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April 27, 2009
Volume 87, Number 17
p. 48

Earth-Friendly Fashion Show, DNA Day

Sweet Skins
Sustainable clothing: A dress from the Sweet Skins line.

If you needed an excuse to party last week and you happened to be in Palo Alto, Calif., you could have ended up at a schmoozefest fit for environmental activists, materials scientists, and the Cosmopolitan crowd.

For their part in the nationwide Earth Day celebration on April 22, students at Stanford University eschewed seedlings and put on their high heels.

Coordinated by Students for Sustainable Stanford, the school hosted its first-ever SUSTAINABLE FASHION SHOW. The objective, head coordinator Darienne Tuner said in a statement, was "to raise awareness and promote eco-friendly, alternative fashion." The catwalk featured 20 environmentally friendly clothing lines including Covet, Doie, and Pi Organic, as well as five student designers.

So what exactly does it take to label a brand "sustainable?" According to Mira Fannin, owner of Sweet Skins, one of the clothing lines featured at the Stanford show, it all comes down to what fibers are used in the product.

"The fabric is a really important part of it," Fannin says. "Cotton has a highly toxic process for growing."

Fannin likes to use organic blends in her clothing: 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. "I love hemp," she says. "I think it's one of the best, most sustainable fibers because it doesn't need pesticides and grows like crazy."

She also uses low-impact dyes and wool from certified organic farms. Fannin supports her local commerce, too. All Sweet Skins clothing is made by a handful of women in her hometown of Eugene, Ore., in a privately owned sew shop. "It helps keep our carbon footprint down," she says.

For more information on how to make your wardrobe Earth-friendly, check out the designers featured at

Maggie Bartlett/NHGRI
Creative DNA: A DNA model made out of Ramen noodles.

If celebrating environmental fashion wouldn't have been alluring enough for you to put on your party hat, perhaps commemorating the completion of the Human Genome Project would have been.

Since 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has acknowledged April 25 as NATIONAL DNA DAY. Congress passed the holiday into law in February 2003 to mark one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the 20th century: the first publication of a description of the DNA's double-helix structure, which was featured in a world-changing, one-page Nature article in 1953 by James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick.

So every April 25, the institute pairs up with various DNA-inspired organizations, such as the American Society of Human Genetics and the Genetics Alliance, to provide a number of education services to grade K–12 students nationwide.

NHGRI sends DNA Day ambassadors to visit classrooms around the U.S. and discuss genetic research and various career opportunities students interested in science might want to consider.

The institute makes webcasts available for free on its website. Talks include "Life in the Lab," "DNA: The Next Generation," and "The Genome Era: What It Means to You."

Researchers at the institute also held an online chat all day on April 24 to answer the public's questions on a wide range of topics, including clinical research and the ethical, legal, and social implications of genome research. A transcript of that chat is available at

NHGRI is also on Facebook. The site includes photos of submissions to the DNA-model contest, as well as information on DNA Day events.

Faith Hayden wrote this week's column. Please send comments and suggestions to

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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