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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2003
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Trains, Planes, and Pains
Interview: Bill McKibben
Life Study
The Comeback Canyon
Ways & Means
Let's Talk
One Small Step
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Lay of the Land
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The Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members

What Would John Muir Wear? | Our Ears Are Burning | Take Action | Express Yourself | Grassroots | Ansel Wins an Emmy

What Would John Muir Wear?

by Reed McManus

As part of an organization devoted to both environmental advocacy and outdoor enjoyment, Sierra Club members proudly—and literally—walk the walk. Now they can do so in comfort and style. This fall, the Sierra Club unveiled a line of men’s and women’s clothing, much of which incorporates renewable materials such as hemp, wool, and organic cotton, or recycled plastic bottles resurrected as soft and comfortable EcoSpun fiber.

Revenue from the clothing sales (the Club receives royalties of between 5 and 20 percent on each item sold) could bring in $1 million in the first 18 months, according to Johanna O’Kelley, the Club’s director of licensing. But generating much-needed funds for important environmental programs is just one reason to extend the Club’s retail reach beyond its popular calendars, cards, and books. The Club also hopes its imprimatur will give a solid boost to the environmentally friendly clothing market, a growing segment of the massive $183 billion U.S. apparel industry.

A few large clothing manufacturers, such as Patagonia and Nike, already incorporate organic fabrics into some of their products. For the most part, however, "green" clothing remains a cottage industry—one that, O’Kelley notes, too often ignores style. (She delicately describes some hemp-based clothing as "canvas sacks.") The Club’s line, produced by veteran apparel-maker Isda & Company, based in San Francisco, includes contemporary cargo pants, sweaters, shirts, and jackets—in snazzy colors such as "eggshell," "kelp," and "cocoa." Except for T-shirts and polo shirts, you won’t find the Club’s logo plastered on the outside of these well-made, understated fashions, either. In fact, even the labels on the inside of the garments are demure: When feasible, logo and care instructions are printed directly on organic fabric with organic inks, eliminating the need for labels.

Offering a clothing line that hews as closely as possible to environmentally sound ideals takes a near-monkish dedication. Denim for the Sierra Club’s first jeans, for instance, came from Denmark, where its manufacturer uses golf balls, not mined pumice, to "distress" the fabric to give it its well-worn look. Most of the Club’s organic cotton comes from Turkey, one of a handful of countries that are a reliable source for the pesticide-free fiber. (Much of the fabric used in the Sierra Club line follows Eco-tex standards, a European textile certification program that covers everything from spinning methods to wastewater disposal.) To avoid building eco-sensitivity on the backs of oppressed workers, the Club requires that its suppliers adhere to the workplace code of conduct of the Fair Labor Association, a coalition of universities, nongovernmental organizations, and companies such as Eddie Bauer, Patagonia, Reebok, and Polo Ralph Lauren.

On the whole, about 70 percent of the Club’s product line uses materials made from renewable, organic, or recycled sources. O’Kelley is constantly pushing for more, such as hemp denim and a new soybean-based yarn that partner Isda is introducing. It would be easier to slap Club logos on clothing of indeterminate origin with God-knows- what environmental impact. But going green—whose benefits include outreach to shoppers (activist-oriented "hang tags" are made from recycled paper and use biodegradable ink, of course)—is a cool fashion statement in itself.

Learn about environmentally friendly Sierra Club products—including men’s and women’s apparel, home textiles, note cards, and coffees and teas—at

And the Award Goes to . . . Ansel

Already famed as an artist and activist, Ansel Adams can now be remembered as an award-winning television star too. In September, Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film, a celebration of the photographer’s life and work, won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Cultural and Artistic Programming" in the news and documentary competition. Coproduced by Sierra Club Productions and Steeplechase Films, and written and directed by Ric Burns, Ansel Adams originally aired on PBS; it is now available on video and DVD.

For more about Ansel Adams, visit adams. To order a copy of the documentary, visit or call (877) PBS-SHOP.

Our Ears Are Burning

"If everybody in the Sierra Club had their way about it we’d still be using outhouses."
–Gulfport, Mississippi, city councilor Billy Hewes on the Biloxi-Gulfport WLOX evening news, June 3, 2003. (The Sierra Club is fighting a development that would fill 350 acres of wetlands and increase flood risks. Proponents say it will provide tax revenue to upgrade the city’s sewer infrastructure.)

"[Car dealer Harold] Schoeffler can make you a great deal on a new Seville, in a state where Cadillac is still king, but he’s got another, surprising side. He’s chairman of the local chapter of the Sierra Club and one of the most dogged environmentalists in Louisiana."
   —Outside, August 2003

"After being transported across major highways and metropolitan areas, [nuclear] waste would then be crammed in fault-line-ridden Yucca Mountain. Practically no one wants that, but who’s doing anything about it? The Sierra Club is, along with other environmental organizations."
   —Las Vegas CityLife, July 30, 2003

Take Action

Visit, where you can sign up for the Take Action Network to send free messages to your elected officials.

For the inside story about Club conservation campaigns and how you can help, ask for a free subscription to the bimonthly print newsletter the Planet. Send an e-mail to, or write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441.

Express Yourself

To make your voice count on environmental issues, we recommend that you write, fax, or call (rather than e-mail) your elected officials at:

U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

U.S. Capitol Switchboard
(202) 224-3121

Contact President Bush at:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Comment line (202) 456-1111
Fax (202) 456-2461


by Reed McManus

Border Issues
This summer, Superior National Forest managers were ready to clearcut the majority of 1,700 acres of prime forest land along the edge of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That is, until they were stopped in their tracks by a lawsuit filed by the Club’s North Star Chapter. A corridor less than two miles wide that separates two large wilderness areas would have faced construction or reopening of 38 miles of roads on lands environmental groups want added to the wilderness system. Now Superior is finishing a comprehensive, 20-year administrative plan for the 3-million-acre national forest enjoyed by canoeists and inhabited by loons, wolves, and bears. And activists fighting the pro-timber bent aren’t going to watch their effort be preempted. "When you’re clearcutting to such an extent," says chapter legal chair Sharon Stephens, "you’re dooming the area’s chances to ever be wilderness."

Read about the North Star Chapter’s efforts to protect Chippewa and Superior National Forests, including Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, at

Contact Us
Spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area by writing to Reed McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail; fax (415) 977-5794.

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