” …

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Notes from India: 1984 – Bhopal

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Posts in Blue Planet Green Living’s “Notes from…” category provide readers with a personal viewpoint, often an essay, from a writer whose views are intrinsically linked to their own nation or locale. In this case, we present reflections on a needless and gruesome tragedy that occurred 26 years ago in Bhopal. Those responsible for operations […]

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Where Not to Take Your Family – A Dolphin Show

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Recently, I saw a video of a dolphin that had thrown itself out of the pool in which it was held captive. This dolphin was trained to do tricks for the pleasure of human visitors. It was held captive, along with several other dolphins, in a small pool….

Dolphins are intelligent animals. Why would one deliberately try — twice — to hurl its body out of the water and over a high wall? Was it searching for food? Was it trying to harm the human on the other side of the wall? Or did it simply want to end its captivity, even if that meant death? I have no idea, but the dolphin did. This was no random accident.

In the video, did you notice how several other dolphins gathered around and watched through the glass as the humans tended to their companion? Did they understand that their fellow dolphin was in mortal danger? I think they did.

Since I was a young girl, I’ve been fascinated by stories of dolphins who have saved humans from certain death. The stories included dolphins protecting swimmers from a shark by forming a barrier between predator and potential prey, rescuing drowning humans by pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe, guiding lost boaters to land, and more. These are intentional acts arising out of what appears to me to be empathy. They are acts of reasoning creatures who understood the dangers awaiting the humans they saved.

So why would a reasoning sea creature deliberately jump out of its tank?…

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Scented Cleaning Products May Harm Your Health

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Cleaning products that are artificially scented with smells like lilac, lemon, pine, and tropical rainforest may be popular with consumers, but the fragrances themselves shouldn’t be. Each fragrance is potentially made up of hundreds of chemicals — many of them toxic, according to Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE).

“It’s basically chemical soup in a lot of these products,” Switalski says.

WVE is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health. The group compiled What’s That Smell?, a landmark report that examines the health effects of hidden fragrance chemicals.

Women are disproportionately affected by the chemicals in fragrances since they use them more frequently than men. They also experience more health effects from the fragrances, such as skin rashes, headaches, and breathing problems. Plus, they can pass chemicals on to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Self Sufficiency — The Best “Return on Donation”

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“We are one global community,” says builder, author, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Frank McKinney. “There are so many places around the world that do not have the social service net to protect the indigent like we have here [in the U.S.]. So we took our ministry, if you will, to Haiti.”

This is Part 2 of a three-part interview with McKinney, author of the book, The Tap. He’s a complex individual living a dichotomous life, as described in Part 1. Using the sale of the mansions he builds, he funds the charity he founded, the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), which constructs villages for some of the world’s poorest people.

“We realized the dollars would go so much further by creating self-sufficient villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Frank McKinney explains. “Commencing in 2003, and by the end of 2010, we will have built 15 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. We were there seven years before the earthquake took place. And we’ll be there many years after.

“We realized we could touch a life with shelter for about $500 internationally. So we sold two of the domestic houses [described in Part 1], kept one, and took whatever proceeds we had and stretched those dollars further internationally.” …

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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Sustainability – A Personal Journey… by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D.

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When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.

The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.

Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.

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Design Student Creates Jewelry to Aid Gulf Wildlife

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Like nearly everyone who sees the damage its caused, Nadilyn Beáto is upset about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But she isn’t just complaining, she’s doing something about it. A junior at Parsons – The New School for Design in Brooklyn, New York, Beáto has recently begun designing, making, and selling fashion jewelry to benefit the wildlife affected by the vast oil leak.

Beáto’s jewelry depicts some of the animals that she wants to save: sea turtles, orcas, dolphins, American oyster catchers, black skimmers, and more. She uses Super Sculpey to create her jewelry pieces, then paints them with nontoxic paints. Her creations include necklaces, charm bracelets, and earrings. Each individual piece of jewelry takes her about an hour and a half to make.

The turtles sell for $15 in Beáto’s Etsy store, with $10 donated to the Gulf Coast Response team at the Environmental Defense Fund. Her goal is to create and sell 150 pieces of jewelry, raising $1,500 for the rescue and rehabilitation of the wildlife in the Gulf.

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What’s Your Steel IQ?

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When artist Alli ReauVeau talks about steel, the medium on which she paints, she gets passionate. And one look at the gorgeous artworks she creates convinces us that steel is a perfect “canvas,” indeed. But there’s much more about steel that ReauVeau admires from a construction and architectural viewpoint — and she knows whereof she speaks.

ReauVeau is co-owner, along with her husband, Alan Bendawald, of Steel IQ™, suppliers of an environmentally friendly construction product called Bare Naked Steel™. ReauVeau serves as Education Specialist for the company, sharing the message that Bare Naked Steel is the best steel for construction, for architectural design, and for the planet….

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Saving Dolphins

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When the Oscar award-winning film, The Cove, was released last year, I resisted seeing it. The trailers upset me. I anticipated that the film would be emotionally devastating. I love dolphins. I have warm memories of watching the television program Flipper as a child. I’ve been thrilled to see a pod of dolphins playfully dive in and out of the water as they passed by a time-share condo in Florida that I once shared with my grandmother and my sister.

I’ve experienced a combination of emotions when seeing dolphins perform in various aquariums around North America: joy, sadness, curiosity, concern. I’ve sat by the window in the subterranean viewing area of our Vancouver Aquarium, watching the Pacific white-sided dolphins swim up to the window and wondering at how healthy and happy they are in their bleak enclosure.

I finally was convinced by my teenage son to watch The Cove this week. We downloaded it from our cable provider, and my son, husband and I sat down to watch it together. It was even more emotionally devastating than I had anticipated.

By the time the film was over, I felt completely emotionally overwhelmed. There were deep, deep sobs heaving within me, threatening to engulf me, but I wanted to debrief the film with my son. So I released a few tears and took a few deep breaths. We talked first of all about the dolphins in our local aquarium….

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My 5: Duane Hallowell, President & CEO, Hallowell International

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Duane Hallowell, President/CEO and co-founder of Hallowell International, the makers of Acadia, two questions we ask all our interviewees:

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?

HALLOWELL: I focus on northern climates, so my responses are climate specific.

Mandate Weatherization. It’s a huge problem, and we need better programs in place to help guide people to making the right decisions — even going so far as to make laws to mandate how people are doing it. That is absolutely number one….

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