Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: Green

Remyxx kicks around new idea: 100% recyclable sneakers

Remyxx_1Millions of shoes are trashed in the U.S. each year. That's a lot of Nikes and Converse that are languishing in landfills, never to be seen again. But a new shoe company hopes to change that. Remyxx, in Charlotte, N.C., announced Monday that it would go into production with a 100% recyclable sneaker made from a blend of plastic, polyresin fabric and rubber.

Remyxx was featured on the season finale of the hit ABC TV show "Shark Tank" in May, after which Remyxx founder Gary Gagnon was tasked with proving consumer interest in the concept through the online fundraising site On Monday, Remyxx reached its $40,000 fundraising goal, preselling more than 450 pairs of shoes, which will now go into production. Five styles will be manufactured in sizes ranging from a youth 4 to a men's 12. Deliveries are expected in October.

"I'm your everyday consumer who lives in the suburbs, but I've always been a diligent recycler," said Gagnon, who was inspired to create the shoes in 2009, when he noticed his kids' beaten-up sneakers piled near the trash can. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice to recycle sneakers?' "

It would, indeed. While some shoe companies use recycled content in their products, most shoes still end up in landfills due to their use of mixed materials. And while Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program has recycled an astounding 25 million pairs of athletic shoes into things like running tracks since 1990, it's still just a drop in the bucket.

Gagnon, 43, had never worked in fashion or had ever thought to go into the footwear business, but he set to work on discovering whether a 100% recyclable shoe was possible. He hired a chemist and consulted with various recycling entities. He investigated what makes most shoes nonrecyclable and learned that some sneakers contain more than 100 different materials.

No5plasticsymbolGagnon says Remyxx shoes are constructed from a mix of polyresin materials. The top part looks like canvas, the sole like rubber. The entire thing is classified as, and labeled with, the No. 5 recycling symbol and can be recycled curbside in many cities that accept No. 5 plastics -- presuming the recycling agencies recognize the shoes as recyclable.

"It's still a sneaker to the collection agency," acknowledged Gagnon, who advocates "true and honest recyclability." To reduce the likelihood of Remyxx shoes being thrown in the recycling bin but still winding up in a landfilll, Remyxx plans to run a take-back program called Reduce, Reuse, Remyxx. Consumers who mail their used sneakers back to the company will get a $5 credit toward another pair, Gagnon said. While Remyxx shoes will be made in China, they'll be recycled in the U.S., he added.

As for the involvement of "Shark Tank" advisor, Daymond John, Gagnon said he was offered $50,000 for an 80% stake in the company on the show -- a deal Gagnon took but hasn't played out. John does not own a majority stake in Remyxx but is, instead, consulting with Gagnon.


Yes, even clothes can be recycled

Lost sunglasses? Dizm's will biodegrade

Fashion reboot: An eco-friendly wardrobe makeover

Can I Recycle: The series

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: Remyxx 100% recyclable sneakers; No. 5 plastic recycling symbol. Credit: Remyxx

Lost sunglasses? Dizm's will biodegrade

AP5G5872xMost SoCal lifeguards who rush into the water for a rescue end up losing their sunglasses in the water -- inadvertently adding to the Pacific Trash Vortex. But Dizm Eyewear is hoping to change that with its new eco-collection of biodegradable sunglasses.

"The concept is that if you lose your sunglasses in the water, they'll turn into fish food once they're decomposed. If you lose them in the forest, in five or 10 years, they'd turn into biomass and be completely gone," said Jonas Lee, general manager of Dizm Eyewear in Hermosa Beach.

A sunglass line designed to bridge the gap between action sports and fashion, Dizm makes about 70 styles, 18 of which have biodegradable frames. Dizm is still working on a biodegradable solution for its polycarbonate lenses, which present a challenge because of the need for optical clarity. Before the end of the year, Dizm hopes to switch all of its frames to plastics made from wood, cotton and palm oil.

"Our entire team is working to develop the best processes for recycling and repurposing glasses as well as to take good care of our playground," said Dizm founder Linda Larson, who recently sponsored a beach cleanup at the American Pro Surfing Series contest in Huntington Beach and is currently developing a collection program for its glasses to either rework and donate them to people in need or to dispose of them more ecologically than the landfill.

If composted with a backyard system, the biodegradable sunglass frames will break down over the course of several seasons, Larson said.


Getting an eco-friendly wardrobe makeover

Coming soon to baby's bottom: 100% compostable diapers

Celebrities opting for lightly tinted, custom-made sunglasses

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Dizm Eyewear eco-collection sunglasses. Credit: Dizm Eyewear.

Fashion focuses on water savings for World Water Day

UnitedbyblueIt's World Water Day Thursday. What will you be doing to preserve and conserve this precious resource? Several fashion brands will be celebrating the 19th annual event pioneered by the United Nations with challenges designed to bring awareness to crucial water issues.

Employees at Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco are wearing the same pair of jeans five days straight without washing them as part of the company's weeklong World Water Day Challenge. To aid its employees in sticking with the program, the company has set up cleaning stations around its office for spot-treating denim.

Levis_WaterlessLevi's is encouraging individuals outside the company to also go waterless by washing their jeans in cold water and only cleaning them every two weeks instead of weekly. Levi's, which began selling low-water Water<Less jeans in 2011, says that if all of its 13 million Water<Less products were washed every other week, it would save 14 years of drinking water for 60,000 people.

Whether it's forgoing laundry, a shower or tooth brushing, the outdoor action brand Teva is challenging individuals to give up water in one area of their lives for World Water Day.

“Teva has a long-standing passion for clean water, the source of both life and our recreation,” says Will Pennartz, Teva lifestyle marketing manager. “It is our responsibility to help in the protection of these playgrounds for future generations.”

In 2011, Teva launched its Pair for a Foot program, which aims to protect one linear foot of river, lake and ocean shoreline for every pair of shoes sold. Teva works in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy and other environmental groups to assist with water cleanup efforts.

United by Blue is even more hands-on. The entire staff of the Philadelphia-based T-shirt and bag company will be spending the day on the banks of the Delaware River for World Water Day, collecting trash. Over the course of two hours, they are likely to retrieve about 300 pounds of garbage -- from disposable diapers to soda cans and plastic bottles, the latter of which will be shipped to a California recycling facility that will turn these so-called ocean plastics into containers for Method brand cleaning products.

In almost two years, United by Blue has collected 83,000 pounds of trash from rivers, oceans and lakes as part of its business model: For every item sold, the company guarantees it will pull one pound of trash from polluted waterways.

"Waterways and oceans are 71% of the planet," said Brian Linton, founder of United by Blue, which is sold online, at Urban Outfitters and, beginning next month, at select Nordstrom's. "We live on a blue planet, so everything is united by blue. You and I and the frog and the fish and the bird and the bacteria, we all need water to survive."

Like Levi's and Teva, United by Blue is also issuing a challenge: to give up single-use plastic bags and bottles.

"One of the most common plastics we find is the plastic water bottle," said Linton. "Asking people to think more about single-use plastics is a great way for people to tackle the water pollution issue without too much effort on their part."

Fourteen billion pounds of trash end up in the world's oceans each year, Linton said. According to the United Nations, 1 in 8 people on the planet lack access to clean drinking water.


Cotton that's kinder to the planet

Trying to undress my "water footprint"

Coming soon to baby's bottom: 100% compostable diapers

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: United by Blue T-shirt, Levi's Water<Less jeans, Teva shoes. Credit: United by Blue, Levi Strauss & Co., Teva.

Target says it will stop selling sandblasted denim by year's end [Updated]

Distressed denimMost people who wear distressed denim didn't do the distressing themselves. They bought it that way off the shelf. It's an effect often created with sandblasting, a technique that blasts crystalline silica onto blue jeans using high-pressure machines.

Cool as that makes the blue jeans look, it has decidedly negative consequences for the garment workers who make them. Breathing the air in close proximity to sandblasting can cause the incurable lung disease silicosis, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a Netherlands-based advocacy group dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment industry.

Even with strict safety standards and protective gear, garment workers are still at risk from sandblasting, according to Patty Reber, director of raw materials development for product design and development with Minneapolis-based Target Corp.

On Tuesday, Target announced that by late 2012 it would stop carrying any products that have been sandblasted during the manufacturing process. Target, which operates 1,762 stores, has teamed with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to investigate responsible sourcing solutions. [Updated Feb. 29, 2012, 7:51 a.m.: The original version of this post said Target and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition were investigating sandblasting alternatives. The two organizations have partnered to identify sustainable and responsible sourcing solutions, generally, but not specific to sandblasting.]

Target's announcement follows Levi Strauss & Co. of San Francisco and Swedish-based retailer H&M which, in September 2010, collaborated to implement a global ban on sandblasting in all of their future product lines. The International Textile Garment and Leather Worker's Federation found that 7,000 garment workers in Turkey had been exposed to crystalline silica and 40 of them died between 2005 and 2009; the Turkish government banned the use of crystalline silica in 2009.


Redefining glamour on the red carpet

Levi's makes 'green' jeans using 28% less water

Target commits to 100% sustainable, traceable fish by 2015

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Distressed denim blue jeans. Credit: Los Angeles Times

With ThredUp, recycle kids' clothes by leaving them on the porch

ThredUp bagA new service launching Wednesday through the online swapping site ThredUp makes recycling kids' clothes as easy as leaving them on your doorstep. Through ThredUp's new concierge program, customers go online to request a free, prepaid, ready-to-ship recycling bag, which they fill with outgrown clothing and leave outside for pick-up by UPS or the U.S. Postal Service.

A form of consignment, clothes that are sent through the ThredUp concierge are inspected, sorted and recycled for resale through ThredUP's secondhand marketplace online. While the amounts paid to the sender vary by item type, brand, size and season, ThredUp Chief Executive James Reinhart says senders can earn as much as $5 per item. Payments are processed through PayPal.

Only kids clothes and shoes are accepted, and the items cannot be stained, ripped, faded or pilled. Anything that can't be resold is donated to Goodwill rather than returned. Even the plastic bags used for shipping are recycled, Reinhart said. Each bag can hold about 30 pounds.

A six-week pilot of the concierge service with ThredU users recycled almost 40,000 items, two-thirds of which were in good enough condition to resell. With its public launch, ThredUp anticipates recycling more than 10,000 clothing items per day.

ThredUp launched in April 2010 as a site for moms to swap children's things with other moms. It now has more than 250,000 members who have exchanged 2 million items.

"We've had a lot of success with our peer-to-peer business, but we kept hearing from lots of folks who love the idea of being able to recycle and get new stuff, but they wanted an easier way to do it where we did more of the work," Reinhart said.

Throughout the U.S., almost 13 million tons of textile waste are generated annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of that, just 15% is recovered for reuse or recycling.


Garbage Maven: Recycling old clothes

Clothing makers expand recycling efforts

Online shopping: Better for the environment?

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Mother Meg Reinhart and daughter Evelyn with the ThredUp concierge bag. Credit:


Sleevecandy's 'accidentally ironic' thrift-store T-shirts

SleeveCandyExxonMobilThe way Reed Hushka sees it, the biggest problem with thrift shops isn't the lack of cool clothes but the hit-or-miss selection and sizes at individual stores. "I live in Chicago," Hushka said, "but my perfect T-shirt might be sitting in Austin, Texas."

And so a business was born. Calling them "accidentally ironic" and "ridiculously unique," Hushka is now exploiting his taste for questionably themed, collector and vintage T-shirts with the online business,, which Hushka founded earlier this year in Evanston, Ill., with three grad-school classmates from Northwestern University. Whether the shirts were made by a corporation or a community group, Sleevecandy sells all the ridiculously awesome T-shirts its shoppers are able to find at Salvation Army stores in Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit, where 30% of each T-shirt's sale price is donated back to the national charity.

Just half a percent of all the T-shirts sold by the Salvation Army are ridiculous or interesting enough for Sleevecandy, the 28-year-old Hushka said. And not all of them are fit to be resold. To make sure they're clean and in good condition, the shirts are washed at a Chicago warehouse and inspected for stains and holes before being photographed, tagged with search words and uploaded to the website, where they're sold for $16 to $52 a pop. The upper end of the price range, Hushka said, are usually of an '80s vintage and reference a major force in pop culture, such as Coca-Cola's switch to a new formula.

SleeveCandyCokeThe site has about 2,200 T-shirts for sale at any given time. Some go faster than others. An "Exxon Mobil Helping Hands" shirt sold within a few days. A "Striving for the Best -- Summer Camp 1996" "has been on the site forever," Hushka said.


Garbage Maven: Recycling old clothes

Clothing makers expand recycling efforts

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: T-shirts found at Salvation Army and resold on Credit:

Revigor re-loves closet castoffs

Revigor-haute-couver-short[1]"Recycled" and "high-end" aren't terms that easily pair up, yet that's the mission of Revigor, a Petaluma demi-couture company that transforms out-of-circulation clothing into one-of-a-kind, ready-to-wear pieces.

While the source fabrics are previously worn, they aren't crafty patchworks. Long fabric panels are stitched together into kimonos and wrap dresses, scarves and handbags with finished seams rather than frayed edges.

To celebrate Earth Day, Revigor is headed to L.A. for a one-night event Thursday, during which attendees are encouraged to purge their closets and bring select items to be "Revigor-ed."

Revigor founder Amy Critchett will meet with clients to determine what pieces can be made from their recycled clothing. Kimonos cost $488, Wrap dresses $388, scarves and purses $188. After a client places an order, Critchett's seamstress will sew the piece together at her studio in Petaluma and ship it when it's completed.

"It's like a trunk show meets a trip to the tailor," said Critchett, 44. "To see your items as potential new pieces is just a really wonderful, undescribable magic."

Orpheum Lofts, 846 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. Thursday, 7-9 p.m. RSVP (213) 840-0077.


Sustainable chic: Trashy in a good way

Yes, even clothes can be recycled

Save money, refresh wardrobes with clothing swaps

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Revigor Haute Couveur. Credit: Revigor

Firefighter coat messenger bag tops Art of Reuse contest

FirefightermessengerbagA messenger bag made from old firefighter coats and a brooch fashioned from used zippers topped the winners' list for NBCUniversal's first Art of Reuse contest. The contest was conducted in partnership with Etsy, a website where artists and craftspeople sell handmade items. The contest's top 10 finalists were revealed Monday.

Designed to celebrate Earth Day, the Art of Reuse plays off the Trash to Treasure study NBCUniversal conducted last month, which found that three-quarters of consumers would rather find another use for something than throw it away.

Zipperbroach "This desire to create something or buy something that has been created out of something that's already been used is a very strong value with today's consumers," said Janet Gallent, vice president of consumer insight and innovation research for Green Is Universal, a green awareness program launched by NBCUniversal in 2007. 

Twirklyskirt3 Green Is Universal polling showed 68% of consumers are paying more attention to whether a product is made from recycled materials; 78% said the quality of products made from recycled materials has also improved. 

Lauren Bush, designer of the Lauren Pierce clothing line and founder of the nonprofit Feed Project, served as one of the judges for the Art of Reuse. Other celebrity judges included Martha Stewart, Tori Spelling and Andy Cohen.

Bush said she was particularly struck by the craftsmanship of the contest entries.

"They’re all so creative. They're all really beautiful," said Bush, who was most impressed by the messenger bag fashioned from old uniforms.

"I make bags, so I’m partial to the firefighter coat recycled messenger bag, which just aesthetically is such a cool bag regardless of what it’s made from," she said. "I don’t know how many old firefighter jackets are out there. I don’t know if it can be mass-made, but it's a rare item to be recycled. That makes it cooler."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: Firefighter coat bag, top, re-zip it brooch, upcycled twirly skirt. Credit:


The Alchemy of Grooming: Go green with your makeup with DIY cosmetics

Image Are you the crafty, 4-H blue ribbon-winning type? Have confidence that your cooking and cocktail-making skills can translate into whipping up an organic skin care tonic? Or do you simply crave beauty products that aren’t crazy expensive or carcinogenic?

Then you might want to check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of not-for-profit health and environmental groups launched in 2004 with the goal of protecting the health of consumers and workers by working to to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

Last weekend the campaign partnered with the Santa Monica Museum of Art at Bergamot Station to conduct a hands-on workshop called "Cause for Creativity: The Alchemy of Grooming," where attendees learned to make “green” cosmetic and grooming products.

In addition to cooking up (quite literally as there were double–boilers, measuring cups and funnels in the mix) deliciously fragrant lavender skin tonic and lemongrass healing ointment, attendees also watched a video by Annie Leonard called “The Story of Cosmetics: The Ugly Truth of ‘Toxics In, Toxics Out.’” It’s a pretty potent overview about what can be in commercial makeup, shampoo and skin care products and it’s posted on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website where those so inclined can find instructions on how to host a Safe Cosmetics Party of their own.  Not a bad idea: I have to say, the whole afternoon was a lot more fun in the company of the friend who invited me rather than trying to stock my own personal organic apothecary solo.

Recipes to make your own lavender skin tonic, cucumber eye gel and a myriad of other beauty products including beet red lip gloss made with actual beet juice are in the Get Crafty section of the Campaign’s website. Here’s the recipe they post for an uplifting grapefruit sugar scrub - yum! Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups white table sugar
8 drops grapefruit essential oil
1/4 cup jojoba oil
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
Place sugar in a large bowl and stir to break up any clumps. Add the essential oil. Add the jojoba oil and castile soap next, a little at a time, stirring after each addition. Mix well and pour into clean container. To use, stand in the tub or shower and massage the sugar scrub onto your skin from head to toe. Rinse.

-- Alene Dawson

Photo: Photo of ingredients for making papaya and banana cosmetics, wheat germ oil, egg whites, almond oil, french green clay, bentonite clay, peppermint and grapefruit seed extract. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times.

Oscars inspire 'Green the Red Carpet' clothing swap

Clothingswapboston As Oscar nominees prep themselves for a night in designer gowns and million-dollar accessories, another group of women is gearing up for a "Green the Red Carpet" clothing swap. 

Riffing off the Academy Awards, the swap is taking place at Catchlight Studios on Saturday, the day before Hollywood's biggest night of the year.

Participants are invited to bring bags of gently loved clothing, accessories, shoes and evening wear. For each bag they bring, they can take away a bag of items they've found at the swap.

Admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Participants drop off their clothes at 6 p.m. and return at 8, after the bags of clothing have been sorted and put on display in designated areas for dresses, coats, shirts, denim and other categories. In a clothing grab the event's organizers say is similar to a Running of the Brides at Filene's Basement, for one hour participants have at it in a free-for-all that is first-come, first-served.

There may or may not be dressing rooms. Swappers are advised to wear layers so they can try things on.

"It's civilized chaos," admitted Melissa Massello, who is one half of the Swapaholics, the Boston-based duo that is throwing the event.

Massello and fellow Swapaholic Amy Chase have been hosting public and private clothing swaps for two years. Green the Red Carpet is the second swap they've held in L.A.

"We thought the Oscars were the perfect time to bring people together and highlight the really cool thing that is swapping,"  Massello added. "It's retail therapy, but it's recycling. It's community-driven. It's great for women, especially in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s who no longer have the communal closet of roommates or sisters."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Swapaholics clothing swap at last year's Boston Fashion Week. Credit: Adam Towner


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