How to buy Earth friendly and natural clothing in todays market
Trying to stay environmentally conscious in todays market can be confusing. This guide will help you find your way through the confusion and help you make well educated purchases.
What is "Earth friendly" clothing?
Clothing that is made from fibers in their most natural state are considered earth friendly and sustainable. The more chemicals that are used in the clothing--from growing the fiber, processing it, dyeing it and finishing it- the less Earth friendly it is.
Why choose earth friendly products and clothing?
Popular demand for textiles has produced an increased use of pesticide. Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25% of all pesticide use. These chemicals are taking a toll on our environment and human health as a whole. Every T-shirt made of conventional cotton requires one- quarter pound of harmful chemicals. According to the USDA in one year alone, over 57 million pounds of pesticides were used on U.S. cotton fields. These pesticides deplete the soil and pollute watersheds. The EPA considers 7 of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton as "likely" or "known" human carcinogens. And that's just for cotton. Now imagine the rest of the other fabrics out there.
Who should buy and use earth friendly products?
* Those who have sensitive skin
* Those who have health problems
* Those who care about keeping our earth and water clean
* Those who care about green living
What fibers are considered earth friendly?
The following is a list of all natural fibers that are commonly used in Sustainable clothing (in no paticular order):
- (Organic) cotton
We all know the softness of cotton, the variety of colors it can hold and the many weaves it can produce. But for Cotton to be deemed organic and earth friendly there is more. Organic cotton must be free of herbicides, pesticides and synthetic chemicals. But that's not all that makes it organic. It starts with the soil. Farmers use crop rotation- varying crops planted in each field over time and cover cropping- planting crops that cover soil to prevent soil erosion and nutrient depletion.
Cotton can only be certified organic if it has been grown under the specific conditions outlined by the National Organic Standards Board and the Organic Foods Production Act.
Hemp is one of the strongest plant fibers on the planet. It can be woven very soft or thick and hard depending on the usage. Hemp is also naturally resistant to most bacteria so it will not mold easily and is resistant to oders. It also produces four times as much paper per acre as trees and is so resilient it requires no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. This makes hemp a very earth friendly fiber. The Hemp that is used in clothing and textiles is NOT the same as the illegal drug marijuana. Marijuana is genetically altered to carry 97% more THC which is the drug that causes an altered mind state.
Bamboo has a silky feel and is from a strong fiber that drapes beautifully and holds color well. This fabric is resistant to the bacteria that causes orders and wicks sweat from the body well. This fiber has an amazingly soft feel which is perfect for sensitive skin. It is also naturally UV protective as it cuts out 98% of harmful UV rays. This fabric doesn't pill much which helps your clothes stay nicer longer. Because this plant can grow a foot or more a day it doesn't need any fertilizers or pesticides which makes it a sustainable fiber to use.
Linen is made from the Flax plant. You know this fabric for giving a very crisp clean look. This fabric also very absorbent and cool to wear in a variety of climate conditions. When grown under Organic conditions it is a natural choice for Eco friendly clothing.
Soy is a new and exciting eco-fabric made from a by-product of soy-bean oil production. It is made from a renewable biodegradable source. It has great drape, good absorption, takes color well and actually promotes micocirculation of blood capillaries.
Wool has high performance qualities such as water-repellent, flame-resistant, oder repellant, durability, anti-static and UV protective. Wool fiber can hold up to 30% of its weight in moisture without the wool fabric feeling damp or clammy.
What about Tencle/Lyocell?
Although this is a natural product that is made from wood pulp, the processes used to turn the wood pulp to a fiber require a large amount of harsh toxic chemicals. However about 99% of the toxic solvent is recovered and recycled. While this makes it a much more earth friendly process I would not necessarily consider it to be a healthy fiber as the toxins can be absorbed through the skin.
What about the dyeing process and dyes?
Dyes and the dyeing process adds pounds of harsh chemicals to fabrics that can lead to a host of health problems for humans. The following is a sliding scale of earth friendly dye processes to look for starting with the most earth friendly:
- Undyed, natural color- Just as it sounds this would be the natural fabric with no color added to it. Many fibers grow beautiful natural earthy colors such as foxfiber grown cotton.
- Dirt/clay dyes- These are dyes that use natural minerals and irons from the earth to produce color. This process can produce a surprising amount of rich earthy colors.
- Low-impact fiber-reactive dyes- These are synthetic dyes that chemically bond to the fiber molecules. These dyes produce 70% less water waste and do not use heavy metals or toxins.
- Natural dyes- These would include dyes from plants, flowers and fruits. Even though this sounds like the logical choice, many times toxic chemicals are used to "hold" the dye to the fabric.
What does "Certified Organic" mean?
Unfortunately there is no global or even US standard for what constitutes as Organic or sustainable textiles as there is for produce. For food and personal care products to be USDA organic they must contain 95% organic materials without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers And use environmentally friendly agricultural technics. The USDA does certify cotton plants and fibers as organic because they are sold for cotton seeds and oil in the US. So a shirt could say Organic cotton and still have heavy toxic chemicals used for the finishing and dying process. At the moment the US agency that governs certifying most FIBERS as organic is USDA. There are now several other agencies that are widely accepted for certifying organic TEXTILES and GARMENTS such as the following:
- Organic Trade Association in the US- OTA
- Soil Association in the UK
- International Association Natural Textile Industry in Germany- IVN
- Demeter in Europe
- KRAV in Sweden
- Japan Organic Cotton Association
- SKAL international
The OTA standard defines 4 levels of "Organic" labeling:
- 100% Organic - This means ALL parts of the garment are made from Organically grown products from the ground up. This would include the sewing thread, dyes and all processing done.
- "Organic"- This means 95% of the fibers are Organic from the soil to the finished product.
- Made with Organic products- This means that at least 70% of the garment follows the organic standards from growth to the sales floor.
- Less than 70% Organically produced- Just as it sounds there is some organically grown product here but it totals less than 70%.
What is Fair Trade and why is it important?
Lastly but not leastly you should look for products that are labeled "Fair Trade". This means that the Garment was made under Fair working conditions. That indicates that the workers received fair wages for their products and a clean, safe environment to work in. This is important as many countries still have sweatshop conditions. A shockingly large percent of the clothing sold in America today were produced in sweatshops. The only way to stop this is to put your money where your beliefs are.
For Earth friendly shopping on ebay check out these searches
Organic cotton shirt
Organic cotton pants
Organic cotton towels
For earth friendly shopping in ebay stores check out this store
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This guide was written and published by
the owner and manager of
A store for people who care about their earth and what they wear