Article written by ELANA O’LOSKEY – Staff Writer for The Orinda News (December 2008)
Green Buddha really began a decade ago when Jeanne Dowell of Orinda lost her Schnauzer to old age; she was grief-stricken. She responded by attending a 15 Minute Miracle workshop. The whole thing was based on gratitude. Her mind turned from grief that her dog was gone to gratitude for the 12 years they shared. Two rescue dogs immediately came into her life – Tasha and Buddy. They are her faithful companions to this day.
This turn of mind became a way of life over time. “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened,” from Dr. Seuss, is one of Dowell’s favorite quotes. Dowell finds inspiration everywhere: the yoga classes she teaches in the Bay Area, theologians like Paul Tillich who said, “The first duty of love is to listen,” and Terimah kasih which on the surface is the Indonesian way of saying thank you, but also means “we have received your love.” In her weekly yoga classes, Dowell always includes a quote as a reminder for her students to live more peacefully in their daily life – the students love it.
This penchant for collecting quotes came in handy when Dowell and her daughter Dana Dowell Windatt began developing Green Buddha, an eco-friendly line of clothing and other products, three years ago. Windatt freely admits she caught the “Attitude of Gratitude” from her mom. “My mother looks fabulous – teaching yoga for 30 years really shows! How many moms do you know who keep a gratitude journal? I’m grateful for such a passionate role model.” Among Windatt’s many talents, design is foremost, although she also teaches yoga. The mother/daughter duo hired Michele Houston, their long-time friend, to serve as their eco-consultant. Houston researches every product for tough eco-friendly standards and is a fountain of knowledge in this cutting-edge industry. At Insight Resource Group in Orinda, where Michele works, projects like these are commonplace. Dowell says, “Dana and Michele are amazing! It’s like electricity when we’re together – one of us has an idea and before you know it Dana’s got a design for it, and Michele’s doing the research. It’s a ton of fun.”
The Green Buddha clothing line is made from earth-friendly organic cotton, modal or bamboo fabrics. Their organic cotton clothing is made from rain-fed cotton grown without the use of pesticides or insecticides. Houston’s research shows that “for every yard of non-organic cotton produced, over a pound of chemicals has been sprayed on it.” Modal is derived from self-rejuvenating beech trees, with a softness surpassing mercerized cotton. This innovative fabric resists shrinking, stretching and fading while pampering the skin and the environment. Bamboo is rain-fed and naturally pest resistant. It does not retain odor and is shrink resistant; it is spun into fiber that is super soft.
Dowell loves stationery, and when one of her friend’s daughters went to Nepal and brought back beautiful note cards, she had to have them. The stationery is made from trimmings of the Lokta bush, which grows above 6,500 feet in the Himalayan mountains – the resulting paper lasts for centuries. It is made by women and men employed in a small cottage-based industry in Nepal. The genuine Bodhi leaf on the note cards jumps out at you, a well-known symbol for enlightenment and patience. By tradition in Nepal, they would never write on the Lokta note card itself – it is considered to be part of the gift; they would write on the enclosed sheet and continue to replace it over and over again, while the card travels on. The more worn the card becomes, the more valuable it becomes, because of all of the gratitude that has been associated with it on its journey. When it is finally worn out, it is framed and hung in their home as a sign of good fortune.
Windatt says that just about every time she has a negative thought, she thinks, “I can’t go there; I represent the Buddha.” Choosing gratitude as a way of life has helped her as a parent, “My children are growing up fast, like weeds! Gratitude helps me focus on today, while we are still together as a family, for they will be grown up and gone in no time. My mom has encouraged me to surround myself with people who have good energy, so I can fly with the eagles.”
Houston tells the story of a business colleague who bought a newspaper from a crotchety old guy every morning on his way into work. She noticed that although her colleague always treated him politely, the guy merely grunted or totally ignored him. She asked her colleague, “Why do you greet him with such good manners when he never responds in kind?” His response was, “Because I don’t want his reaction to me to change the person I am.” Houston says this made a huge impression on her, to stay centered in the positive without allowing external circumstances to pull her into the negative. “It takes practice, but it’s worth the effort,” she adds.
Both Dowell and Windatt love clothing made from bamboo because it’s the perfect material for people taking yoga classes – it naturally wicks away perspiration and feels soft and silky. Many people use technical T-shirts for sports activities, but they are sprayed with chemicals whereas bamboo fabric does a better job, sans chemicals.
Fans of Green Buddha say using eco friendly products is like completing the circle from nature’s fields to their homes. Green Buddha offers socks, T-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, beanies, tote bags, yoga mat bags, stationery, notepads and children’s T-shirts. They recently added stainless steel water bottles and holiday ornaments, with more products to come. A percentage of all profits go to S .E.E.D.S. – a grass roots relief organization benefiting Nepal’s poorest villages (www.nepalseeds.org). It’s their way of giving back in gratitude for all they have received. Their men’s and children’s line comes from EDUN, the Bono and Ali Hewson clothing line (www.edunonline.com) which supports developing areas of the world, particularly Africa.
Celebrities like Maggie Gyllenhaal revealed in her red-carpet interview for The Dark Knight (aka Batman, 2008) that her gorgeous red dress was made from bamboo.
Calypso Twist, 1357 North Main in Walnut Creek, CA (925-944-4860, email: email@example.com), carries Green Buddha stationery and other items. They are expanding venues to include selected boutiques in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. You can visit them online at www.thegreenbuddha.net. Or, give Green Buddha a call at 925-377-5024 – but be prepared, you might “catch” some gratitude!