The Clothes We Wear

Ayla Dunn Bieber gives us the scoop on clothing, fast-fashion, and the textile industry–and it’s not a good look! Luckily she provides plenty of resources, new ways, of doing things, and inspirational ideas for consuming less…

Hello everyone! Let’s dive right in to another topic…

Another layer to this wasteful mess we humans have created is brought to you by the clothing industry. High water usage; pollution from chemicals used to grow fibers for clothing and chemicals used in dyeing and preparation processes; the incineration and landfill-dumping of massive amounts of unsold clothing. Its clear that this industry, and our consumption habits, need to be seriously looked at.

Some not-so-fun facts to get your wheels turning:

  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt. To put these numbers in perspective, the amount of water needed to make a t-shirt is enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days while the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to hosing down your lawn for 9 hours straight. [1]
  • The production of 1 kilogram of cotton garments uses up to 3 kilograms of chemicals [2]
  • “When people think of trafficking, they often associate it with the sex trade, but about 50% of trafficked victims, including children, are sold into forced labor. It’s taking place in developing countries and parts of Europe where markets and factories go unregulated. The fashion industry is unfortunately rife with trafficked workers and forced labor.” [3]
  • Overall, one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second [4] This is due to consumers not recycling their clothes, as well as fashion brands wanting to get rid of leftover stock as a way of preserving product scarcity and brand exclusivity. [5]
  • Up to hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers get washed out of our synthetic clothes each time we wash them (AND 60% of the clothes produced are made of plastic [6]). These microfibers end up in our water systems and eventually in the ocean (and then into fish and into us!). Please watch this 2.47 minute video on this hidden problem with our synthetic clothes.


What needs to be done:

With basically every sustainability topic, the thing that will have the most impact is to BUY/CONSUME LESS. This holds true for clothing too. We need to buy AND throw away less. For the clothes we do have, we need to care for them (repair them and wash them properly) so that they can last as long as possible.

When you want to wear something new – consider borrowing, swapping or thrifting before buying a brand new piece of clothing! Dyeing, cutting, and re-fashioning old clothing are also all ways to breathe life into older clothing. Our friends at The Fiber Craft Studio are hosting a plant dying “cafe” on Friday, April 26th where you can use indigo plant based-dyes to give your clothes a total update.

If buying new:

  • Always ask yourself it is something you really need first
  • Buy quality
  • Consider the fiber it is made out of: hemp, soy silk, linen, organic cotton and wool (depending on how the animals are treated) are good sustainable choices
  • Stay away from: polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, modal and non-organic cotton

When you are ready to get rid of clothing:

  • Have a clothing swap with friends (try it seasonally!). We’re hosting one today, Earth Day (April 22nd from 11 AM to 4 PM) at the Hungry Hollow Co-op!
  • Donate to a thrift store
  • Recycle them! Almost 100% of textiles can be recycled
  • Never let clothes and other textiles go into the garbage!

Want more?

Watch You Are What You Wear a 16 minute long Ted Talk

Read Why I’m Boycotting the Clothing Industry Plastic Pollution Coalition

Check out Upcycle That

Read the Consumption Section of Close the Loop

Watch How Your T-Shirt Can Make a Difference 2 minutes long

Check out some great infographics from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.


Also! Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op have generously offered this exclusive coupon to readers of The Sustainability Scoop:


What are some ways you can breathe new life into old clothing? Let us know in the comments!


Thriftily Yours,




1 “8 Little Known Facts About Our Clothing Habits” Planet Aid, Inc., 28 July 2016, [Accessed 17 April 2019]

2 “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future – download the report infographics” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 6 Dec. 2017, [Accessed 17 April 2019] 3 “The Big Issues Facing Fashion in 2019” Forbes. 16 Jan. 2019. 2019/#3781476323a9 [Accessed 17 April 2019]

4 “A New Textiles Economy: Full Report” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 1 Jan 2017. [Accessed 17 April 2019}



Plastic in the Kitchen

Ayla Dunn Bieber unpacks some not-so-fun plastic facts and provides resources for inspiring ways to break free from plastic on both an individual and societal scale…

Plastic is everywhere. Ever feel like your drowning in it? Like you just can’t get away? Well, we do have it bad, but unfortunately our animal friends have it even worse. We are literally drowning our buddies downstream. And get this – tiny pieces of plastic are now even being discovered in human feces [1]. Do I have your attention?

  • Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world [3].
  • The main cause for the increase in plastic production is plastic packaging. Plastic packaging made up 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced in 2015, and it also made up 52% of plastics thrown away [2].
  • Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. In 2015, Americans purchased about 346 bottles per person [2].
  • Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill nor are they recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. By 2050, this could mean there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Choosing to buy products with less packaging or no packaging altogether makes a big difference [3].
We’ve got a real problem on our hands, and it’s expanding so fast that we don’t even know the full reach of its ramifications.
So what can we do? We MUST reduce our plastic consumption! This means changing our habits. Start small, with a change or two and keep adding new ones!

Credit: Anne-Marie Bonneau,


Here are some tips:
  • Bring your own grocery bags and shopping bags – an obvious one.
  • Just say no to plastic produce bags! Use reusable bags instead (consider making your own out of old material/clothes you don’t wear anymore).
  • Buy in bulk, and bring your own container for your bulk items (jars, bags).
  • Bring your own left-overs containers to restaurants
  • Use re-usable straws
  • Use a re-usable coffee cup
  • Wax wrap – instead of plastic wrap
  • Make your own  ______ (fill in the blank, the options are endless – bread, toothpaste, tortillas…).
  • Re-use the plastic bags you do acquire
  • Use cloth or wax sandwich bags


For an amazing list of 50 tips to reduce plastic use, check out this awesome article by the zerowastechef!

Lastly, please take a moment to read these broader picture/longer term ‘REAL’ solutions from the folks at Greenpeace [4]:

  • “Government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. Legislative reuse targets.”
  • “Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire lifecycle and true costs of their products.”
  • “Government and corporate investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging.”
  • “Corporate phase-out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.”
  • A shift in dominant public mindsets away from our throwaway culture focused on convenience being equal to disposal, toward a vision of healthy, sustainable and more connected communities.
Let’s do this!


Contact or to sign up for our Zero Waste Community where we talk about these topics and more, and keep each other motivated to continue to fight the beast.



Garbage Can Challenge – May Update and Sign Off

Ayla Dunn Bieber tells of a fowl plastic encounter, shares some bright sustainability spots, and signs off for the summer…

There has been a steady hum of busy birds around our house these past few weeks: nests being built, eggs being laid, baby birds being fed. We are lucky that a family of robins has graced us with their presence the past few years and has built a nest in a bush next to our garden! It’s at the perfect height to catches glimpses at their progress as we walk by.

True story: A few weeks ago, Odelia and I were walking by the robin’s nest to check on it’s perfect blue eggs, when we noticed the mama bird looked to be in distress. We waited and watched and quickly noticed that her leg was caught in something! She was frantically trying to get her foot freed as she flapped and struggled. I got as close as I could, without disturbing her more, to try to see what she was caught on. Sure enough… you guessed it, folks… it was a strip of PLASTIC! Determined to help this mama bird, Odelia and I ran into the house to get a glove and pair of scissors. Just as my hand neared the scared bird, she took one last plunge and freed herself!

I got closer to the nest and realized the robin had used this piece of plastic, weaving it among the twigs, to build her nest (not uncommon). I pulled the piece that was not compactly woven within the nest out and had a sinking feeling. It took me a while to figure out what kind of plastic it was, later realizing it was a shred of plastic material from an old tarp. This is an item I would not have thought of as ‘unsustainable’, but as it goes, once my eyes have been on the lookout, I have since seen more of these same shreds of plastic littered around other places as well. This story has a happy ending thought, as the eggs hatched and we have been enjoying watching the baby birds being fed worms and getting bigger! This is sadly not always the case. Let’s use this story to inspire more awareness and action. It’s certainly got me thinking about tarps, for one thing…Do any of you have/use any tarp alternatives? I will be doing some research on canvas tarps!

Sustainability is catching on all around us, in new spaces and in exciting ways. It is becoming hip, which while it can be annoying because we have to watch out for ‘green washing’, definitely has it perks. More people are getting on board every day, in ways big and small. Our favorite restaurant in Nyack, O’Donoghue’s, just switched to paper straws. This is huge, because when one business makes a move, more are bound to follow! Are you seeing any broader changes around you?

Camp is right around the corner and we have some new things planned for this summer with sustainability in mind. Here is a sneak peak of a couple:

We will be partnering with Green Camps, an organization that’s ‘leading the environmental sustainability movement among camps in the U.S. and Canada.’ We’ll be increasing our camp programming around ways that we all can make small changes that help our Earth, both at camp and at home. We’ll also be working towards a Leave No Trace Youth Program accreditation, as we continue to educate campers in the Leave No Trace ethic and the fundamentals of stewardship.

I’m so looking forward to seeing all of these efforts in action and to partnering with all of our camp families to really make a difference!

Through all of the ups and downs of this garbage can challenge, it has been an honor to take this journey with you this year. My hope moving forward is to hold tightly to what I have learned and continue the process of changing habits towards increased sustainability in our home. I know our family can do better than our 1/2 can of garbage per month, where we have remained for the later half of the challenge. May this summer bring your family, and mine, a little breathing room to try some new sustainable choices!

With sustainability ever on my mind, I sign off for now…


Garbage Can Challenge – YOU IN!?

This past spring, a few of us camp administrators got together and watched the movie Plastic Paradise (Warning: watch before you think about showing this to your children, there are some graphic parts). It was truly horrific, BUT equally inspiring. The film spells out that unless we, the consumers, stop buying plastic, it will not stop being made! And, if you haven’t guessed it – our plastic use is way out of hand and causing major environmental ramifications. Did you know that if current plastic production and disposal patterns continue, there will be more plastic, by weight, in the oceans than fish?

So, how much garbage does your family produce? In a day? A week? A year? Do you have a sense?

I’ve recently been so excited by the stories of families who’ve committed to living a zero or extremely low waste lifestyle. I’ve also heard of other families that only allow themselves to produce enough waste to fill up one garbage can… for the entire year! What courageous and conscious decisions!

For me, these inspiring challenges feel a little out of reach right now. I try to pay close attention to recycling and composting, but the garbage still fills up faster than I expect it to, and to be honest, I am not even sure how many cans of garbage we fill in an average week or month.

Knowing I definitely wanted to make some degree of change, I began asking myself: how can I reduce the garbage our family produces in a real and tangible way? And, what will make me commit to a goal for the long run? Then, I thought of all of you – our camp community, who I know also care deeply for the earth! It is always helpful to work together and get through challenges as a group.

If any of this is resonating, tell your children, get them on board, and start the challenge with us!

Here’s how to get the ball rolling and keep it going all year:

Step 1: Figure out how much garbage your family is producing as a baseline. You could weigh your garbage bags before you put them out for pickup, or simply count how many bags you toss each time. Notice how much of your waste stream is made up of single-use plastics – plastics that are used only once before they are thrown “away” (i.e. plastic bags, produce bags, straws, coffee stirrers, plastic wrap, etc.).

Step 2: Set a reduction goal you think is doable for your family, that will push you to try some new sustainable choices.

Step 3: Over this year, keep track of your garbage consumption and see if you can meet or surpass your goal!

I propose that we complete our baseline garbage tracking and our family goal setting (any ‘1 garbage can for the entire year’ families out there?) by the next issue of The Dirt, say, mid-October.

For the rest of the year, in each month’s Dirt, I will post about how my family (Daniel, Odelia and I) is doing with the challenge. I’ll also write about things we find helpful along the way!

If you’re in, please visit the Garbage Can Challenge page of our blog to reply with a ‘Yes! We are joining the challenge!’. I encourage you to reply regarding what your garbage goals are and, in future posts, how the challenge is going. This community sharing will help all of us all stay motivated and on track! I’m really looking forward to reading your posts. Pictures of your garbage (and/or recycling and compost) are also most welcome!

SO….WHO’S IN? I know Emily Selover, our Sustainability Queen, is!

I’m very excited about this,