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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Sustainability Category

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

OTG: Describing you as a chef doesn’t fully encompass what you do. Tell me about Cook With What You Have. Sure, it’s intuitive, but what is it all about?
Katherine: It’s about eliminating this fear that food must be fancy, that you must have expensive tools, and lots of expensive ingredients. It’s about eliminating the common perception that cooking and eating is a complicated process only for those with time and money. Because it isn’t. It’s a right, not a privilege. But it’s become this huge divider.

My whole love and joy is to teach people that food can simplify and enrich your life. It can help you feel good— socially, physically, and mentally— and get rid of all the noise. And it’s a great equalizer. Whether I’m working with my Early Head Start families who have rich cultural traditions, but little resources—little time or little money—the joy of simple food is something that can be part of daily life. It’s a way of cooking that enables you to eat with the seasons and support your local farmers. In the words of Michael Pollan, “This is one of the most radical acts we can do, to cook and to garden.” It’s nourishing, relevant, communal, culturally interesting and it ties us all together.

It’s one thing to learn recipes and it’s another thing to shift perspective on how people use ingredients in the kitchen—to spend less at the grocery store and waste less food, yet be inventive, creative and fun.
It’s true. My one-liner is often, Why Not? Because when the recipe says ½ tsp of oregano, people are scared to deviate. Have a leek, but don’t have an onion? Why not? It might not be something you serve to the queen, but why not? And you saved the money and stress of going to the grocery store.

How does your philosophy around food intersect with sustainability, food security, and climate change?
It’s best summed up by the concept of food sovereignty. Unlike food security, which typically references calories but does not go deeper—as in where or how or by whom and under what conditions the food was grown, processed or even prepared—food sovereignty brings all of those elements together.  It includes culture and agricultural/agroecological practices that dominated the world’s agriculture until just 60 years ago. Working towards or regaining food sovereignty means farmers having access to seeds in the public domain (rather than patented terminator seeds), access to land, infrastructure for local or regional distribution and hope for a fair price and fair working conditions. All of these things are under pretty serious threat in many parts of the world.

Is this why you’re involved in organizations like Slow Food?
Yeah, I lived in Italy for years, but I didn’t learn about Slow Food until after I came back to the US. The Slow Food philosophy reflects so much of what I care about and it has quite radical beginnings. When Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, his first two initiatives were longer lunch breaks and fair wages for famers so that they could actually have the time to eat and enjoy the food they grow.

Besides being part of Oxfam USAs’ Sisters on the Planet program where you work as an ambassador of food justice at a policy level, you’re also a teacher. And you mentioned something about a secret project you’re working on?
Yes. I work with companies, government agencies, and hospitals in their wellness programs. For example, I teach at Good Samaritan Hospital in their Diabetes and Weight Management program. I also train Early Head Start in-home staff. I also write recipes every week for multiple local CSAs. I get a list of what is in each farm’s CSA box, and I have 48 hours to write six or seven recipes for each CSA. It’s an inefficient process. So I’m transitioning from creating hyper-customized content for each farm to creating a tightly curated, well-designed, subscriber-based website that archives over 600 recipes. That way, I can market it to far more farms and individuals in the area for less, and it’s a more sustainable economic model.

You have a lot on your plate. So where are you going with all of this?
I want to elevate storage crops. Locally grown beans and grains are unbelievably nutritious. And they’re great for eating economically, eating lower on the economic food chain and creating less of an environmental footprint. There are some great farmers who are taking some big risks at growing them in the valley with huge investments in the equipment and the machinery. I want to help those farmers who are making that investment by introducing consumers to these delicious, affordable and nutritious products.

To learn more about Katherine, visit her website at

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.


De Culinaire Werkplaats

Posted by Alex | October 14th, 2012 | Filed under Art, Design, Sustainability

When you eat vegetarian, do you see an empty spot on your plate?

If you grew up—as I did—grudgingly picking at the obligatory vegetables that garnished the evening’s meat and potatoes, an all-veggie meal has some serious cultural baggage to overcome. Through family dinners, church socials and neighborhood potlucks, we’re taught that supper is a piece of meat with two sides. The idea is so commonplace that we’ve even designed paper plates to the proper proportions.

Call it the “Chinet” approach to meal planning.

So what do you do with that big section of the compartment plate when you’re no longer working with meat? Is it a hole to be filled? Or an invitation to creativity?

These are the questions that animate De Culinaire Werkplaats (The Culinary Workshop), a conceptual test-kitchen in Amsterdam’s rejuvenated Westerpark neighborhood. Half design studio, half restaurant, it seeks to shake up visitors’ culinary lifestyle by redefining not just vegetarian cuisine, but by exploring the creative possibilities of food.

Where many vegetarian restaurants attempt to recreate the flavors and forms of traditional meals, De Culinaire Werkplaats seeks to create entirely new experiences by drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sources—from fashion to farmland, art to architecture. A springtime menu modeled dishes on the landscape of The Netherlands’ countryside; this week, a visitor can enjoy plates suggested by a visit to Shanghai. Cabbages, beans and water chestnut tumble together in the “Shanghai Laundry;” ask for “The Man in his PJs,” and you’ll get a dessert of dim sum, chocolate and tapioca.

And food is only part of the experiment. Founders Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing have crafted wearable fashion from edible fabrics, produced vegetable and fruit papers and put on conceptual art projects. Even the bill challenges convention: while the drink card is traditionally priced, it’s up to you to decide what a fair value is for the five-course fixed menu.

Taken together, these experiments offer a refreshing approach to the challenge of living in a world limited resources: in the process of creating a new culinary language, De Culinaire Werkplaats are showing how imagination can fill an empty plate.

Learn more, and check out the week’s menu, at Open Friday for dinner, Saturday for Lunch and Dinner.