Q: There are lots of options out there for eco-friendly clothing, but it's hard to decide on good products, both at the mall and online. Do you have suggestions for product lines or stores that provide eco-friendly options?
Asked by Lisa Dore, Athens, Ga.
Fashion is all about trends—and a popular one these days is slapping an "organic," "green," or other eco-prefix onto a garment's label. With a dizzying array of eco-branded clothing at the tips of our mouse-clicking fingers, how can we decipher the truly green garments from the "green-washed?"
When information overload strikes, I like to grab a notebook and a fine-tipped pen—or in our case, a keyboard—and make lists. In the Essential Answer, we'll focus on retailers who have done the leg work for us, vetting their products from a number of environmental and social sustainability angles. Read the Nitty Gritty for additional tips to green each step of a garment's lifecycle.
Every day eco-fashion
These retailers bring fashion and sustainability together, proving that love of the environment doesn't condemn us to Birkenstocks and baggy hemp pants.
1. Goodwill's online boutique has an impressive selection of used brand name and designer fashion—buying used clothing is both eco-friendly and cheap, cheap, cheap!
2. Portland-based Greenloop's online 'econciousmarket' carries a variety of brands, each with a "unique, human story of stewardship, creativity, craftsmanship, passion and vision."
3. Brooklyn-based Kind Boutique exemplifies the borough's reputation as a mecca of independent, sustainable eco-fashion.
Green-Jeans galore: This play on words was just too irresistible—and who doesn't need a favorite pair of "green" jeans?
1. R.E.U.S.E. jeans salvages denim castaways and makes them loved once again, each pair with a minimum 80 percent recycled denim.
2. Good Society jeans are made from 100-percent organic and fare-trade certified fabrics—and the company donates 25 percent of their profits to development projects.
3. Kuyichi put the focus on alternative sustainable fabrics—hemp, lyocell, organic cotton and more.
Outdoor Apparel: Here's a no brainer—people who love the outdoors should take care of it, too.
1. Canadian Mountain Equipment Coop has an outdoor gear swap where one can both buy and sell quality used outdoor apparel.
2. Patagonia tracks the impact of each of their products through the "footprint chronicles," and worn out garments can be recycled into new fabric through their "common threads" textile reclamation program.
3. Nau Urban+Outdoor Apparel is designed with a triple bottom line of social, material and aesthetic sustainability.
Reasons to Green your Closet: We've listed where, but understanding why is what's really important. Our closing list is a quick reminder of why a paradigm shift in our apparel purchasing behavior is paramount.
1. The Environment. Pesticide and chemical use in the production of textiles, many of which are known carcinogens or acute toxins, find their way into natural systems. Additionally, manufacturing processes are energy intensive and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
2. Avoid fast food? Avoid "fast fashion." Stores such as Target, H&M and Forever 21 offer trendy items at minimal cost, leading to rampant purchasing and a "throw away" clothing culture. Putting your wardrobe on a diet by purchasing used or vintage clothing and sustainable, quality apparel is an indispensable step to a green closet.
3. Because Gandhi says so. Fair trade principles including fair living wages, healthy workplaces, and elimination of child labor and worker discrimination are essential to create an ethical and sustainable apparel industry. As Gandhi eloquently summarized, "There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness."
Maika Nicholson is a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering.