The Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members
What Would John Muir Wear?
by Reed McManus
As part of an organization devoted to both environmental advocacy and outdoor enjoyment, Sierra Club members proudlyand literallywalk the walk. Now they can do so in comfort and style. This fall, the Sierra Club unveiled a line of mens and womens 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 OKelley, the Clubs director of licensing. But generating much-needed funds for important environmental programs is just one reason to extend the Clubs 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 industryone that, OKelley notes, too often ignores style. (She delicately describes some hemp-based clothing as "canvas sacks.") The Clubs line, produced by veteran apparel-maker Isda & Company, based in San Francisco, includes contemporary cargo pants, sweaters, shirts, and jacketsin snazzy colors such as "eggshell," "kelp," and "cocoa." Except for T-shirts and polo shirts, you wont find the Clubs 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 Clubs 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 Clubs 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 Clubs product line uses materials made from renewable, organic, or recycled sources. OKelley 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 greenwhose 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 productsincluding mens and womens apparel, home textiles, note cards, and coffees and teasat www.sierraclubgear.com.
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 photographers 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 www.sierraclub.org/ansel_ adams. To order a copy of the documentary, visit www.shop.pbs.org or call (877) PBS-SHOP.
Our Ears Are Burning
"If everybody in the Sierra Club had their way about it wed still be using outhouses."
"[Car dealer Harold] Schoeffler can make you a great deal on a new Seville, in a state where Cadillac is still king, but hes got another, surprising side. Hes chairman of the local chapter of the Sierra Club and one of the most dogged environmentalists in Louisiana."
"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 whos doing anything about it? The Sierra Club is, along with other environmental organizations."
Visit www.sierraclub.org/takeaction, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441.
Express YourselfTo 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. House of Representatives
U.S. Capitol Switchboard
Contact President Bush at:
Comment line (202) 456-1111
by Reed McManus
Read about the North Star Chapters efforts to protect Chippewa and Superior National Forests, including Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, at www.northstar.sierraclub.org/forestry.