Missed Connections: The Shoe Story

This is an almost-love story. A tale of missed opportunities and what could have been.

Several years ago I ordered a pair of classic Oxfords. I never wore them as much as I thought I would — they came with frumpy bows and weren’t in style at the time. I wore them maybe twice a year for several years, and then the soles cracked. I kept the shoes around with a vague idea of repairing them and replacing the bows.

Fast forward to now, and Oxfords are back in style.  I set out to update my now-stylish shoes with new soles and simpler laces, hoping to add a standard back into my shoe wardrobe with little investment or environmental cost.

I took the shoes to a well-known repair shop and learned I would need to pay $70 to have the shoes resoled. I was shocked, considering that’s about how much the shoes cost in the first place.

Unwilling to abandon the shoes, I tried a smaller shoe shop across town, where the cobbler told me he could repair the shoes for $50. After examining the shoes further, the repairman guessed that even with new soles, the shoes would crack again due to manufacturing defects. He recommended I throw away the shoes.

I was so sad. The upper portions of the shoes still looked nice, but the structure of the shoes was so poor that they couldn’t be repaired effectively. I ended up donating the shoes to Soles4Souls in hopes they could be re-purposed for someone in need, even though I’m generally wary of companies that ship American used goods to other countries. Honestly, donating the shoes was a desperation move because I couldn’t bear to throw them in the trash.

What I hoped would be a beautiful story of revival turned into a fashion and environmental fail. I’m taking my sad shoe story as a reminder to purchase quality products that can be repaired rather than thrown away. Those shoes and I just weren’t meant to be.

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New Life for An Old Favorite: A Love Story

Woven pants from Liz Alig

Ever try on a piece of clothing and just know? I knew with these pants. One night at a Liz Alig trunk show, we were trying on various styles when brand founder Elizabeth Roney suggested I try on these crazy, printed pants.

And I was in love.

I didn’t buy them — not right away. They were not in the budget that night. I went home, and thought about the pants. And thought about them. And thought about them.

The fit, the quality, the beautiful recycled textiles, and — best of all — how they were made. With traditional fabrics and traditional techniques and workers earning fair wages. Weeks later, I bought the pants.

They quickly became a favorite in my closet. I wore them at least once a week. Wear and wash, wear and wash. And after a year of wearing and washing, I found holes in the upper, inner thigh area of the pants.

Hole in Pants

I put off repairing the pants because I didn’t want to hear a dire prognosis. How could the unique, woven fabric possibly be repaired or replaced? The pants lingered in my “to mend” pile for over a year and half. I didn’t even know where to take them or how to start.

Yes, I despaired of these gorgeous pants being repaired due to the unique nature of the fabric. But a couple of weeks ago, challenged by the fashion love story theme for this year’s Fashion Revolution Day, I bravely took the pants to the alterations specialist at my local laundry shop to see what they could do. I expected a sad shake of the head from the shop. I was surprised to find that the holes in the fabric didn’t phase them at all. They took the pants, and one week and $15 later, the pants were repaired!

Yes, the tiny Xes sewn over the holes are visible upon examination, but the inner patch material is not. The repair blends in perfectly with the fabric’s pattern and color and can’t be seen when I wear the pants. My old favorites are finally back in my closet!

The Pants Are Back

The lesson? I need to be nice to my clothes. Throwing that gorgeous, woven fabric into my washer and dryer every week wasn’t a good way to help my clothing last. In fact, much of my current clothing has been worn and beaten up by harsh wash cycles and frequent drying. While I don’t have time to hand wash most things in my closet, I do plan to use the delicate cycle on my favorite clothing from now on and then hang it to dry. I’m looking forward to extending the life of my wardrobe and saving a bit of energy, too.

I’m thankful this is one clothing love story that will last.

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7 Easy Earth Day Tips

I think the key to lasting change is finding something that works with your lifestyle.  Not everybody can fit all their trash in a mason jar or buy a Tesla, but we all have the potential to make a difference for our planet. Here are 7 things to try this Earth Day:

Ditch paper towels
I still remember being at a friend’s house a few years ago and realizing paper towels were not a staple in her kitchen. I’m sure she had them around somewhere, but dish cloths and rags were her go-to clean-up products. We’ve since added a stockpile of rags and dishcloths to our household and use them for most clean-up needs.

Use handkerchiefs
Facial tissues. They’re rough on your face, they tear apart, and they fill up the trash. We’re dedicated handkerchief users at my house. For mild allergy sniffles I may use the same handkerchief all day, but with kid colds we toss handkerchiefs into the laundry quickly and wash them for the next day.

Use washcloths
No, I don’t mean just for baths and showers. Use washcloths instead of baby wipes, make-up remover wipes, or cotton balls. Adding a washcloth into my nightly cleansing routine means I use less water and get my face much cleaner. It gives me a nice bit of exfoliation, too.

I HATE throwing away food scraps. I imagine all that food filling up plastic garbage bags and then hanging out in landfills for hundreds of years. We’re not always great about composting food scraps, but we’ve been trying it off and on for several years. We keep two compost piles — one for scraps that will form lovely compost for our vegetable garden, and one for organic yard waste (sticks, weeds, dog poop) that can’t be used for the garden. I’m obsessed with fancy compost machines, but you really just need space and willingness. My neighbor down the street gets amazing garden compost with a small, plain compost pile out behind her house.

Find alternative lady products
TMI tip! I’ve done it. I’ve started using period panties. I love them, y’all. So much better than buying a ton of disposables each month. I use Thinx, although I may try a pair from a different company while I wait for Thinx to work out their ethics issues. (If you want to try Thinx, you can get a coupon code with my referral link here.)

Invest in reusable coffee cups
I’m really bad at this one. When it comes to remembering my to-go mug when I leave the house, I get a failing grade. My goal is to throw my water bottle and insulated mug into my bag when I head out for the day.

Take a walk
Choose human power over car power whenever you are able. Can you walk the kids to school? Walk from one store to the other instead of driving? Or maybe you can walk around your neighborhood, picking up trash along the way. Walking doesn’t just benefit the earth — it’s great for your health, good for your mind, and a fantastic way to meet your neighbors.

What are your easy earth-saving tips? Where do you still struggle?

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