Vintage Clothing: Good for the Planet and Your Pocketbook
Anna LaPlaca is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles with an interest in sustainability and eco-conscious living.
In our busy lives, it's often hard to remember your commitments to sustainable living, however earnest they may be. You may consciously know that certain lifestyle choices are better than others, but when it comes to putting these moral values into practice, the reality can be much easier said than done.
Our entire society has been rooted in the consumerist culture that more is more and less is a bore. So if you feel connected to living sustainably and lowering your carbon footprint, consider simply changing which stores you shop at. And I don’t mean grocery stores. The clothing stores we choose to shop at can have just as much an impact (or lack thereof) on the environment.
As Americans, we spend an alarming amount of money on new clothes every year. But what if there was a way to recycle our clothes and cut down on clothing waste in a major way? The answer lies in vintage and up-cycled clothing.
By offering a pop-up shop curated with vintage luxury items, owner and Cleveland native Mary Peffer is working to bring sustainability to the consumer level. Peffer's shop, NAVY Project is a sub-project of her LA-based public relations firm, Navy PR. I caught up with Peffer to discuss the roots of this innovative project and its deep connection to sustainability.
AL: What is the pop-up shop all about?
MP: The PRoject is a division of our PR company NAVYPR based in LA. We wanted to bring our appreciation for luxury vintage to emerging markets at an accessible price point.
The Detroit storefront is the temporary home to classic androgynous runway trends rooted within rare vintage garments. Apparel within the 600 sq. ft. shop is not gender specific and is priced under $100.
The store also exhibits and sells artwork by Brooklyn Shop Third Eye designer and musician Savannah King, Cleveland/New York illustrator Deanna First and digital photographic print work by New York artist and former Cleveland resident Susan Greenspan.
AL: What led you to base this project in your hometown of Cleveland?
MP: I lived in Cleveland for 18 years. It’s a city that’s always been heavy in music, art, and fashion culture. Being surrounded by that in my formative years my sister-in-law, Melinda, and I naturally looked to the city to launch the PRoject, but it really clicked for us when Cleveland became the center of national news stories with LeBron James confirming a move back to Cleveland, The Gay Games hosted for the first time in the city, and the Republican National Convention slated for later in the year. We want to do all we can to keep the momentum of this amazing city moving forward.
AL: How do you think sustainability can be applied to the world of fashion and retail?
MP: I think it’s great when you see a company really investing in the education and practice of sustainability. When I worked at Yves Saint Laurent I was the leader for Corporate Social Responsibility measurement and education on the U.S. side. I realized during that time, most individuals want to help wherever they can, they just need the proper resources and guidance on how to contribute and understand impact at a micro level. Education is key.
Melinda and I read recently, "the average American throws away more than 68 pounds of textiles per year. We're not talking about clothing being donated to charity shops or sold to consignment stores, that 68 pounds of clothing is going directly into landfills.”
It’s jarring to think about.
The brand Reformation is an excellent role model when it comes to up-cycling current fashion. The founder, Yael Aflalo is a former boss of mine and I look up to her and was inspired by her approach. It’s not something we really saw before them, she’s a pioneer in the fashion world.
On our side, NAVY PRoject aims to find a new home for vintage clothes that would otherwise be discarded. These clothes aren’t damaged, and a lot of them are luxury. There’s a heritage in each piece, a story, one that we hope continues with its’ new owners. Today’s world of fast-fashion and synthetic fabrics translate into clothes that are made to be disposable. Incorporating vintage and upcycled apparel into your wardrobe eliminates waste and sends a message to mass retailers that consumers respect our Earth.
AL: Is there a particular environmental issue you feel most connected to?
MP: Global warming. Melinda and I both live in Los Angeles where we see the effects of the drought everyday.
AL: Will your pieces be up-cycled or vintage?
AL: Where did you find the pieces for the shop?
MP: I sourced product from all of the country; estate sales, flea markets, yard sales, and consignment shops. I started my trip by traveling through Southern and Northern California. I also made stops in Washington, Portland, Idaho and North Carolina, meeting up with old fashion major friends from college, stylists, and NY friends from Burberry and YSL getting their input and really trying to have fun with the process.
AL: Who or what was your main inspiration for this project?
MP: I like the idea of unisex because it allows people to express themselves without pre-determined restrictions. My sense of style has been heavily influenced by music and pop culture trends in general.
I envisioned two people for the store when curating the space, myself in high-school, trying to find affordable statement making clothes that expressed my individuality while fitting properly, and my previous assistant, Pablo Soto, at Saint Laurent. His style is amazing, always inspiring, unique, but not too trendy. He has a European sensibility, very rock n’ roll. That said, it was important for us to resonate with people of all ages. I think anyone open to the idea of vintage, heritage and luxury can find something they really love. There’s a Fendi top in the store that would be perfect to wear to the office and a deadstock army tee that would be awesome with a pair of boyfriend jeans.
I like the ease in which clothes from the 70’s and 80’s work on the body, daywear that can create a wardrobe of basics to wear over and over.
AL: Ultimately what are your goals with NAVY PRoject?
MP: The PRoject aims to communicate on art, architecture, fashion, design and hospitality ways that extend beyond traditional media and social platforms. It’s an experience and a way to provide access to trends in emerging cities. The first focuses on fashion and art.
AL: Do you have any advice or recommendations for our readers on ways to live more sustainably?
MP: Don’t get overwhelmed. Doing right by the Earth doesn’t have to mean compromising your lifestyle. Start small, look for products free of harmful chemicals and toxins and made of natural fibers. Pro tip: shop local, they often offer earth-friendly reusable shopping bags that can double as a grocery bag or gym tote.
If you’re in the Cleveland area, check out Peffer's unique shop at 6602 Detroit Ave. in the Gordon Square Arts District. Keep updated on the latest happenings by following @navypr and look out for future NAVY Project pop-up shops in cities across the country.
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By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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