Friday 30 September 2011

a green fling lesson: patience

Over the past few years I've learned a lot of greenie lessons - what can be recycled, what VOC stands for, to beware of greenwashing, how to make my own cleaning products - but by far the hardest lesson for me to learn has been patience.

It's also the one being tested right now.

I'm not sure if you've noticed but we live in a culture of convenience.  Between fast food, smart phones, tap-and-go credit cards and the ability to outsource everything from our laundry to our dog-walking, we can generally get what we want when we want it and don't have much inconvenience in our lives. The idea of waiting for something we want is practically foreign.

Being the somewhat spontaneous individual that I am, I've had to practice relinquishing my 'right' to purchase exactly what I desire precisely when I crave it.  Overall I've adapted to taking the time to research eco and ethical credentials of my purchases. I've waited for my eco-swimsuit and bamboo iPhone cover to arrive in the mail, I've embraced drying my clothes on the line and even sought out eco-friendly hair salons. But this week I'm wavering.

Here's the situation: a couple years ago I found a dresser on the street that was in perfect condition (well, until the hubby dropped it while bringing it into the house and a chunk of wood came flying off).  I eco-painted it a shabby-chic whitewash, finished it with antique knobs and welcomed it into my beachy bedroom. 

I was never in love with the final outcome, but left it for awhile until I came up with a better plan - which I did about a month ago. I decided I would paint it a vibrant peacock blue (similar to the below image) to add some colour to the room and set off our newly acquired Aboriginal painting.

photo via the-chic-life

I found a shade I liked from the huge array of paint samples at Bunnings and a couple weeks later took the paint chip to my favourite eco-homeware store so they could mix the colour from eco-paints (plant-based with low-VOCs; I've tried both Volvox and BioPaints before with good results).  It's not guaranteed this vibrant colour can be matched with natural pigments, but I couldn't imagine not at least trying to achieve what I wanted the eco-way.

The friendly, helpful shopkeeper told me it would be one day before he could play around with the colour; it's now been one week and one day, and two phone calls later he still hasn't tried to match the colour.  I really wanted the paint before the long weekend so I could tackle this project over a few days, but it's looking less and less likely by the hour.  To add further inconvenience, the store is only open 9-4 Monday thru Saturday, and is not easily accessible by public transportation so I have to set aside a couple of hours to drive to the shop and back. 

Bunnings and Dulux are only 15 minutes away on the bus and looking more attractive by the second.

I know compared to plenty of world issues this is not something to get overly worked-up over, but I am irritated.  It's a prime example of how it's not always easy being green and demonstrates how far the environmental movement still has to go if we're to motivate the masses.  And, of course, it's a huge lesson in patience.

Personally speaking, it's not the concept of climate change I'm struggling with, or even the value of using plant-based paint over petroleum-based paint on only one piece of furniture, but I'm fighting against my very Western, consumer-convenience-cultured self - she wants what she wants when she wants it - and she can be pretty feisty; if I don't get a call from my eco-paint store soon, she's going to win. 

Will I last?  Or will I cave and buy the petroleum-based paint at Bunnings?

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

a green gala fling

On Friday night I attended 'Dining at Sunset', a benefit organised by one of my friends to raise funds for Sunrise Orphanage in Nepal.  Australian Emma Taylor co-founded Sunrise with two friends in 2005 after volunteering in a Kathmandu orphanage the previous year; it was their vision to establish an orphanage to provide a loving, nurturing and safe environment for Nepalese children in need. Today Sunrise supports over 70 children in the orphanage and also runs scholarship programs and community training and development centres to support the larger Kathmandu community.
Emma Taylor opening the evening
This dinner (and similar events in Melbourne and Adelaide) was held to generate funds to build Sunrise Children's Village.  The village will incorporate a permanent home for up to 100 children (they currently rent facilities and are forced to move on average every 18 months), a training and development centre and a school, which will serve both the Sunrise children and the wider community.  Last year I read the incredibly moving book Half the Sky and the number one recommendation in the book to reduce female poverty and extremism is education; Sunrise is a perfect example of a charity putting that principle to work right now.  I felt honoured to attend this dinner and even more so to have a few words with the charming Emma herself (who is missing her kids terribly after two weeks in Australia!).
The beautiful setting at Doltone House - inside 6 Star
Green Star - Office Design v2 workplace6
As if all of that wasn't enough to encourage me to support this amazing organisation, the new Children's Village is designed to be environmentally sustainable and self-sufficient. Below is a pic of the draft plan including solar panels, rainwater collection tanks, a natural toilet system and organic gardens included amongst the meditation rooms, sports and activity areas, school and dorms.  Local materials, resources and labour will also be used and assist the local economy whilst instilling a sense of ownership among the people.  It is Sunrise's intention to provide a model that can be replicated in other communities.

As the date of the gala approached of course I'd been thinking about what to wear.  I was tempted to rent another fabulous frock, but instead I opted to put the money I'd have spent on the rental toward solar panels at Sunrise Children's Village, and dug around in my wardrobe for something appropriate.  One of the best things about being a recovering shopaholic is the range of quality pieces remaining in my closet.  I pulled out an oldie (but a goodie) and styled it a little differently than I have before so I didn't feel like I was wearing 'this ole thing' again. (This was also great practice for Buy Nothing New month coming up in October!)

On the left (apology for the fuzziness!), 2007, long hair down and long bling necklace. On the right, hair pulled up, black tights, red lipstick and shorter bling necklace; I also wore my black Gorman Tencel bomber jacket for part of the evening. Four years on and I still love my Flame dress by Willow, and with its timeless, flattering design I suspect it will remain a favourite for years to come. (My hubby is wearing the same suit in both pictures as well - totally unplanned coincidence - he also re-styled the suit with short hair, glasses and a dark shirt and tie.)

Okay, I admit it. There were some incredibly beautiful and trendy women at the benefit and I experienced the slightest twinge of jealousy of their 'so hot right now' dresses.  But surrounded by friends and having a great time eating, drinking and dancing the night away in honour of the beautiful Sunrise children, I really didn't dwell on it.  I still felt like my glamorous self in a fabulous dress.

Feeling inspired? Donate and support Sunrise Children's Association.

A side note on transportation - even in my fabulous frock and sparkly stilettos I took a ferry, then a train, and finally a bus, to get to the gala dinner.

My sparkly shoes look even prettier on a dingy train!

Thursday 8 September 2011

a green aussie fashion fling

As seen on The Vine

These days you don’t have to farewell fashion in order to become a greenie; check out five of Australia’s hottest (and greenest) labels.

As seen in Peppermint
SOSUME may just be the antithesis of fast fashion. Dedicated to style and sustainability, the designers of this forward-thinking collection have meticulously selected sustainable fabrics to create modern, sophisticated pieces certain to last many seasons in your wardrobe.  Preferred fabrics of the label include organic wool, raw silk, micro modal (made from Beech trees), Tencel (Eucalyptus trees) and Lyocell (Oak and Birch trees).  The collection’s draping shirts, vests and tops are incredibly soft to the touch, and any chemicals required to create the soft fibres are used in a closed-loop process, ensuring no chemical runoff into land or waterways.  SOSUME’s business operations are sustainable, too, with a commitment to carbon offsets, use of recycled paper and boxes, and soy inks for printing.

The capricious and distinctive designs of Gorman have captured the attention of Australian women since 1999, with environmentalists also paying attention thanks to the label’s strong commitment to sustainability.  Since it began Gorman has reduced garment packaging by 90% and now uses recyclable packaging materials like LDPE when required.  In addition to energy-efficient lighting and great recycling practices, the company also uses 100% accredited green power and has hired an environmental consultant to work with the label both in Australia and in its overseas manufacturing facilities to lessen the label’s environmental impact. Gorman has even been known to give discounts to customers who ride their bikes to the store.  In 2007 the label launched Gorman Organic, which features fabrics sourced from certified organic or sustainable farms and treated only with non-chemical and/or closed-loop processes.

Lane Palmer Green
Born out of a desire to create environmentally minded fashion, Lane Palmer Green’s collection of clothing and accessories was launched by mother-daughter team Lane and Adele. Inspired by European summers, the collection is modern bohemian chic, innately fashionable and kind to the planet.  Sustainable fabrics are used throughout the collection including hemp, organic cotton, recycled PET (plastic bottles) and vegetable tanned kangaroo and parrotfish leather.  The team apply their sustainability values to all aspects of the label, from carbon offsetting flights to the manufacturing process of the swing tags, and it’s hard not to appreciate their candid admission: “We are not perfect, but we are certainly trying to practice what we preach.”  Here’s looking forward to more seasons from this feminine, ethical collection.

Funkis range of clogs, clothing and homewares are inspired by the designers’ Swedish background, including strong design aesthetics and environmental responsibility.  Currently working toward carbon-neutral status, Funkis has a number of sustainability initiatives already in place including use of 100% accredited green power, no plastic in garment packaging, plantation timber used in their clogs (along with vegetable dye-treated leather), and a range of organic cotton clothing and fabrics.  The collection is also designed to operate on-demand, ensuring minimal extras and waste.  Encompassing sustainability into all aspects of the collection, manufacturing takes place only in Sweden or Australia to ensure good working conditions and fair wages for people involved in the production of Funkis goods.

If you’re seeking unique, sustainable accessories then look no further than Melbourne-based Elk. The label creates jewellery, textiles and knitted apparel using only the finest, sustainably sourced, natural materials from around the globe.  Elk’s bold wooden jewellery is a standout in the range, and the wood used in its production is offset by a tree buy-back scheme.  The designers work directly with independent manufacturers to guarantee safe and fair working conditions and ensure efficient, low-waste processes, while also bringing us beautiful pieces made with traditional techniques from cultures around the world.

Thursday 1 September 2011

a green sample sale fling

Can you be a greenie and a fashion lover at the same time?

I hope I'm living proof that you can, and with labels like One Teaspoon it's getting easier all the time.

The other day I dragged myself to the OT sample sale to score something from their Salvage range to refresh my summer wardrobe. My eco-fashion curiosity had been piqued recently when I heard about OT's line of upcycled denim, so when Missy Confidential alerted me to the warehouse sale I jumped at the chance to get some Salvage at a discount.

The things I do in the name of research.

The very chic, very clever folks at OT scour the globe for pre-loved jeans (only 1 in 8 pair make it through the strict quality tests) then pull them apart and re-stitch them into the hottest shorts, jeans and minis on the market.  No additional colour or chemical treatments are made to the denim, only the occasional distressing or detailing. And though each piece is truly one-of-a-kind they are all totally One Teaspoon (read: extremely covetable).
The colours and detailing all vary because of their pre-loved nature.

I hot-footed it to opening day of the sale and less than two hours after the doors opened the place was already buzzing. Scores of the Northern Beaches most stylish were hunting through racks of denim, maxi dresses, knits, swimsuits and tees, feverishly seeking out the best fashion bargains. I couldn't help but feel overcome with nostalgia for simpler days when my only warehouse sale concern was whether I'd find my size, and had to remind myself that just because the prices were amazingly low didn't mean I could buy whatever I wanted (and yes, I wanted); I was here for recycled denim only.

These large black tags hung from each Salvage item helped focus my attention.

I found a selection of Salvage shorts and skirts in my size and worked my way into the crowded group changing area.

As I huddled with the other fashion-lovers I felt a twinge of jealousy toward their carefree shopping attitudes.  It was hard to see all the gorgeous tops, dresses and non-recycled denim being modeled by my fellow shoppers knowing that I wouldn't be buying anything *new* today.  I felt I was betraying my fashionista-sisters by only buying one item so tried on my options as fast as I could. (I admit I was thisclose to buying a cropped tee because it was totally *now* and only $15, but put it down because it wasn't even organic.)

I stayed strong and walked out with only one pair of Salvage shorts - after waiting in a queue twenty people deep - excited that my purchase left both the environment and my wardrobe better off.

All in all I had fun revisiting the scene of many fond fashion memories. Though my resilience was strongly tested, it was fantastic to be shopping amongst my fellow fashion-lovers and find eco-fashion by a mainstream label.  I only hope more labels take OT's lead and create upcycled, recycled and eco-fabric fashion so we can all (easily) be eco-fashionistas.

Now bring on summer!

I LOVE this mini plastered with black sequins

The shorts are longer than they seem and totally flattering - but
still really good motivation to keep up my yoga!