Choosing eco friendly fashion means your clothing choices won't hurt the earth

Choosing eco friendly fashion means your clothing choices won’t hurt the earth

One of the hottest trends in the world of style is eco friendly or natural fiber clothing.  But there is a perception among many that eco friendly translates into shapeless, scratchy and unattractive.  Thanks to some incredible young stylists, the fashion industry is working hard to overcome that image and bring us great looks in eco friendly materials. 

But let’s take a step back.  What separates eco fashion from ordinary clothing? There are a few elements that make a great outfit into an eco-friendly one:

Organic materials

Clothing made from all or mostly all organic materials is usually said to be an eco fashion.  The style of clothing made from these organic fabric clothing can range from sleepwear, outdoor apparel and activewear to the latest in haute couture. 

Choosing materials not treated with pesticides and herbicides clearly benefits the earth.  But it may also help the wearer as well.  There is a growing body of evidence that traces of the chemicals used in growing cotton and other materials may remain in the fibers.  These traces could be absorbed through the skin of the wearer, especially if they sweat. The effects of this exposure are not known, but choosing organic materials means you have one less worry.

Sustainable materials

Even if the material used in a garment is not organic, it may be a sustainable material.  That means it’s produced from a crop that can be replanted and regrown without damaging the eco system. Cotton or hemp grown in an environmentally friendly way, even if some chemicals are used, would qualify as sustainable. Some silk production is also sustainable, if the worms are fed in an environmentally nondestructive way. 

Other examples of sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics might include animal based choices like wool, alpaca and cashmere. Unlike leather and suede, the animals need not be harmed in gathering the fibers.

Healthy, plant-based dyes

Even organic materials can become less eco-friendly if the dyes used are synthetic, heavy metal based or otherwise dangerous to the workers who make the clothing, the earth or the wearer. Choosing clothing dyed with healthy, natural plant-based dyes means less irritation for the consumer and less toxic exposure for the clothing makers and the earth. 


Free trade practices

Another element of eco fashion has to do with the way the clothing is manufactured and sold.  If the employees making the clothing are not paid a livable wage, or if the working conditions are substandard and hazardous, the clothing fails the free trade practices test.  That means otherwise good clothing made from natural or even organic fabrics might not be a true eco fashion if the workers are children or if adult workers are paid only pennies for their labor.

Giving back to the community

A final test of true eco fashion is whether the company is giving back to the community.  Are they setting aside a certain portion of their profits for charities or environmental action?  Are they working to improve the lives of so-called Third World employees making the garments?  Are they planting trees for catalogs or supporting local (or remote) schools?  One of the tenents of the eco lifestyle is recognizing the interconnectedness of the earth and its people, and sharing the bounty with those in need.

Why eco fashion?

One of the positive side effects of the current recession has been a growing awareness of limited natural resources.  People are more anxious than ever to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the earth.  Eco fashion is just one expression of that shift.

Fortunately for all of us, designers have also taken note of this trend and are creating stunning couture and off the rack styles using organic and sustainable materials, natural dyes and other eco-friendly touches like recycled metal accents.  And manufacturers are taking a second look at factories and jobbers who violate basic fair trade practices. 

The result is a better earth — and a prettier closet — for all of us!



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