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Oct 18, 2007
Focus: Environment
Action Request: Various
Location: United States

Clothes Make the (Green) Man (or Woman)

Look at what you're wearing... go ahead, look. What you see, whether made from cotton, wool, silk, rayon or leather, likely has a pretty hefty environmental impact. A recent report (in PDF) from the UK's Cambridge University notes that the clothes we wear represent large expenditures of energy, toxic chemicals (esp. fertilizers), and water (both in production and cleaning), and also create huge amounts of waste because of changing fashion trends. On average, every American throws away 68 pounds of fabric per year - that's over 10 million tons of waste annually.

Fortunately, greening your wardrobe doesn't have to mean buying all-new clothes (clearly, that's part of the problem). Rather, it involves choosing carefully when you do buy, and then lowering the use of energy and toxic chemicals when caring for them.

Your Action for Today:
Take a Look at Your Wardrobe

Take a look at the clothes you own, and think about your normal buying patterns. Answer the following questions in your Green Journal.

  1. Are you a "dedicated follower of fashion?"
    We all like to dress well, but constantly buying "the latest thing" contributes to an awful lot of waste. More timeless styles don't have to cleaned out every season.
  2. Do you buy all of your clothes new?
    Used and vintage clothes can be inexpensive, and carry a much lighter footprint - think of them as "offsetting" the purchase of a new item. Clothing swaps are becoming popular social gatherings, and allow you to change up your wardrobe frequently without as heavy an environmental footprint. On the flip side, when you're done with an item of clothing that's still wearable, donate it - don't throw it away.
  3. Do many of your clothes need dry cleaning?
    Traditional dry cleaning uses perchloroethylene (or "perc"), a highly toxic chemical. While some efforts are underway to change this, and some cleaners are adopting more eco-friendly practices, avoiding dry-clean only clothes prevents this dilemma altogether.
  4. Do you ever use a clothesline?
    Drying is the most energy-intensive part of laundering clothes. Cut your electric or gas bill (as well as your carbon emissions) by using a clothesline. If you use a liquid fabric softener, dry the clothes for five minutes to activate the softener, and then remove them and put 'em on the line.
  5. Are most of your clothes made from cotton?
    Traditionally-grown cotton needs lots of water and fertilizer; add the drying time and ironing needed to keep it looking good, and you've got a fabric with a massive environmental footprint. Organically-grown cotton is better, and much more available than in the past - Wal-Mart, in fact, is the biggest seller of the fabric. Synthetics that require little drying time and ironing are even greener. Fabrics like hemp and bamboo, while not yet as widely available as cotton, are catching on with designers... and they're much more eco-friendly.

Want a look at some of the most affordable green apparel designers? Check out the Green Life Guide, and our weekly series "Green Style Spotlight."

Tomorrow: Green Food by Subscription

Sincerely,

Green Options

The GO Team
GreenOptions.com

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Posted: Oct 18, 2007 8:53am

 

 
 
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