Monday, May 12, 2008

Some thoughts on green

As I was washing a new fleece yesterday, using all that water, I kept thinking about being green, and what that means to each of us.

If you heard my interview with Brenda Dayne on her pod cast Cast-on (episode 63), you heard me say that I worry how everyone is tossing the word "green" around.  It seems to be everywhere these days.  It reminds me of what we've seen over the decades with the word "organic"...and how it got abused and overused.   Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the Green Wagon, hoping to make you feel all warm and cozy about spending your green dollars there. 

While I had my telephone interview with Brenda, she had a brilliant idea, to my mind, anyway.  I waited to see if she'd bring it up on air, and since she didn't, I want to open the dialog here.

What if the yarn industry had a rating system so consumers could make informed choices on their purchases?

Think about it.  You walk into a yarn shop and look at a skein of yarn, and wonder how "green" it really is.   Then you flip the tag and see how it's rated...maybe a system of stars...or ????

Imagine an industry rating system based on questions like some of these:

  1. Where did the fibers come from?  Were they man-made, and where?  What pollution was caused as a result of their manufacture?

  2. How about the people who work in the factories to make this happen:  are they getting paid a living wage?

  3. What practices are used for dyeing?  Is it a process that uses excessive amounts of non-recycled water?  Is it polluting area water systems?  Are the workers protected adequately?

  4. What kind of chemicals were used in the process of spinning these yarns?  Has anyone ever wondered about how things like soy and bamboo and some of the other exciting new yarns are made? I'd like to know what chemicals and ingredients are involved to bring these to our doorstep...

  5. What's the carbon footprint for the skein you're holding? 

These are just a few things that come to mind after only one cup of coffee. 

And while I'm on the subject, does anyone think about how wool is processed to make it "super wash"?  At one point in history, I was told by someone from the local wool mill that a product like Teflon was used to tame those pesky wool scales.  Now I imagine it's probably some hideous chemical that eats them right off.  Imagine what you might be wearing next to your skin to save the trouble of a ten minute soak in a sink (with all due respect to those who have time constraints and machine wash for a big family).

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  Do you have more questions about where your yarns are coming from?  Please add to my list!  Perhaps we can start a bit of grass roots movement to help us be more aware when we spend our hard earned dollars.

And what about my work?  I use water collected from my roof for my dyeing and wool washing.  I use a dye system that allows me to use the same pot of water over and over, and with clear strikes, so there is no dye residue left in a dye bath needing to be tossed out.  My wool washing water (using Seventh Generation soap) is stored and recycled as grey water for use in our garden. to start the day.  I hope you all have a great week...and I look forward to hearing your ideas about all of this.   ---Martie


Eredux said...

Check This Unique US Carbon Footprint Map out, illustrating Greenest States and a lot more down to US City Level...

Martie said...

Very interesting...thanks for sharing that.

Bennie said...

i personally am more concerned daily about where everything comes from and how it is made...we have vowed that in our new/old home everything will be made by hand and preferably we will also know or meet the artist...i have of course extended this to every bit of wool and yarn i have....i even like knowing the sheep!!!....bennie

Tara said...

I think this is a fantastic idea!
It seems you cover all the big questions I ask myself before investing in a base yarn (or fiber) to dye or spin.
It was actually Brenda's "Green" episode (I think it was her 5th or 6th) that prompted me to rethink my own fledgling business! Instead of just buying the same base yarns as everyone else, I started to research how they were made. This has further led me (like you, I think) to drastically limit what I consider working with! It has also prompted a stronger involvement in my local community as I search for local farmers to supply with wool!
I greatly enjoyed your interview with Brenda, and I am so heartened to hear that others are also taking responsibility for choosing (and providing) conscientious yarns!

HollyEQQ said...

It is the never ending question - for me at least. I try my best to think ahead. You know.
I also like that what I am selling is what other people will be using and how we all touch the fibers to create one item, masterpiece - unity - togetherness. It is a smaller world these days and I love that.
I don't recycle my water as much as you do - that is darn impressive. But if I put that much lanolin in my garden - well hell - the flowers would be forever statued. They would be embedded in lanolin like little cakes!!!! Cake o' flower! :)
But I do what I can.
The only place I can't seem to find a substitute that is suitable is ziploc bags and mailers. I guess because it is going outside of my control, I can't allow myself to use paper. Who knows what the postman would do with that? And as a consumer, how impressed would you be if I mailed you something and it arrived open, wet, and soggy because I didn't use proper mailers? Would you want your money back? Heck yeah.
It is the never ending challenge with running a business.
BUT - and this is a BIG BUTT.... I figure that since I wash everything by hand, I am 100 percent better than a machine. I am only using the necessary soap and water to get the job done. Not the estimated or calculated job.
I figure the more things are done by hand and the more we question our resources, the better it is.
I mean, really, 20 years ago did anybody imagine Music CD's would take a wrench to get all the plastic off and the packaging open? We didn't even know what a CD was. Now whenever we throw all that plastic away, we cringe. We are growing. I have to believe that.
But I did actually laugh when I saw the Walmart commercial that if I buy a bag of chips I am saving the planet. You know it is overplayed when Walmart starts telling you by PURCHASING something, they are helping us by saving the universe.
Big hugs

Martie said...

Ah yes, the packaging issue. Isn't it criminal. Remember when the post office didn't sell stamps in plastic wrap with cardboard backing...and soap was just bars in a rack at the store, not uber wrapped in plastic/boxes (by the way...did you know that if soap is air dried out, it will last longer? No wonder they plastic wrap it...they'd like us to use more of it!) The list goes on. It just infuriates me to have to, as you said, practically get a wrench to open something (even a bag of chips is quite challenging anymore...another sign I should not be buying them). I feel like you do about using plastic bags, but it's just about the only option in many cases. All the mailing supplies we use can be used many times over, also. A friend in CA and I used the same padded envelope to ship back and forth for almost two got to be part of a game we had going! I think, at the end of the day, it's just a matter of each of us making as many efforts as we can, and hope that in the long haul, the sum of our efforts will make a notable change.

Danni said...

Have you looked at this blog?
Ravelry name: dyestudio

Martie said...

Thanks, Danni...I'll check it out.