Sustainability Across America


21
Oct 10

Our BioBags are Biodegrading!

Well, we knew the time would come…but not this soon!  Our first bio bags deteriorated faster than expected as well, but our second batch (12-18 months old) has just started to degrade.  (They are supposed to last 24-36 months or 18 when exposed to outside elements, but these were used and reused indoors in storage!)  Check it out:

We now have little pieces of bio-plastic sticking to our shoes.  The things we do to be RESTOREClothing.

.

Look Great.  Feel Great.  Do Great.


19
Aug 09

From Sustainability Tour Across America “Are You Suffering from Investment Banker/Yoga Master Disorder?”

Bainbridge Graduate Institute

Gifford Pinchot, President of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, sat down with me to talk about academics, BGI, and the dilemma that sustainability faces in the world today. We sat in BGI’s Seattle office on a rainy Thursday afternoon and I set about asking him about their MBA in Sustainable Business and the future of the movement in academia. Our conversation started out by delving into BGI’s roots, the humble beginnings before accreditation, and what it is that makes this institution what it is today: the number one graduate school in socially responsible business.

Just five minutes into our talk, Gifford made a statement that that struck a chord about the split state of the sustainability movement today.

He said, “What existing traditional schools can’t do is integrate sustainability into the curriculum.”

In researching BGI, I encountered a number of other schools jumping on the so-called “green MBA” bandwagon, both Ivy League and otherwise. It seems as though our academic institutions would be the best tool for indoctrinating the youth with a new way of life, and if we lacked participation in that crucial realm, how would the movement progress? I pressed on, and he responded with this anecdote, a little story about an investment banker who doubled as a yoga master.

“Back in my consulting days I wanted to move my consulting practice a little bit in the direction of spiritual evolution and the like. I had a friend who was an investment banker and a very advanced yoga teacher and a spiritual type guy. So I hired him, and what I discovered is that I had hired two guys. He could be an investment banker, ruthless, heartless, ripping the heart out of the competition kind of guy, or he could be a yoga master and sweetness and light with no connection to finance or market share or any of those sorts of things. But he had no way to bring those two parts of his personality together because they had been educated separately and so they existed as separate domains of thought and probably in separate parts of his brain.”

And so, the plight of the movement today.

Society, it seems, may be experiencing the same kind of split-personality disorder. Our industrial and socio-environmental minds have evolved separately, and have existed in separate realms so that we sit today in a dilemma: We cannot continue operating as one mind who neglects to acknowledge that the other exists. Further, we cannot simply integrate elements of one mind into tenets of the other. Instead, we must embark on a complete restructuring of the way we think, the way we live in conjunction with our environment, and the way we do business. And that is exactly what BGI endeavors to do, “To change business by changing business education” by essentially wiping the slate clean, and educating with the triple bottom line in mind.

In many ways, BGI is a far cry from your typical academic institution; a place “where the assumption that the faculty know more than the students is neither made nor true,” and Pinchot comments on how the culture they have created lends to the success of the institution. As it turns out, culture and community play the lead role, a neat little theme we’re continuing to see throughout our journey into the movement.

Gifford delves into his story.

“What happens is when [faculty] come to BGI, they are allowed to teach with their full values and expression and obviously we’ve selected them because they have values that fit the movement. And once the genie is out of the bottle, they can’t get it back in. We also give them the opportunity to teach a different kind of student. So, in their home universities, there’s a pretty wide variation as to whether people believe in climate change and whatever. Here you’ve got an entire group of people who have been dealing with at least one of the two issues- sustainability or social justice- rather environmental responsibility and social responsibility- for a very long time with very few exceptions. Occasionally, we get the corporate executive who reads some book on sustainability and has that sort of road to Damascus  experience where a lightning bolt comes down and the arrow in their heart, they can’t go on doing what they are doing and they come to our school. But they are rare compared to the folks who have been involved in the movement and the discovery they make when they come to BGI is “Wait a second, you can do this through business? You don’t just have to do it through government or non-profits?”  or whatever, when, in fact, business is an essential part of putting sustainability into practice.

Morning circle at BGI

Morning circle at BGI

“In a traditional school, a student falls behind in accounting and everyone else cheers because after all, that’s going to change the grading curve. In our school, completely a different situation takes place, they invite the student over to their home for the weekend to tutor them because they don’t want someone graduating from our school who doesn’t know this material because it would damage the brand- and this is their brand. And more important, they don’t want someone who is their friend to fail, and that taking care of each other, “leave no one behind, hold no one back” is a motto that exists in this school. In addition, we have gone out of our way to teach community building, the way in which we conduct the school, we begin every day with a circle, if you take a look on that wall you can see what that circle looks like. And that if someone announces in morning circle that, “My parents were just abducted in Lebanon and I don’t know where they are,” it changes the whole nature of the educational experience that day.

“And people in the school say that they’ve never seen anything like it. I can remember one prospective student who walked out of a classroom that she had been in for an hour and she said to me,” I have never been in a room with forty people, all of whom loved each other.” And if we’re going to do sustainability, we need to teach people how to build that community, because that’s what it’s going to take. To build that community inside a big oil company, of people who care about sustainability and so they support each other and if the system goes after one of them, that they offer protection, and if they can’t offer that person protection in that company then that they are part of a larger network and they find them a job.

“My old mentor, Bob Schwartz from the Tarrytown School for Entrepreneurs, said ‘Entrepreneurs appear at their appointed hour like swallows at Capistrano,’ about a third of the way through a period of major social change, when it’s time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.”

That time, according to Pinchot, is now. He speaks from the heart about what he sees as landmark events in the movement for sustainability to this point in time; included in his perspective are Hurricane Katrina, the work of Al Gore, and reading the Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock.

“That’s the first time I really realized that we’re talking about the possibility of the end of civilization in my grandchildren’s lifetime. And to me, it’s hard to say that you do not have a significant responsibility once you’ve spotted this fact, right? And so I’ve begun to think, now what am I doing? I’ve chosen a place to stand, which is that business has to do something about this, and started the preeminent green business school with others and continue to play a role in it. And is that enough? I’m a little scared. And i don’t know what more I could do anyway. You know, I don’t think that dousing myself with gasoline and burning myself on the White House lawn is exactly the right approach, not only to say that it’s unattractive from a personal point of view. So, I think that what’s happening, is that an increasing percentage of intelligent people are in the period of transition that I’m in myself, that are realizing that this is not just a problem, this is a civilization ending problem.”

This very personal insight leaves us some of us at an impasse. We cannot continue down the same path, living an unsustainable lifestyle- yet government, academia and much of the business world has not yet come to terms with this critical issue. What is the average global citizen to do?

I dare say that Gifford would offer a solution. He posed a few ideas that would encourage us to act, despite our leaders who have not, and to coordinate and co-create the world that we aspire to live in.

When BGI was a burgeoning institution, before accreditation or an established curriculum, they relied on co-creation to build the school and make it what it is today. Their approach was both unique and inspiring; first, they admitted to their students that, “We don’t really know how to create a business school.” Then, they made a proposal, “So, what we’re going to do, is we’re going to build this together, and you’re going to learn as much from participating in the process of building this school as you are learning from the subject matter you’re studying.” Et voila. The Bainbrige Graduate Institute was born.

From it’s inception, BGI has been built upon the sum of its masses, its collective wisdom and this spirit of collaboration. And, perhaps, this is why it is the preeminent green business school today. But this concept of co-creation is not just about building a successful school, or a business or a movement- it’s also about learning what Pinchot deems one of the most important lessons there are in life. That lesson is of the internal locus of control, in his words,”that you are in fact in control of your own destiny and the thing to do if something is not working is to do something about it, not sit there and complain about it.”

Let’s not wait for change to come from the top. Let’s capitalize on what Gifford says, “a natural aspect of human behavior to care about making a contribution to your community.” Why? Because, “it’s deeper embedded than the desire to make money. Corporations beat that and schools beat that out of people, but you’re  not going to be able to get the level of innovation necessary to achieve this next step in the movement except by helping people actually express their values at work. It’s the key to retention, it’s the key to motivation, it’s the key to recruitment. It’s the key to having people not come into work in the morning and take off their brain and hang it on the hook and say, “What would you like me to do today, Sir?”

So, who are you today? Are you suffering from investment banker/yoga master disorder? Or have you begun to merge your values with your lifestyle? Next up on the blog, we’re going to talk with Rebecca Luke of the Sustainable Style Foundation to discuss just that. Stay tuned.


10
Aug 09

Sustainability Tour Across America interview with Greenloop Founder Aysia Wright

Getting in the Greenloop with Aysia Wright.

Aysia Wright, Founder of Greenloop

Aysia Wright, Founder of Greenloop

“Dipping into the waste stream. That’s what excites me.”

These are the words spoken by a true eco-pioneer, Aysia Wright, founder of Greenloop- a Portland based retail and ecommerce resource for sustainable fashion. Why fashion? Well, because this Environmental Policy lawyer and longtime activist thinks fashion is an ideal vehicle to have a conversation with people and to create a platform for change, with natural market forces driving a shift towards sustainability.

Back in the day, Aysia was a Birkenstock-wearing, animal rights spouting  environmental progressive who pursued higher education and practiced law in an unrelated field until realizing at age 30 that she’d lost touch with her advocacy roots. So, in 2004, she opened up Greenloop to fill a hole in the market and create a retail solution for finding trend right, fashion forward sustainable clothing. Today, Greenloop has a booming ecommerce division and is opening up a new storefront in downtown Portland, occupying the “closet” space of a new eco-friendly resource concept store under the Seven Planet umbrella.

Over an hour of conversation, Aysia set about debunking trendy misconceptions about sustainable fashion, defining the ultimate importance of the triple bottom line, and painting a picture of the sustainable movement that solidifies it as the hippest and most essential issue since civil rights. Her story as follows…

LJ: Describe the retail environment when Greenloop began operating in 2004 and tell us how it’s changed since.

AW:In this fast fashion culture that we live in, there’s too many garments that just go straight to the landfill. Right now, there’s more of a generalized awareness of what it means for a garment to be certified organic cotton, as opposed to your milk or your bread or your vegetables. When we first opened doors, so many consumers were asking “How could that be organic? That doesn’t make any sense.” and that was really because there was a misconception about what is organic in the first place.

In general, there’s more understanding now of the options available and an awareness that there is a difference between sustainably and ethically produced fashion and and conventional fashion, there’s a growing acceptance that we need to be more conscious in terms of our decisions and voting with our dollar.

In terms of design, about two years ago there was a pretty solid upswing in the availability of quality textiles and solid design getting together to produce designs that could actually survive in the mainstream fashion scene. Whereas initially it was either very yoga-pilates centered or it was environmentalists designing apparel as opposed to designers designing environmentally responsible apparel. So now you’ve got both and they’re learning from each other so you’re seeing quality product coming from both arenas now.

Really, [this progress shows that sustainability is] not a dead movement, it’s not a trend. It’s something that’s becoming more deeply entrenched within the fashion community itself.

LJ: So, over the years, organics have really grown in the food industry and the fashion industry. What do you think will be the next big thing to evolve as the movement grows?

AW: We’ve seen a lot of innovative use by designers dipping into the waste stream, looking at  dead stock or getting creative with waste materials that otherwise might have gone straight into the landfill. And I think we’re going to see more of a sophistication of that model as opposed to seeing more one-off, crafty, I made this in my basement type pieces. I think that there will be a more professional application to that, that people are getting wiser about making recycled goods a larger part of the commodities market, to make that process more efficient.

There’s probably going to be a pretty strong emphasis on rebuilding the recycled commodity market because ultimately, it’s a time and resource saver both in terms of raw commodity, reducing strain on natural resources, reducing pressure on landfills, on reducing water and energy inputs, and there’s a great story to it. People love the fact that something has been reincarnated into another product and you can’t really tell.

LJ: The movement for sustainability is really growing and evolving new technologies and efficiencies. What kind of role have you seen yourself and Greenloop take in educating consumers and increasing awareness about sustainability?

AW: I really see Greenloop’s role growing in the advocacy piece for designers, we really are working to develop a platform so that people wanting to get into the sustainable design arena can come to us to source their textiles, to find out which manufacturing facility in the United States they should work with, to find out which distributor they should work with, to facilitate their wholesales. There are a ton of creative people out there that have the skills and the passion and the talent to create a successful line, but it’s a huge endeavor to put all of those pieces into place, so that’s where I see us going in the future.

LJ: The idea of being sustainable is permeating a huge range of industries and markets right now, do you see this growth as a social movement, and industrial shift, or both?

AW: I see it as a social movement but I also do see companies understanding the concept of corporate social responsibility when it comes to their bottom line and really trying to embrace this notion of a triple bottom line (People, Planet, and Profit) because there are some real limitations to operating business as usual. This linear system that sprang up at the beginning of the industrial revolution is this constant input of energy, both human and fossil fuel based, and natural resources along a system that ends up in the dump. It’s not a closed loop, it doesn’t recapture any lost energy and it creates harm along the way to people and planet.

The companies that are going to be ahead of the curve are looking at how they can increase their profitability by becoming more energy efficient, using less resources, embracing recycled products. They will naturally realize that economic success and ecological responsibility are not counter intuitive, they are actually very much interrelated.

LJ:Tell me a little more about the community aspect of sustainability as a social movement.

AW: I’ve talked to a lot of people in the conventional fashion industry that got out because it was just an ugly scene for them. It was very cutthroat with no sharing of resources or information, whereas my experience has been that this community is mission oriented. And, when something is mission oriented for the greater good, while also providing you with a living along the way, that there is just more incentive to make sure that everyone is successful. For example, Greenloop can’t be the only eco-retailer- no eco-designer would survive if that was the case. So it’s in my best interest to hopefully support all the other eco-retailers that I would typically consider my competition. It’s in designers’ best interest to share their resources so they can ultimately reach an economy of scale and make their whole production processes more efficient, so that each one of them survives to retain and gain a piece of the market. So from that perspective, I think that there is definitely a distinction that makes this social movement, this collaboration, unique and inspiring because it feels good to talk to people and work with people who are working towards the same ends as you, and it’s not just a selfish ends.

LJ: Today there is an emphasis in collaboration and community within the movement. How do you see the youth shaping the growth and development of sustainability in the future?

AW: Well, the Greenloop platform, Project Green Search is our way of communicating the message that it is possible and it’s beneficial to align your career choices with your environmental, social, humanitarian ethics, whatever cause inspires you. I think it’s possible to create this next generation of young people in the workforce who hopefully can refuse to go to work for companies they don’t believe in because they are going to bring their skills to grow companies that are doing the right thing. I think that there’s been a shift in the way that we are educating young people right now so that they are learning from a very early age that they are global citizens, and that we’re providing them with the knowledge and hopefully the desire and the drive to contribute to something that is greater than just themselves and their piece of the pie. And, I think we’re seeing a lot of that in terms of teen participation and fundraising and outreach efforts, like the organization Teens Turning Green, that are reaching out to teenagers on a variety of issues like Teens for Safe Cosmetics or Buying Sustainable Fashion for Prom, or Greening Dorm Rooms who are working with Greenloop on Project Green Search. I think the opportunity lies in that we are going to hopefully develop this entire generation of young people who don’t have to break habits like we do.

LJ: Speaking of bad habits, do you think the current patterns of consumerism are going to change, along with the notion that “more is better?”

AW: I do, but I think it’s going to take a while because it’s really going to require a societal shift in terms of what constitutes success. A lot of people attribute material wealth and acquisition to be success, and that definition of success to happiness and it’s a very Western first-world, developed-nation ideal, and it’s going to take a while to move away from that so that people start developing themselves and their happiness and their definition of success in other areas. Some of that is going to be enforced or imposed because we’ve already got more people on this planet than we can support, and we’re already using three quarters of the world’s natural resources, and that’s inherently unsustainable. If society is able to adopt this concept of quality over quantity and we don’t need to live in a 3,000 square foot house and we can live instead in a 1,000 square foot house, it will be a grassroots movement with parents hopefully instilling these ideals into their kids because ultimately, that’s where it starts.

LJ: What do you predict will be the movement’s biggest obstacle in reaching that kind of societal shift?”

AW: The use of the media. We’re seeing a pretty drastic change in media right now, especially in printed media. A lot of magazines are going under, and I think with them hopefully you’ll lose some of this driving force behind the consumption machine.  I think that the speed of news right now will help, with the accessibility of news and information on the internet, especially information from sources that aren’t well funded, that can articulate and present this different lifestyle concept is more readily available to people than just picking up your mainstream magazine off the rack. I went to the Sundance Film Festival and saw the Inconvenient Truth when it debuted, and I think that film was a tipping point, quite frankly, and a very poignant example of how powerful media can be when used in that capacity.

LJ: Can you tell us about some unique or unusual materials that are up and coming in the sustainable fashion industry?

AW: You know, I don’t think it’s about being unique at this point. I get that question a lot, like “What’s the new sustainable textile?”, and for instance, bamboo, is a great example of something that is new that is not necessarily better. I think it’s about taking a look at textiles like hemp, for example, which has gotten this horrible wrap for years and years and years but there are some amazing fabrications now using hemp that you would not believe in terms of its strength and hand and luster and quality. So I don’t think it necessarily has to be this new technology or complicated advancement, you know you have other designers going for this very sort of high-tech “what are you talking about fabrics?” made out of milk or made out of seaweed and you know, that’s buzz. I’m trying to stay away from the buzz factor, making sure that you hone in on those textiles that over the long haul are going to hold up. And they can still be beautiful and sexy and trendy, but they don’t have to have all the buzz attached to them. I think it’s being wary of anything that’s new and cutting edge, when it comes to textile production that is not yet tested, and that doesn’t have a transparent process because it’s not necessarily better.

LJ: So buzz or no buzz, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a plethora of sustainable fabrics on the runway this year in Portland’s Fashion Week. Tell us a little more about Project Green Search.

AW: This year at Portland Fashion Week, we are working to concentrate all the eco-designers for a Sunday night event, on October 11th. And Greenloop is hosting a green model search, called Project Green Search which is part of a greater movement to get people to think about aligning their careers with their environmental  and social ethics. And a model competition is a natural expression of that’s because a model is sort of a tangible representative of the company they are working for. It’s launching on Friday, August 7, 2009, and it’s open to women age 17 and older.  There’s a lot of talent out there that’s more than skin deep, so each model has to submit an essay, a video and volunteer for an environmental organization in their area and share their experiences, so she’s not just going to be a hanger.

The point is to really light that spark for people so that they think, “Wow, I have these skills and this passion and I don’t have to go and work for XYZ coal mining company, I can support another company.” I think there’s this huge opportunity we have in the midst of this recession to reshape our landscape, both in terms of the job talent pool and the companies that are going to come out of this and be successful.”

The Project Greensearch finale will coincide with Portland Fashion Week, dubbed the “Greenest Fashion Week in the World” where sustainable fashion brands will bring the week to a close in an eco-event on Sunday. Follow the competition, and stay in the loop with GreenLoop on their blog.


2
Aug 09

“Sustainability Across America” is a nationwide tour to promote meaningful Green dialogue fueled by the synergy of collaboration & Eco fashion

5533_101484018861_101482483861_2260057_391850_n

NEW YORK, NY (July 30, 2009)— A number of eco friendly companies have joined SUST in an effort to promote sustainability concepts to all of America. RESTORE® CLOTHING is honored that SUST has invited them to join them and others on this journey. This collaboration has launched an educational platform known as the Sustainability Across America Tour, which is an all out effort to champion the sustainability movement in our country. Harnessing both sustainability experts and retail stores across the country, the Sustainability Across America team will conduct interviews, record video, and broadcast the tour to the world via Social Media (Facebook teamSUSTAINABLE, Twitter teamSUSTAINABLE , and, Sustainability Across America Blog ) all with the intent to educate and elevate to the best practices in the Green movement.
Anthony Lilore, Co-Founder of RESTORE® CLOTHING comments “This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for us as a new brand to collaborate with some of the brightest beacons in the industry on an educational tour that can and will change the minds of individuals around the nation for the betterment of the whole.” Originally this was the brainchild of Kevin Baum, CEO of SUST who says, “…Despite what some may think, collaborating with other Eco fashion designers on this tour isn’t competition, it is solidarity.”
Modern day journalist, Laura Jones, will venture on the 3-month road tour all over the USA. The tour will include visits to many of the nation’s metropolitan areas as well as the most beautiful national parks and monuments. The Sustainability Across America tour is meant to encourage and inspire a wave on new grassroots growth in the sustainability movement, as well as to gather and document American perceptions about being green, sustainable, and organic. We are so excited by the opportunity for us all to connect on what might be the most important topic for generations to come, and Laura Jones knows just how to document this historic journey for America to see. She has all the social media tools at her fingertips making it so simple to share experiences and interviews right as they occur. Followers can interact and view everything surrounding the sustainability movement directly from the field.
Drivers and passers-by will have no trouble spotting the Sustainability Across America vehicle, as the team will be driving an easily recognizable Volkswagen EuroVan emblazoned with logos from a band of ECO companies sponsoring this effort –cmarchuska , ecosalon, Guayaki Yerba Mate, Indigenous fair trade + organic, RESTORE® CLOTHING, Ryann, and SUST.

Laura’s trip began last week in the San Francisco Bay Area and is extending to the Northwest before traversing the country to the far North East of Maine.  She and her crew will then head down the eastern seaboard to Florida before heading back home through the South East and South West states.  Each and every company will continue to support the journey from start to finish.
RESTORE® CLOTHING – RESTORE is an acronym: Responsible, Earth Friendly, Sustainable, Technological, Organic, Recycled, and Ergonomic. The brand name is exactly what it stands for…a collection of beautifully crafted performance and every day sportswear perfect for the active lifestyles of today’s socially responsible person.

Our line RESTORE® CLOTHING aims to bridge the gap between fashion, performance, and environmental friendliness, as it produces transitional apparel designed for activities such as yoga and Pilates but versatile enough to go from “work out to out after work”.

RESTORE® CLOTHING is available at many premium retail boutiques nationwide. To view our website or read more about our story, log onto www.restoreclothing.com.