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Social and Environmental Commitment

The Mouse Works seconds getting a happy reception at a Tibetan children's orphanage in the mountains of India. Video by Harold W Sherman who was awesome enough to deliver the donations.
Solar powered hats
My earliest childhood memories are of playing outside.  The forests around our mountain homestead in West Virginia became the playground for my siblings and me.  We headed for the woods when our homeschooling studies were finished (around noon) and often stayed out until hunger brought us back for dinner.  The deep respect and appreciation for nature that grew out of those early experiences, expanded with long-distance hiking, seeping outside, and a college education.  I majored in Environmental Studies at Bates College and worked for three years on waste reduction and recycling in the college dining hall.  I believe that running a business requires environmental responsibility that should go well beyond the current norm.  While it might be slightly more time intensive I think that it is our responsibility both as individuals and businesses to do all that we can to lower the environmental impact of our daily lives.  

Teaching compass skills to a local student on a biodiversity research study in Madagascar.

Recycled Fleece?
First, all of the Malden Mills fleece that I use is "trash" from factories. Due to their large production facilities they cannot use the ends of the bolts, flawed fabric or old colors. That is where I come in. Each year I purchase hundreds if not thousands of yards of this material to make into hats. My hats are the same quality as those made from virgin Polartec Fabric from Malden Mills.  The difference is that the environmental impact is far less and you get a wider selection of colors and textures.

Secondly Malden Mills makes some of its fleece out of recycled soda pop bottles.  The technology of this process is so good that you can not tell the difference which makes it impossible for me to know how much of my fleece is made from recycled plastic due to the way that I purchase it.

Want to recycle your old fleece clothing? 
Send it to
Patagonia and they can melt it down spin it into new fabric!


Fleece scraps insulate my storage shed ceiling! 
Recycling in action
Hand cutting hats out of fabric maximizes the usage of fabric.  But still I generate large piles of scraps.  I tediously cut larger scraps into small hat tassels or use them for patchwork clothing.  Those that I cannot use for sewing become pillow stuffing for dog and human pillows that I give away.  I have never thrown away any fleece scraps (except for some floor sweepings).   To the left is a bag of scraps that I can not use for hats that will soon become pillow stuffing.  Imagine a room 10 foot square filled four to five feet deep in scraps, that is how much I recycle each year! 
I save all of my second hats and make special hats from flawed fabric that I can't sell to donate to people in more need than I.   Through a kind customer I learned of the Tibetan Children's Village in upper Dharamsala.   These kids are mostly Orphans who are living in unheated buildings in the mountains.

 Some of a batch of 150 seconds hats that I sent in 2015

Entire Business trash from 2009 fit in one grocery bag.  Now that is recycling
One can judge the effectiveness of recycling by looking at the amount of trash that goes to the landfill.    I still only fill one plastic grocery bag with trash each year.  It could be less but it is the best that I can do. 


Tibetan orphans recieving hats for the winter.

"Green" Studio-House
During the summers of  2005-6 I built a new home for my self and the Mouse Works.   While I was on a tight budget and doing most of the work myself I tried to incorporate many affordable green building practices into the construction. Here are a few:
  1. The house is built on a large concrete slab and is partly earth-bermed on the north and east sides.  This provides a slightly cooler space in the summer and warmer in the winter.  
  2. The building is oriented to take advantage of passive solar heat gain in the winter.
  3. I super insulated the building using recycled newspaper.  The earth-bermed cinderblock wall cavities were insulated with used packing beads and fleece scraps!  It took only 1/2 cord of wood to heat the house last winter!
  4. Light colored energy star metal roof
  5. My entire workshop is lit by window light during the day and by night with energy efficient florescent bulbs. 
  6. The trash from the entire construction fit into one station wagon car!
  7. Solar Hot Water.   I installed a 8 4'x8' panel drainback system which provides us with 120 gallons of piping hot water.   In the winter the hot solar water is also used to heat our radiant floor such that we only burn less than 1/2 cord of wood a year to supplement the solar.
  8. Solar Electric.   I installed a 4.5Kw solar system which provides double the electricity that we use!

The Weedy patch in the foreground is a rainwater garden that absorbs the runoff piped from my gutters.  I am trying to establish a cranberry bog in part of it.  You can see my raised-bed garden in front of my studio-house.

C lick here to see more photos of the new studio-house


The newly installed 24 year old hot water solar panels.   And check out the new porch on the left!

The new homemade pantry door open to view the hot water solar system.  The 120 gallon tank regularly stays between 150-180 degrees! 
In the winter exess heat is used to heat the radiant floor!


No Daily Commute
My daily commute involves walking inside from my outdoor sleeping spot greatly reducing the amount of gas usage and harmful emissions from my car.  In the fall I travel to festivals so I do put some miles on my van each year.

Other Initiatives

  1. Much of my equipment comes from sources that salvage from damaged and closing factories.  Buying used equipment has a smaller impact on the environment than new equipment.
  2. If you buy a hat from me at a craft fair I will give it to you in a recycled plastic bag.   That saves around 2,000 bags each year!
  3. I print all of my internal office documents on the back of used paper.  New recycled content paper is only used for business correspondence. 
  4. Some waste like the spools from the 200 miles of thread that I generate is donated to a local school for art projects.
  5. Most individual hat orders are shipped in recyclable envelopes made partly from recycled content.
  6. I also donate to environmental groups and write letters to elected officials about environmental causes that I think are important.
  7. I vote for environmentally oriented public office candidates.