What to wear…

7 Oct

You may not have thought that your daily drive to work, what shampoo you use each morning, or throwing away your apple cores has an impact on our dear mother earth.  But as we have been learning – the majority of our choices do.  This month we will be exploring the impact from the very clothes on our backs and as Adria Vasil puts it, “…from our pants to our underpants, our closets are stocked with environmental woes.” (taken from Ecoholic).

How does the purchasing, the care and the production of clothing leave an impact on the environment?

1st – different fabrics have different impacts.
An average t-shirt can take up to 1/2 a pound of chemicals to make!  In terms of pollution production, the fabric industry is amongst the highest.
Depending on the grade of your wool, the amount a fabric has been dyed or the animal that had to die for you to wear your shoes, can all determine how much of an impact each item has had.  Check out this helpful list from Green Choices and a few alternatives to shop for:

  • Organic Cotton – free from chlorine bleaches & synthetic dyes.
  • Hemp – durable, enriches soil and needs few chemicals to farm.
  • Bamboo – one of the world’s natural fastest growing plants, low maintenance yet still delivers a high yield.

We are seeing more and more of these used in our clothing and many more companies becoming conscious of their fabric choices.

2nd – where it was made and who made it does matter.
Check your labels – the truth is, a lot of companies are still using sweatshops; a high number of underpaid workers crammed into small spaces, using harmful dyes & chemicals that are dumped into streams and rivers.

Unfortunately, items are not labeled when they are made in poor conditions nor with harmful ingredients & practices.  However, there are fair trade and earth friendly alternatives – we will hear more about this later in the month.

3rd – garments have varying care instructions.
Whenever possible, avoid buying items that require dry cleaning as this manner of care leaves chemicals in your clothing, uses a lot more energy and often uses disposable plastic coverings & hangers.
If you do own your own laundry machines – line dry instead of tumble dry and invest in an efficient appliance.  There are new ideas developing all the time!

The detergents we choose can also increase or decrease our impacts on the environment.  Some detergents are designed for a colder, shorter wash.  Others use natural ingredients instead of harsh solvents – these are becoming available at most chain stores.

If you’re looking for something even more earth-friendly, try soap nuts.  They are organic, biodegradable and renewable!

At the end of the day (or the beginning for most of us!) we still need to cover ourselves with something, but hopefully this gives you some basic criteria to make your choices deliberately.

In the next couple of weeks we’ll explore alternatives to buying new at all…

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One Response to “What to wear…”

  1. Oriol Swaan October 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I’m all for greener choices in clothing but lets be clear on our terms here. 1. T-shirts are not made from wool as a general rule. 2. wool is not a generic term for fibers 3.No animal has to die in the production of wool, it is cut off the sheep like you would get a haircut, and it is to a wool producer’s advantage to treat their sheep well. 4. Screen printing is one of the processes that adds chemicals to t-shirt production so if you are concerned choose garments with other decorations such as embroidery. 5.Cotton does also naturally grow in colours other than white, but since these plants havent’s been used industrially it takes a lot more work to produce it into wearable garments.

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