The Cleanest Line

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    Re-Imagining Rubber – PLUSfoam’s Flip-Flop Recycling Revolution

    By Ethan Stewart

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    Even the most tender-footed outdoor enthusiasts amongst us are familiar with the scenario. You are walking back to camp from a quick creek swim, or perhaps making your way home after a day spent chasing the hollow insides of pitching lumps of salt water, and your trusty flip-flops decide to blow out. Maybe the strap pulls out or tears or your big toe finally busts through the sole. Either way, your beloved slaps are toasted and now destined for the trash can, their fate all but sealed by the very material they are made from – non-biodegradable waste taking up space forever in a landfill or, even worse, the very ocean you just spent your afternoon playing in.

    Certainly, creative upcyclying (hello handplane or doorstop or fly swatter) can work to delay such a conclusion to the life of a pair of flip-flops but, eventually, a final trip to the dump is unavoidable for essentially anything (be it footwear or otherwise) made out of popular petro-chemical based materials like rubber, foam, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane (PU). Unfortunately, even in this great age of ever-improving recycling technology, this less-than-ideal end game endures our children and our children’s children are all on the hook to pay the bill.

    Today, thanks to the folks from PLUSfoam, a small upstart company based in Newport Beach, California, this story is being rewritten with a markedly happier and eco-friendly outcome.

    [Above: The Men's Reflip Chip, and Women's Reflip Chip (not shown), feature a PLUSfoam recycled footbed that's 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life. Photo: Patagonia.com]

    Continue reading "Re-Imagining Rubber – PLUSfoam’s Flip-Flop Recycling Revolution " »

    Solutions Series, Part 1: The Babies in the River

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_leonardOnce upon a time in a riverside village, a woman noticed a shocking sight: a drowning baby, crying its lungs out, being washed downriver. She rushed to save it, rescuing the baby just before it went over the falls at the edge of town.

    The next day there were two babies in the river; the day after, three more, then four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them, too. When babies kept washing downstream, the village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Still the babies kept coming. So the community installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was still overwhelmed trying to save them the babies.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 1: The Babies in the River" »

    The Art of the Resole

    By iFixit

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    Mark Sensenbach perches on a stool, back slightly hunched, eyes down, brows narrowed in concentration. His hands, toughened by mountains and work, maneuver the rubber sole of a climbing shoe against a sanding wheel.

    His movements made smooth by practice, Mark runs the shoe back and forth, rotates and repeats. He draws it away from the wheel for a moment and thumbs around the edges of the shoe, feeling for imperfections. There must have been a few, because the shoe goes back to the wheel once again.

    Mark looks up and smiles. “That’s pretty much how it goes in here,” he says, gesturing around his workshop.

    Continue reading "The Art of the Resole" »

    Love

    By Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardLong before we were labeled treehuggers, before environmentalist, ecologist and conservationist, people with a passion for the Earth were commonly called nature lovers. What better time than February to re-embrace the term? If there's one thing the Common Threads community has in common, it's a devotion to hiking, skiing, climbing, surfing, fishing and other outdoor sports that bring us into loving contact with our beautiful yet fragile planet.

    But with all due respect to the Beatles, love is not all you need. And to turn around Edward Abbey's well-known advice to activists, it is not enough to love the land, it is even more important to fight for it.

    Continue reading "Love" »

    Being Thankful

    by Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardIf you ask people what they’re most thankful for in life, three things nearly always come out on top. Not their car (even if it’s a hybrid), their shiny new ultrathin laptop or a 700-fill-power goose down ski jacket. Surveys consistently find we’re most thankful for friends and loved ones, good health and the wonders of nature. What’s more, clinical studies show that gratitude is good for us. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and better able to cope with problems. Being thankful even helps us sleep better.

    It’s a good time, then, to ask: Why don’t we walk the talk?

    Continue reading "Being Thankful" »

    Getting to Zero

    by Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardRecycling has come a long way, but has a long way to go. Sorting our paper, cans and bottles has become second nature for good green-leaning citizens, and many communities have expanded curbside recycling programs to include food and other compostables. But nationwide, Americans only recycle about a third of the 250 million tons of municipal solid waste we produce every year.

    That’s right: even though “recycling” has been a household word for decades now, two-thirds of our waste still goes to the dump or incinerator. Obviously we have to do better, but how much better can we do? Can we cut it to 50 percent? Twenty percent? How about aiming for zero?

    Continue reading "Getting to Zero" »

    Choose to Reuse

    by Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardWhen I moved into the house in Dhaka where I lived in 1993, I noticed there was no wastebasket in my room. On my first trip to the market, I bought one – and soon discovered that throwing things “away” meant something different in the capital of Bangladesh than back home. What I threw into the trash quickly resurfaced in the community, put to another use. My blue flowered deodorant container turned up on a neighbor’s living room shelf as a vase for real flowers. A small boy stuck rods through my empty hair conditioner bottle and attached wheels, making a toy car he pulled around on a string.

    The potential for reuse is everywhere. It’s like that folk tale many of us were read as kids. Joseph’s grandfather turns his favorite blanket into a jacket. Joseph wears it out, so Grandpa turns the jacket into a vest. The vest becomes a handkerchief. The handkerchief becomes a tie. The tie becomes a button. Finally the button is lost. Even Grandpa can’t make something from nothing – but the lesson about how Stuff can be repurposed and reused again and again is clear.

    Continue reading "Choose to Reuse" »

    Let’s Bring Back Repair

    by Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardA few years ago I bought a cheap portable radio for $4.99 to listen to the news while I walk to work. Soon after, one of the earphone buds broke. No problem, I thought – I’ll just fix it using parts from my drawer of other broken electronics. No such luck: the whole radio, including the earphones, was in one piece, connected without screws or snaps, so that if any one part broke it couldn’t be repaired. For less than 5 dollars, Radio Shack knew, I’d find it easier to buy a new one.

    I call making a radio – or any other product – that can’t be repaired ‘design for the dump.’ Designers call it planned obsolescence and it’s at the heart of the take-make-waste system that’s trashing the planet, our communities and our health.

    You see, while we’re all pretty familiar with the three ‘R’s’ – reduce, reuse,  recycle – many of us, including many product  designers and manufacturers, give short shrift to the fourth ‘R’:  repair. Before recycling comes repair.

    Continue reading "Let’s Bring Back Repair" »

    Stuffing Ourselves on Black Friday

    by Annie Leonard and Rick Ridgeway

    The following Op-Ed first appeared in the Friday, November 25, 2011 edition of the Los Angeles Times. Annie Leonard is founder of The Story of Stuff Project. Rick Ridgeway is Vice President of Environmental Initiatives at Patagonia, Inc.

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    [Annie Leonard (left) speaking at Patagonia's 2011 Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference. Photo: Tim Davis. Rick Ridgeway (right) speaking at the 2009 United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change. Photo: Kodiak Greenwood]

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    Today is Black Friday, when holiday shopping hoards descend on malls across the country, and retailers hope to turn a profit as their accounting books transition from red ink to black. This year, Black Friday comes two months after Earth Overshoot Day, when our planet’s accounts – the ones that measure human demand on the planet’s services that support our economies – transitioned the other direction, from black to red.

    Each year our planet can produce a certain amount of resources and absorb a certain amount of use – nature’s budget for the year. One group of scientists that keep an eye on this is the Global Footprint Network, and by its calculations, in 2011 we exhausted the annual budget on September 27th, less than 10 months into the year. That means we are currently 135% above the capacity of our planet to replace essential “services” like clean water, clean air, arable land, healthy fisheries and stable climate. Our over-consumption is eating into the very ecological systems that all the world’s economies – and indeed, all life – depend on. If that is troublesome, consider that by 2050, we'll be 500% above capacity unless we change how we make, use and throw away stuff.

    Continue reading "Stuffing Ourselves on Black Friday" »

    Don't Buy This Jacket, Black Friday and the New York Times

    NYT_11-25-11_2Photo: Patagonia advertisement from the Friday, November, 25, 2011 edition of The New York Times (click image to read as a PDF, 1.5MB).

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    Why run an ad in The New York Times on Black Friday telling people, “Don’t Buy This Jacket”?

    It’s time for us as a company to address the issue of consumerism and do it head on.

    The most challenging, and important, element of the Common Threads Initiative is this: to lighten our environmental footprint, everyone needs to consume less. Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy.

    Why? Everything we make takes something from the planet we can’t give back. Each piece of Patagonia clothing, whether or not it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates at least another half garment’s worth of scrap, and draws down copious amounts of freshwater now growing scarce everywhere on the planet.

    We’re placing the ad in the Times because it’s the most important national newspaper and considered the “paper of record.” We’re running the ad on Black Friday, which launches the retail holiday season. We should be the only retailer in the country asking people to buy less on Black Friday.

    Continue reading "Don't Buy This Jacket, Black Friday and the New York Times" »

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