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Creation of the golden pants

There are some items of clothing that we could not survive without.

Living in the 150 mile wardrobe has made me keenly aware of how my garments are essential for my survival. Beyond fashion, clothes are my shelter.

Each garment I have is fundamentally important. There are now 15 items last count, including my socks, underwear and accessories. Every item is celebrated, and well loved. I admiringly gaze at my uncrowded, tidy closet each morning. More often than not, (this winter especially), there is one pair of pants that make their way onto my body, day after day…the “Golden Pants”, as they have lovingly been nicknamed. Their creation took place some time back, and since that time I have worn them to the point of living in them. Their creator and designer is Berkeley scientist, Thara Srinivasan.

I originally met Thara at a UC Berkeley botanic garden dye workshop. She humbly mentioned and offered that she could do some sewing, as well as some carbon accounting for the project. It wasn’t an offer for just any sewing project, she said she could re-create my favorite pair of pants in our limited supply of bioregional fibershed fabric!

I realized immediately the uniqueness of a person who could live in the world of fabric construction, while simultaneously compile the necessary data for something as complex as a CO2 footprint. I came to realize later that in fact that these are just two of her many talents.

Thara learned to sew by constructing a pattern and making a replica of her own favorite jeans. (Not exactly a simple first sewing project.)

The idea of making your own jeans at home, without the consult of a tenured seamstress, causes Thara’s friends to laugh with amazement and respect. ”She just decided that she was going to make pants for herself that fit her the way she wanted them to…. it’s just amazing!” said her close friend and scientist Danielle Christianson.

Working in Thara’s Berkeley home studying the pants pattern


Srinivasan received her pHd in biomimetic chemistry from UC Berkeley and did her post doc work in Ecology and Environmental Policy. ’I don’t recommend doing a post doc in a different field from your pHd studies!‘ she says with a laugh. ‘It’s not easy.’ The studying and computer time were physically exacerbating and since her completion of the post doc, she has become a certified yoga instructor, a massage therapist and a docent at the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden– teaching children about the amazing plant species we share this planet with. ’I wanted to get outside, and to be healthy, and not in pain, a life behind a computer is not a good one,’ she said light heartedly.

Perhaps it is the young students she leads through the garden and the time spent with pollinators, but Srinivasan has taken on another creative venture– she is writing a book for young adults. (It’s an incredible work, I recently had the chance to read the first draft of the first chapter). The storyline combines the essential and magical essence of honeybees, the ability for children to harness solutions to our environmental crisis, and the rapid disappearance of our world’s species. The book weaves together her broad knowledge of ecology, and her expansive creative capacities.

Thara’s loom is now warped and in her free time she weaves


Srinivasan continues to work in the field of environmental policy, she lovingly refers to her work at the Peace Lab. ‘It is such a great group of people doing such amazing work and research.’ The last paper that I read was published in the Journal of Bioeconomies and is entitled, ‘Food security implications of global marine catch losses due to overfishing.’ Her latest paper is entitled, ‘Economics of Climate Change: Risk and Responsibility By World Region.

Srinivasan’s care for the world’s ecosystems is amplified by her knowledge. She sees the Fibershed project through the lens of someone who understands the molecular nature of our world. When she expressed her joy at being at the natural dye workshop, her comments shed a new light on the power and simplicity of these colors. ’It was such a relief to splash around in the dye vats, it was like playing with medicinal tea. It was so different from my chemistry studies, where nothing could be touched, every substance was hazardous.’

Srinivasan has a similar relationship to the fabric that she constructed into pants. ’It is so amazing to work with Sally Fox’s organic cotton, there is such purity running through my hands.’ The ‘Golden Pants‘, were made of Fox’s color grown cotton flannel. The fabric (that Fox had milled prior to the eradication of our mills), has inspired everyone who has seen it. This fabric is apart of our region’s living agricultural heritage. The cotton is still being grown, the mills are all but gone.

We play around with the pattern next to the existing pants; preparing to create our next Fibershed garment– our own bioregional jeans

This is not to say the story is over, and the fabric potential is lost. In fact, many of us in the Fibershed community are actively working towards a manufacturing end that would make bioregional fabric a reality once again, (more on this concept later!).

Thank you Thara for your amazing work– not only did you sew these pants but you also accounted for their carbon footprint.

Fibershed Flannel Pants = 3.4 kg CO2, (transportion footprint)

Equivalent of 2.4-7.4 miles of driving or 2.4-7.3 days of working on your computer

Editorial Notes: From Rebecca's website: "Rebecca Burgess is a fifth generation resident of the watershed where her great grandmother and grandfather once spent afternoons canoeing, swimming, and fishing along the banks of the creek. Her connection to the landscape is a lens for her creative process. Working as an ecological restoration educator, curricula developer, author, and textile artist—her work is imbued with a commitment and respect for place. Rebecca’s is the author of the newly released book, Harvesting Color. Her textiles have been featured in the internationally circulated book, Print and Production Finishes for Sustainable Design (2009). She writes for eco-blogs, and has been featured by numerous online periodicals. ...The term fibershed is used to describe the local and regional resource area for creating our own textiles, dyes and clothing. Similar to a watershed or foodshed, your fibershed is the area in your town or region that provides fibers and dye colors needed for textiles and clothing. Rebecca's work with local dyes and textiles - including growing, harvesting and processing her own dye ingredients - helps to bring the colors of fibershed to life. The local farmers and ranchers producing fibers for our region are the foundation of the Fibershed Project — this project seeks to illuminate their vital role within our communities." If you live in Northern California, please come along to what Rebecca calls "...launching the design of a 'new bioregional supply chain, ' that by nature, will be low... to carbon neutral." Reweaving the Community Cloth: A Celebration for our First Farm Based Cotton & Wool Mill Thanks so much to Rebecca for agreeing to become a new contributor to Energy Bulletin. The local fibershed, like the local foodshed, is a concept we all need to start getting our heads round! -KS

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