My Dad...a Man Before His Time

Growing up in the 60’s, I have vivid memories of ways that I was learning about recycling, reuse, sustainability and to be mindful of the environment. My dad was into these common buzzwords before we knew they were buzzwords. Everything that he did was more for practicality that he had to learn growing up without a father, in western Kansas during the dustbowl years. There wasn’t a lot of money and so he along with his sisters and brothers had to find ways to ‘make do’.

As a professional, my dad received countless letters, promotions, junk mail, etc. Of course, there wasn’t a recycling bin like what we have now in our home. But we had a recycling box where any piece of paper that was blank on one side went into. This became our paper to draw, color, doodle, cut things out, etc. In addition to the paper, my dad decided that when we needed a new AC unit instead of going ‘traditional’ he would go with ‘well water cooled’ AC. And, wait there’s more! If we’re going to use well water what about solar panels for heating! We were the only house on the block (OK in all of my hometown) to have a one side of our house filled with three rows of HUGE solar panels.

Did these sustainable practices work? Well, that was over 40 years ago and I’d say only at the beginning of the development of these technologies. We had cool air going through our AC vents, but not as cool as if we went the conventional route. Same with the solar panels. But for me, it’s not about whether these worked. It’s the simple yet powerful lesson that I learned to try in any way possible to practice the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and it is still something that I practice as much as possible today.

You’re wanting me to get to the point, right? First thing to know is that the fashion industry – fast fashion in particular – is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil! Fast fashion has become our norm. As consumers, whether brick & mortar or online, we are accustomed and expect to have the newest fashion trend available and at low cost. The idea is that speedy mass production combined with cheap labor will make clothes cheaper for those buying them, thus allowing these fast fashion trends to maintain economic success.

When first creating alvöru I had enough knowledge to know that the fashion industry is not a ‘clean’ industry. And, as I’ve gotten farther into it, I’ve found out even more astonishing facts that leave me torn between my childhood lessons and my adult dream.

  • In a February 2019 study, the value of the total fashion retail market, including footwear but excluding jewelry, was $1.78 trillion, a jump of 14% from 2018.
  • In the USA alone, fashion spending in the apparel and footwear market is $370 billion.
  • Fashion is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply.
  • 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions are from fashion.
  • Every year the world as a whole consumes more than 80 billion items of clothing.
  • 85% of all textiles go to the dump.

That last fact, that’s where I’m trying to make a small difference by finding ways to utilize the ‘scraps’ of my Outlast fabric. So far, this has been done in three alvöru products – the fingerless gloves, the itsa and the bra liner. In addition to these products, the scraps that are too small are now being cut up into small pieces and used as filling in pillows that go to a local Kansas City organization that services in need families in the metro. There’s nothing fancy about these pillows, but between my local seamstress, her cache of donated fabrics and time, along with my alvöru scraps we have given out 26 pillows (in various sizes) and kept 117 pounds of fabric out of the landfill!

To me, it’s the little things that count with the decisions I make with alvöru and in my daily life. If everyone found one thing to do to improve our world, it would add up to millions, even billions of good going out into our communities and improving something to makes our world a better place.