PORTLAND, Oregon — It's KGW Sustainability Week, looking at ways we can all be a little greener and help the environment for Earth Day on Thursday.
Earth Day Oregon pairs up hundreds of local businesses to give a portion of their sales to sustainably minded nonprofits. They started doing this in 2019, and even through the pandemic, it's grown like crazy every Earth Week, raising a total of $160,000.
One of those businesses that's taking part is called Thunderpants USA.
"We're Portland's most comfortable underwear brand," said Celestial Sipes of Portland, owner of Thunderpants USA. "We have a wedgie-proof underwear that are made with organic fair trade cotton."
Thunderpants USA's "no-wedge pledge" comes out of their own blend of fabric that has bounce, zero elastic so it doesn't lose shape, and curves under ... to hug the booty. The women modeling them are real customers.
"I think that's one of the reasons why everyone looks so happy in most of our marketing, because they really, really love the brand," Sipes said.
Thunderpants is a New Zealand company. And when Sipes first was gifted a pair of their underwear, she instantly became a fan. She started selling them in her former downtown retail shop Radish Underground. They were such great sellers, that Thunderpants offered to license a U.S. arm of the company to Sipes and she agreed, becoming the owner of the entire U.S. market in 2016.
Independent designers and illustrators draw up all her prints, so there's always a fresh rotation to choose from. They're sewn in Hillsboro by an all-female company, at living wages.
"The apparel industry is the third most exploitive and polluting industry in the world," Sipes said. "And so it's really important, I think, to be aware of what you're buying and try to focus on sustainable and local as much as you can."
Undies are $24, bras $38, leggings are $58. Thunderpants USA is giving 10% of sales this week to their chosen nonprofit, Crag Law Center, a firm that takes on environmental causes in the Northwest. Most recently they stopped Nestle from building a plant and bottling spring water in the Columbia Gorge.
"Students learn plants, animals, water, soil, how they're connected," said Dan Prince of Friends of Outdoor School. "They learn from experiencing those things outdoors with their classmates."
Outdoor school is a very Oregon thing. Voter-mandated lottery dollars pay for every fifth or sixth grader to go for a week, usually overnight, to a summer camp location in the woods with their entire class, led by high school counselor volunteers and teachers.
They leave all tech behind and get dirty learning about ecosystems, native plants and creatures like salamanders and frogs while bonding with each other.
"They're a different person," Prince said. "They're more confident. They're more outgoing. They want to go outside and do things on their own or with their friends. If they learn to really love being outdoors, there are incredible careers in the outdoors and the natural resources, in the sciences that they could pursue. And so they see people doing those things, they learn some of the activities and some of the processes that those, folks do in their careers. And they can get a spark to want to do something like that and in their lives. And that's, I think, really powerful."
Friends of Outdoor School uses donations for logistics (wheelchair access at these sites, for example), improving trails or a bathroom, lesson plans for the hundreds of districts and Oregon's differing geography and grant writing.
There are 202 Oregon businesses that have partnered with 51 nonprofits. To see the full list and to find some that fit within your ideals, you can see the full list here.