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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Sustainability Category

The Dirt on Laundry: Ideas on Lightening Your Load

Posted by leighann | April 21st, 2014 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are


In his 2008 Ted Talk, Hans Rosling argued that the washing machine was the single greatest invention of the industrial revolution. Instead of spending hours every day collecting water, hand washing along an antiquated washboard, and hanging each garment on a clothesline, we were now free to read more books, learn new languages, go to school, and—yes—contribute to greenhouse gases.

While the washing machine has freed us up to enjoy a few (hundred) extra cups of coffee in the morning, it has also contributed significantly to the environmental footprint of a garment. Some say that over the course of a garment’s lifetime, up to 82% of energy use, 66% of solid waste, and over 50% of air emissions come from washing and drying. Surprisingly, more water and energy are used during consumer care than in production.  That’s why, at Nau, we design our clothes to thrive using low-impact cleaning methods.

To make sure your Nau clothing lives a long life, we’ve compiled a few ideas to lighten your load.  By following such practices, you not only guarantee your garment’s long life, you also join us in minimizing their impact on the earth.

Wear it longer.
Underwear aside, hear us out: In 2003, the average American household washed 392 loads of laundry. Now multiply that by 40 —the average number of gallons of water the modern washing machine uses to wash a full load (high efficiency washers use between 15-20 gallons per load). If the average American reduced their load by just 30%, each household would cut their yearly water use by almost 5,000 gallons.

At Nau, we take this idea a step further and use a muted color palette that easily hides dirt or wear. Jamie and Josie recommend the “sniff” test, which really needs no explanation.

Reduce your temp.
Our friends over at Marks and Spencer have something to say about this:
“Lowering your washing temperature to 30°C (86°F) can save around 40% energy per wash.  In fact, the Energy Saving Trust calculated that if we all moved to washing at 30°C, we’d save enough electricity to light every street lamp in the UK for 10 months.”

At Nau, we design our clothes to be washed in cold water, which not only gets them clean, but saves energy. We also recommend waiting until you have a full load to be the most efficient.

Use non-toxic laundry detergents.
Unlike synthetic detergents that contain surfactants made from petrochemicals, non-toxic laundry products use readily biodegradable ingredients made from natural materials like corn and coconut oils. Plus, all modern detergents are designed to perform under cold temperatures.

Hand wash your clothes.
Maybe not with a washboard, but with a good pair of hands, a bathtub, and some Method liquid laundry soap. We’re also big fans of this bike-powered washing machine (although we’ve never tried it).

Line dry.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that all residential clothes dryers in the U.S. annually consume about 43 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 445 million therms of natural gas. That adds up to 32 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

But using wind and sun will get the job done. And it’s free. That’s why we designed all of our clothes to look great—especially when line dried.
Want to learn more about caring for your Nau clothing? Visit Product Care.

The Uncommoners: Meet the Ambassador of Food

Posted by leighann | March 12th, 2014 | Filed under Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are


Last month, we asked for nominations for our next Uncommoner. Submissions poured in: tool makers, bike builders, community organizers, milliners, compost cultivators. The choice was difficult. But after careful consideration, we’d like to introduce you to our newest Uncommoner. She’s an entrepreneur, teacher, food advocate, and Board member of Slow Food USA working at the crossroads of policy, education, and food sovereignty to change the way we eat. And she makes one mean cabbage dish. Meet Katherine Deumling, the Ambassador of Food and brainchild behind Cook With What You Have.
Read More »

The Cultivators: Farming with a Social Purpose


photo by Giles Clement

In our next installment of The Uncommoners: Exploring the Other Side of Ordinary, Lindsey heads to Long Beach, Washington to get her hands dirty and learn what it means to farm with a Social Purpose.

When I accepted an invitation from Starvation Alley Farms to join their cranberry harvest last month, I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps, an idyllic Ocean Spray commercial or another episode of Dirty Jobs. (Yes. Mike Rowe visited a cranberry farm.). But what I found was hard work, laughter, great cocktails and a deep sense of community with people who were passionate about food, family and local farming.

After a few cranberry cocktails, I sat down with farmers, Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes, to learn how this small family-run experiment expanded into a corporation with a unique uncommon product and an even more uncommon purpose.

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Fall 2013 Collection: A Sneak Peek

Posted by leighann | July 30th, 2013 | Filed under Design, Photography, Sustainability, Who We Are

This fall, our collection takes inspiration from the greatest source of design excellence. We harnessed the most efficient, intuitive and effortless force that has ever existed and transformed it into an apparel line that fuses the natural and the manmade. This means sustainable luxe fabrics, intuitive construction, and minimalist silhouettes. It means more refined style and foolproof technical performance. It means blending the tailored and the technical to create a sophisticated line of apparel that can not be defined by landscape or geography.

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come.

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Nau Takes NYC By Bike

Photo: Lavish Livez Instagram

To commemorate bike month, we took a small group of friends on a curated bike tour from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Each stop along the way brought to life our unique perspective on sustainability, craftsmanship and the modern, mobile lifestyle. Here’s a quick glimpse into our pedal-perfect day.

Getting Oufitted
We started at HUB in the West Village where we were each fit with our custom Dutch-inspired Brooklyn Cruisers. While the week’s sunny weather had taken a turn, it only added to the spirit of the tour. Most of us simply put on an extra layer with a Dose Jacket or Motil Trench, and we were on our way.

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Sustainable Chemistry: Changing the Alchemy of Apparel

Posted by leighann | April 10th, 2013 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are

Here’s a sobering stat: 80,000 chemicals are currently used around the world today. Most of these chemicals are untested and a surprising portion are used to make your clothes. From dying and finishing to spinning, ginning and even laundering, chemicals are used in every step of the textile process making even natural fibers unsustainable. But the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)—along with Jamie Bainbridge, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability—is spearheading an initiative that hopes to change all of that. How? By adopting a mission of continuous improvement and establishing a carefully cultivated list of preferred chemicals. Sounds simple, sure. But first the OIA has to convince an entire disparate and often complex global manufacturing industry that sustainable chemistry is good for business.

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Harvesting Creativity with Nolan Calisch: Artist, Farmer and Nau Model

Posted by bowen | February 21st, 2013 | Filed under Art, Sustainability, Who We Are

photo by Matt D’Annunzio

In the second installment of his three-part blog series, Bowen Ames—our moonlighting Art Director—profiles Nolan Calisch. This artist, photographer, and founder of Wealth Underground Farm uses an unconventional approach to sustainability to live his art every day.

Nolan Calish is equal parts farmer and artist. Though seemingly exclusive, these two identities became harmonious early in his adulthood. While studying filmmaking and photography in college, Nolan grew a garden for his local community. Soon after, he found himself working on several farms and large gardens before moving to Portland to begin an apprenticeship at Sauvie Island Organics.

Read More »

Everyday Rhythm: The Music That Sustains Us

Posted by Guest | December 9th, 2012 | Filed under Music, Sustainability

Photos by Neil DaCosta

In this three-part blog series, Bowen Ames—our moonlighting Art Director—profiles three unique artists who use an unconventional approach to sustainability to live their art every day. In our first installment, Bowen interviews songstress Alela Diane who details her process of writing and producing her first independent album after years of being confined to a music label. 

Alela Diane is a seasoned a musician. Her music reflects her relationships and a deep connection to her forested home in Northern California. Her listeners, new and old, have always found the stark honesty of her voice incredibly striking. “I’ve always been my most honest in my song-writing,” remarks Alela. “When you write music from an honest place, people respond to it in heartfelt ways, “ she said. But recently, when faced with major changes in her personal and professional life, Alela made a surprising discovery; her songwriting held the key to the changes she needed to make in order for her life and her creative process to be more sustainable.

It was a process that culminated with her last album, Alela Diane & The Wild Divine, which featured her then husband and collaborator Tom Bevitori as well as her father, Tom Menig and was backed by a full band. The recording process, guided by a producer through her label Rough Trade, brought with it a new sound, energy and image. They went on tour across the US and Europe and opened for The Fleet Foxes. But it was a distinct change from her earlier solo-work. For Alela, she was no longer just a girl with a guitar.

While on tour in Europe, Alela began writing songs for her new album. She noticed that her songs were returning to their original confessional nature, and she was surprised to find she had a deep dissatisfaction with her life. “After I had written this new collection of songs, it became clear that I had to make changes in my life. The work itself told me what I needed to do.” she said. She knew she couldn’t just grin and bear it. If she did, it would mean a dwindling love for the music that sustained her. So Alela filed for divorce and turned to her friends and family for support as she underwent one of her hardest transitions.

This is when Alela began to think about building a future with music that sustained her. She decided to produce and record the album herself, this time employing her own intrinsic sense of what each song needed. She met with respected musicians for their input on her music rather than a producer or label. The album, tentatively titled About Farewell, features some of Alela’s finest work and offers the same stark realism with which she approached the passing year.

“All of these songs are about shifts in my life and how I’ve worked through them,” she said. “Oftentimes my songs inform me of what I need to do.  When that’s the case, I feel obliged to listen.”

Pendleton: Good for the Earth (literally)

Posted by leighann | November 15th, 2012 | Filed under Partnerships, Sustainability, The Collective

Pendleton was a staple in the Northwest long before wool was considered cool and sustainability was a buzzword. For the past 150 years, our Eastern Oregon neighbors have been sourcing local wool and weaving jacquards and plaids into the American fabric landscape. This holiday season, as part of the Nau Collective, we’re honored to bring you their Cradle-to-Cradle certified Eco Wise blankets made in the same woolen mills the classic Pendletons have been made for over a century.

Here’s a little inside knowledge on their Eco Wise Collection, courtesy of our friends at Pendleton. 

Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® passes strict standards of sustainability and stewardship. Sounds admirable, doesn’t it? But those lofty words would mean nothing at all if Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® products weren’t soft, richly colored and luxurious to touch.

There are many products out there claiming to be green. Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® has been Cradle to Cradle Certified© by MBDC, a respected product and process design firm dedicated to promoting sustainable production. If you’re curious, you can find out more here.  The best way to explain it? If you were to take a Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® blanket and bury it (but please don’t), it would leave the earth better, not worse, for the addition.

Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® is an innovation in the Umatilla wool we’ve woven for over a century that uses nontoxic biodegradable dyes. Pendleton is known for the depth and intensity of our colors. Vegetable dyes are not as stable as chemical dyes, and the formula took some tinkering, especially the red spectrum. But with a great deal of trial and a reasonable amount of error, we produced Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® that we could guarantee for quality.—Pendleton

Waxing Nostalgia: Vintage fabric, reinvented

Posted by leighann | November 6th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Design Eye, Sustainability, Who We Are

We never stopped loving traditional waxed cotton. But let’s be honest: there’s nothing sustainable about applying an oil-based wax to conventionally grown cotton. That’s why we made our own. This week in the Thought Kitchen, our textile guru, Jamie Bainbridge, and design maestro, Peter Kallen, give us an inside look at a new kind of wax job—one that’s beautiful, durable and doesn’t run on oil. 

OFF THE GRID: Alright, waxed organic cotton.  What’s the big deal?
JAMIE: We love natural fibers and the way they feel against the skin. With our roots in outdoor, why not look backwards to history and see what other waterproofing methods were used over time. And the method that is still most widely used today is waxed cotton. It comes out of British Millerain which has been around since 1880. I met with them and said, “We love waxed cotton, and how it fits, how it becomes like a good pair of jeans, but what we don’t like is how it has to be renewed or that it damages other things that it comes into contact with. So what can we do?” And they said, “Well, we have a new synthetic coating that has the same look and feel of wax, but it never needs renewing. It’s machine washable and water repellent.”  So we went and developed an organic cotton version using the same base fabric, and applied their finish.

OTG: Is there any difference when applying a synthetic coating to organic cotton versus cotton?
JAMIE: No. Once cotton goes through the process of ginning, cleaning and spinning, you couldn’t tell the difference between an organic or conventional fiber.

OTG: So is it a non-petroleum product?
JAMIE:  Well, there is a small petroleum component. But the lack of having to maintain the coating means it uses a very small amount of petroleum. And it’s a water-based coating rather than being a solvent-based coating.

OTG: So what came first: the chicken or the egg? the fabric or the design?
JAMIE: Well, we knew we wanted something in the coated natural fiber realm. We wanted that hand. And we wanted it to be very comfortable against the skin and very urban looking. And waxed organic cotton t has a very unique look.

OTG: Ok, let’s talk waxed organic cotton.
PETER: Jamie and I were wondering how can we make traditional waxed cotton better? So Jamie went off into her science lab came up with a cleaner, more durable method of waxed cotton. Then she came back to me with this great fabric that uses this polyurethane coating and has the merits and qualities that are important to us in sustainability, and it had a different sense about it to. It’s quieter, visually and aesthetically. But it also has a longer lifespan and is easier to use and work with. And it immediately spoke to me…..the RIFT jacket. Because it has these qualities of being almost leather-like.

OTG: And suede-like too.
PETER: Yeah, exactly. Because it has a cotton back to it and that kind of coated surface, like sueded-back, but the surface has a leather-like quality. So that spoke to this almost utilitarian, motorcycling jacket. And that’s how the life of the rift came to be. The styles and elements of that jacket, its articulation, its scales, how it fits, details, its finishing: it speaks to rugged and burley, yet refined. It’s a balance between these two words. It’s almost an opportunity to express an modern-day version of old-new-world technology and inspiration.

OTG: And the Wax On Blazer is a badass jacket.
PETER: Yeah, it just reeks of confidence and it speaks of that same kind of quality. There is nothing more beautiful than a hefty, canvasy piece that has more depth to it.

OTG: Does working and design with this fabric lend itself to certain styles?
PETER: Oh, most definitely. There are certain silhouettes that you explore using this fabric. It holds form really well. It holds needle and stitch really well. You have to be careful about how you apply that because it can quickly become too stiff and unapproachable. More like a tent as opposed to a jacket.

OTG: I don’t want to look like a tent.
PETER: Or a tarp, or any of the words associated with canvas But we said, let’s use that structure and create something that is beautiful, with enough needle in it to give it that edge and that la femme nikita presence, but is still super sexy. It’s a beautiful mash-up.

OTG: So do you have plans of using this fabric moving forward.
PETER: Oh definitely. Now we need to push its boundaries. It’s a perfect fabric that has a lovely reference to yesterday with the technology of today.