I’m noticing that there a lot more options out there for “eco-friendly” clothing and textiles, but I’m not sure how much of what I’m seeing is truly better for the environment. Can you tell me what I should be looking out for?
You are certainly right Janine, the market for environmentally friendly clothing and other textiles has blown up in the last few years and you can find lots of great options at many progressive stores these days. However, when it comes to eco-friendly products, there is a whole lot of “greenwashing” (making unsubstantiated claims to be “green”) happening, and it’s easy for a consumer to feel duped. This is always disappointing when we’re trying to make better purchasing choices. So, to help you avoid being greenwashed, here are my top choices for environmentally-responsible clothing and fabrics.
- Organic cotton: Worldwide, the cotton industry is responsible for using 25% of the total amount of pesticides sprayed in any given year. This has significant consequences for the ecosystem, as well as the field workers working in close contact with the plant. Organic cotton means no biocides, crop rotation, the use of compost, and other earth and people friendly practices. Avoid being greenwashed by looking for the percentage of organic cotton used in the item. A company could claim to use organic cotton, but it could be only a small amount.
- Hemp: Hemp is an accelerating industry in Canada. Hemp is fast-growing, hearty, and a naturally insect-resistant plant with multiple uses including food and fabric. Because of the way it grows, the use of pesticides and herbicides are unnecessary. The great news is that you can wear hemp without being called a hippie or feeling like you are wearing a burlap sack. Many designers are using it for clothing you would never guess is hemp. It is a breathable, durable material that acclimatizes nicely to the temperature of your body.
- Bamboo: Bamboo is often controversial as a sustainable material. It is super fast growing and does not need to be replanted (it starts growing again immediately after being cut down), but coming mostly from Asia, has a significant carbon footprint. However, it is still a good option, particularly when compared to conventional counterparts like cotton or synthetics. Bamboo feels beautiful on the skin- often compared to a mix of silk and cashmere. It’s also hypoallergenic and many people who experience allergies to certain fabrics find bamboo to be a good solution. There are also natural properties in bamboo that make it resistant to bacteria, and therefore also resistant to bacteria-caused odor.
- Used clothing: Of course the most sustainable option is to give a new life to previously owned clothing. Calgary has some top-notch consignment stores for women, men and kids that all require that clothes are lightly used at most. You can also try getting together with friends and having a clothing swap. Bring in your pre-loved but still fashionable clothes, trade with a friend and have a whole new wardrobe by the end.
Written by Lauren Mangion, Conscious Home