If I had to pick a favorite in terms of overall production impact I’d probably go with hemp, but the truth is that for each fabric type there’s enough of a range of impact that it’s tough to truly rank them in their overall ecological footprint. I recommend getting in touch with your favorite clothing companies and asking them some tough questions; while I didn’t find any fabrics I’d universally recommend, some individual companies (e.g. Gaiam) do a fantastic job of minimizing the ecological footprint of their clothes. If you do want to buy organic, look for the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) logo, and if you want to read more about the various textile options I recommend this article.
I’d always prided myself on buying what I thought were “green choices” like organic cotton and bamboo. But now I plan to take more trips to my local thrift shops first, focus on buying from companies who have detailed information on their green practices for items I can’t find used, and whip out my needle and thread the next time I tear my pant leg on my bike chain!
And if the thought of sorting through all the greenwashing on labels makes your head hurt, just focus on improving your laundry practices and wearing your clothes a bit longer.
Got any tips for creating a “green” wardrobe? Share them with us!
Jon Fisher is a data management specialist for The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization. He has studied forestry, environmental biology, stream ecology, environmental engineering and how technology and spatial analysis can improve wildlife management at airports. He also loves to cook delicious vegan food. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.