The movement towards living a green lifestyle now encompasses buying and wearing eco friendly clothing. As consumer interest in supporting the environment has exploded over the last 5 years, retailers are catching on that this market needs to be served. And with good reason. Consumers are demanding more choice in terms of environmentally friendly products and clothing is a natural place for the market to move to. However, there is a lot of confusion over what constitutes clothing that can be considered eco friendly. Below are some of the major clothing categories and you should ask your retailer whether or not their products qualify to be considered earth friendly.
Probably the most popular fabric due to its light weight, comfort and versatility, cotton makes an excellent choice in clothing and is used widely. However, normal cotton production methods are not very environmentally friendly unfortunately. This is due to the material being an agricultural crop. Large amounts of water, fertilizer, and in some cases insecticides are used in the production process. That production isn’t typically sustainable, and often it is not fair trade. When shopping for eco friendly clothing made with cotton material ask if the production of the material used meets either sustainable, fair trade or even organic production standards. Often times retailers will proudly state what practices went into the production of the material, but if a clothing label simply indicates “green production methods”, or they can’t tell you the source of the cotton it may not be.
One of the most luxurious and comfortable clothing categories uses wool. Sweaters, jackets, hats and scarves are all be made of wool. Because the material comes from animals there are multiple facets to what constitutes eco friendly clothing made of wool. Wool can be organic, based on what is feed to the sheep producing the product. However, a more important metric is how the sheep are raised. While more expensive, sheep that are grass feed and free range usually indicates the animals eat a natural diet and have a humane upbringing. This contrasts to large production farming of animals which is done simply for their wool. Usually, animals raised in this way are not organically fed, nor raised in a sustainable manner so look out for that.
Hemp is used is a variety of eco friendly clothing styles including shirts, pants, and jackets. It is considered more natural fabric material simply because of the ruggedized look of it, even after processing. Since hemp is a crop (it comes from the cannibas sativa plant) you simply need to check the label or ask your retailer is the source material is organically and sustainably farmed, and/or sourced from fair trade farmers. Hemp is inexpensive to produce but that leaves open the door for exploitation of the crop as non eco friendly product, so you need to confirm its origin.
There are now a lot of choices available to consumers in terms of what can be worn that is considered green in material origin and production. The key is to be educated and ask your retailer to confirm that their eco friendly clothing meets organic, fair trade and sustainable standards.