Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nau Clothing

I just found a great source for green clothing for women and men looking for "cleaner" and more casual day to day ware. Call it metro-sexual garb for bikers and mountain climbers. Nau, based out of Portland, OR, is a twenty-person company and clearly passionate about design. Their goods are carried in retail stores across the U.S. and you can buy them on their website as well.

Their principles of sustainable design?
  • 2% of every sale to our humanitarian and environmental Partners for Change; cut-and-sew factories that adhere to their Code of Conduct.

  • Natural, renewable fibers produced in a sustainable manner; synthetic fabrics that contain high recycled content; managed toxics in all product finishes and dyes; salvaged and recycled materials for retail fixtures.

  • Styles and product details that are considered, timeless, and able to move seamlessly through the day and all its unpredictabilities.

I found the section about global sourcing on their website particularly revealing. It just goes to show how difficult it is to draw lines in the sand when it comes to making sustainable choices in the fashion industry these days.

We manufacture our clothing in four countries—Canada, China, Thailand and Turkey—using fabrics from China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and the U.S.A. One reason we manufacture many of our products in Asia is because many of our cutting-edge textiles originate only in Asia, and one of our goals is to have our production facilities as close as possible to where our fabric, hardware and fixtures originate, in order to reduce the environmental impact of shipping.

For many of the products we are producing (some of the most highly tailored and technical on the market) the required skill sets and technologies no longer exist in the U.S. While there are U.S.-made garments available to consumers, they are almost always less technical than what Nau designs, and are produced in far greater volume. The demise of the U.S. textile and garment-manufacturing segment of the economy is a well-known macro-economic trend, in place for many years. While disappointing, this is not something that we, as a small newcomer brand, can truly counteract.

Thankfully, along with the years of industry experience that many of our staff members bring to our team comes lasting, established relationships with foreign manufacturers whose practices and integrity we know and trust. Of course overseas production is not without controversy, but if approached with honesty and transparency, and monitored by a system of checks and balances, we believe it can actually benefit the people and countries where the work is done.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

HOK Wins APA Award

HOK, the General Services Administration and the University of Maryland recently partnered to write a comprehensive guide for sustainable development in the federal government. The work is being honored by the Federal Planning Division of the American Planning Association.

The guide won the award because it was a part of the GSA Sustainable Development Education Initiative, which was selected as the “Winner” in the Outstanding Sustainable Planning, Design and Development Initiative Category.

Titled “The New Sustainable Frontier – Principles of Sustainable Development,” the guide was published last summer by the Government Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy.

Here is a link to the executive summary of the guide.

The making of the guide was a fantastic learning experience for all… experts in Ecological Economics at the University of Maryland helped give a business context to the guide. Also, HOK facilitated a work session with several dozen key sustainability leaders across federal agencies and green companies from the corporate sector to understand unique organizational concerns. Jonathan Herz’s with the GSA led the team and his focus on making the guide “practical and usable” as well as “scientifically sound” produced excellent results.

Special kudos go to Anica Landreneau, Alesia Call and Todd Pedersen (all bloggers for The Green Workplace) who wrote the executive summary and extensive appendices. Seriously, if you’re looking for good case studies, bibliographies, definitions of sustainable vocabulary… go to the appendix here:

My favorite part of the guide? The end of the executive summary where the team structured a series of questions related to building buildings, buying products and procuring services. The questions are tools that federal employees should ask to green their daily operations. Here are a few of them.
1. LOOK FOR AN ALTERNATIVE to consuming additional natural resources and generating greenhousegases, by asking:
  • How can we support operations efficiently, and with just distribution of resources, while reducingthe Government’s ecological footprint?
  • Are we using existing stocks?
  • Can we use a service instead of owning this product?d. Can we reuse and an existing facility rather than building a new one?
2. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE BUYING, when there is no alternative to consumption. Make sure that theacquisition is consistent with the Government’s environmental and social goals by asking:
  • WHO MADE IT? Does its production and use allow all to live with respect?
  • WHAT’S IN IT? Is there a third party assessment of contents available to help us makeinformed decisions, such as an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)60 or ASTM International“Sustainability Assessment of Building Products”?


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Solar Bottle

One-sixth of the world’s population has no access to safe drinking water, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, Hepatitis A, and dysentery.

When attending an exhibition with the theme “H2O” at Milan’s International Furniture Fair, Alberto Meda, a furniture and lighting designer, and Francisco Gomez Paz, an industrial designer, learned about the solar water disinfection system (SODIS), a simple, low-cost solution for treating drinking water at a household level. Transparent plastic bottles are filled with contaminated water. When exposed to full sunlight for six hours, the pathogens in the water are destroyed.

Meda and Paz designed a container that brings out the best of the SODIS system, and the result is Solar Bottle, which has one transparent face for ultra-violet A and infrared ray collection and an aluminum color to increase the reflections. The high ratio surface and thickness of the low-cost container improves the performance of solar disinfection, and its flat shape makes it stackable and facilitates storage. A handle makes it possible to regulate the angle for best solar exposition and ensures easy transportation.

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