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  • Beware, ye Halloween pirates and princesses.

    We just received a timely pre-Halloween press release from the Sierra Club, warning about the dangers of toy jewelry. Not the choking hazard, or the dressing-like-Mr.-T-for-the-fourth-year-in-a-row hazard, but the leaching-toxic-metals hazard.

    Toy jewelry, apparently, can have high amounts of lead. It also, according to the Sierra Club, has become a popular trick-or-treat item in recent years. (Thanks, but I'll take the candy. Unless you have a locally grown, organic apple sans razor blade?)

    Lead is bad for you, particularly if you are a trick-or-treating-age tot -- even more particularly if you are a trick-or-treating-age tot with a propensity for putting anything and everything into your mouth.

  • Umbra on synthetic fabrics and kids

    Dear Umbra, I have just recently learned about all these plastic-awareness issues and now wonder about polyester clothing, or any human-made fabric for that matter, on my children (three girls: 3, 5, and 7 years old). If plastics can leach out into their bodies, can clothing also affect them? Julie Roberts Nevada City, Calif. Dearest […]

  • New study finds women dress better when they’re fertile

    A new study has found that women tend to dress better when they're fertile, according to an article published today by Reuters. Perhaps there is good reason environmentalists, at least as far as the stereotype is concerned, dress poorly. All the hemp ponchos and fleece jackets are really just another way to walk the talk on population control. At least, that's my new excuse for dressing like this. It's my fertility camouflage.

  • Meet the eco-model who’s changing the face of fashion

    SUMMER SAYS GIVE Watch a video of Summer Rayne Oakes telling you to donate to Grist. It’s a strange scene: a sexy fashion model in skintight jeans, belly showing, telling a bunch of teenagers, “I studied sewage sludge and absolutely loved it!” Twenty-two-year-old Summer Rayne Oakes then confesses a fondness for bugs. From behind their […]

  • Umbra on old clothes

    Dear Umbra, I promise that I searched the archives before emailing you, so hopefully you haven’t already answered this question. I’m wondering about the best way to dispose of old clothes and shoes — the tired, well-loved, and much-worn items that thrift shops really don’t want. I wear my clothes until the bitter end, and […]

  • Wool and silk pass the test

    Vindication is a strange animal (like unto a marmot, or maybe an echidna) creeping up where one least expects it. Such as the BBC yesterday.

    A fan, nay, a necessary devotee of natural-fiber clothing (see: Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), I often get flak from fellow outdoorspeople for outdoorsifying in non-synthetics. Especially so on high-altitude peaks in Colorado. But, newsflash, people: natural fibers like wool and silk, when worn correctly in layers, can hold up to just about everything synthetics can, even on Everest.  Or on 14,000-foot peaks in the U.S. Or in the high Sierras.

    Of course, no material is perfect -- super-wet conditions in bulky woolies, for example, often result in a seeming sheep's worth of extra weight -- but in mostly dryish mountain conditions, they're the mountain goat's pajamas.

    Wearing replica gear made from gabardine, wool, cotton and silk, [mountaineer Graham Hoyland] wanted to disprove the common myth that the 1920s climbers were ill-equipped to reach the summit [of Mount Everest] ...

    The three-year project, led by Professor Mary Rose and Mike Parsons, revealed that Mallory's clothing was highly effective at providing protection at high altitude.

    The layered natural materials used to construct the garments were found to be excellent at trapping air next to the skin.

    The outer layer of gabardine was hardwearing and water-resistant yet breathable. But the clothing was also lighter than modern gear -- the lightest ever to be used on Everest.

  • Japanese buyers buy up Patagonia’s eco-themed t-shirts

    Patagonia Japan introduced a line of organic cotton t-shirts in January that sported messages on the front and back addressing environmental problems in various regions of the country. They donated $5 from the price of each shirt to Japanese environmental groups. The t-shirt line was completely sold out by the end of March.

    I don't know a lot about the political climate in Japan with regard to environmental issues, so I can't tell if this is a great success story or not. Is this a triumph for environmental awareness or a triumph for the latest materialistic shopping fad? I guess I would argue it's positive either way, because some of the profits are going toward environmental and conservation goals, and it's raising awareness.

    At the same time, however, I don't think that a similarly themed line of clothing would ever meet with such success in the U.S. (go ahead and prove me wrong if such a thing already exists). Wearing a shirt supporting the cleanup of a Superfund site or the protection of a wilderness area immediately labels you as a leftist enviro-lunatic in this country. Which may be fine for some of us, but we're not going to set any sales records ...

  • Umbra on eco-conscious fashion

    Dear Umbra, I need some new clothes! But besides shopping consignment and used clothing shops and hunting through labels looking for “Made in USA” tags, are there online sources of organic- or sustainable-fabric clothes that are guaranteed sweatshop-free? I would not mind investing in some decent duds that look nice and last. Lorna VogtSalt Lake […]