Do you know the impact your new clothes purchases may have on the environment? Many of us are surprised to learn that different fabrics and distribution channels have a significant affect on the health of our environment. There are three easy steps you can take to help green your closet when you choose clothes for yourself and your family.
Step 1 – Buy local. We know this makes sense with the food we eat – but clothes? Sure, think about it. Just like with our food, the less distance your clothes travel to get to you, the less they contribute to green house gases. So, they may not come from your local farmer’s market – but look at the labels and ask the store owner. If the clothes or the fabric come from China or overseas, think about the added impact on the environment from the use of petroleum and additional green house gases generated in transporting those goods. Plus, if we buy goods made and produced locally, we are helping support our workers and our economy (which means there is a better chance that labor laws, fair trade and healthy working conditions are followed).
Step 2 – Buy Natural. That polyester shirt is a no-wrinkle solution…but did you know that polyester fiber is made from the same petrochemical compound as plastic water bottles (polyethylene terephthalate)? Polyester is made from nonrenewable crude oil that often creates pollution in both its mining and manufacturing, and there are many toxic and harmful chemicals used in the production of polyester. There are several other made man fibers like polyester that are made from petroleum and contain earth and human un- friendly chemicals. In general, buy natural fibers – it will keep the chemicals away from our workers, away from our kids, out of our environment (water, ground and air) and it will reduce our use of petroleum – a non-renewable resource.
Step 3 – Buy Organic. While natural fibers, cotton, bamboo, etc. are better than man made, it is important to buy organic whenever possible. Organic farming relies on natural processes to grow, maintain and harvest the crops. Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber, but is often grown conventionally with an abundance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides harmful to humans and the environment. According to Sustainable Cotton Project, it takes one third of a pound of chemicals to produce one cotton tee-shirt and 7 of the 15 most commonly used chemicals are either “known” or “suspected” carcinogens, according to the EPA. In addition to the concern about chemicals entering the air, ground and water from conventional cotton farming, cotton also enters our diets through cottonseed and cottonseed oil, and is also used in animal feeds. So, when you buy, try wherever possible to buy organic.
You can make a difference. Being informed about the new clothes you buy and the effect they have on the environment is important. Ask questions of the store owners – when customers care, retailers and manufacturers have to care. You might only buy one organic cotton shirt or item, but what a difference it would make if we all did that one thing! Next time you are shopping for clothes – green your closet where you can: buy local, buy natural and buy organic – we owe that to ourselves, our children and to their future.
This article was contributed by Susan Doris, co-founder of Robbie Adrian luxury organics (www.robbieadrian.com), a manufacturer of organic baby blankets using organic cotton with silk trim, for babies, toddlers and adults. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Robbie Adrian are also offering Green Living Tips readers 15% off luxury organic cotton blankets