Contrary to popular thought, you don’t have to rely on clothes that stomped on Mother Nature’s feet to get to your closet. Admittedly, it’s easier to stop by the mall on the way home after you’ve spilled coffee on a white blouse, but let’s remember that most of the clothes you’ll find there are unfairly traded and harvested in ways that would make Mother Nature scream.
Did you know, for example, that non-organic cotton is probably the dirtiest crop in the world? According to a video on BBC’s “Blood, Sweat, and T-shirts” thread, it takes 150g of pesticides and artificial fertilizers to make just one adult-sized cotton t-shirt. These pesticides are so toxic that just one drop beneath the skin can kill you (imagine what it’s doing to the local water system). These pesticides kill over 20,000 people annually in developing countries, where 75% of our cotton comes from but where farmers can’t afford safety equipment. Afterward, the cotton is bleached and treated with over 8,000 chemicals, which leach into the soil and water system once people throw them out of their closets and into a landfill.
Although it takes more effort than impulse-buying on a shopping spree (come on, we’ve all done it), greening your closet is easier to do than the mainstream market would have you believe.
Buy vintage and used first.
Instead of purchasing new things, try stopping by your local thrift store for fashion finds. Admittedly, the pickings are slim, but you will occasionally find a winning jacket or pair of shoes. When this happens, you can relish the fact that you kept such a treasure in circulation rather than letting it end up in a landfill.
Avoid pieces that need dry-cleaning.
More than likely, your cleaning company uses perc (tetrachloroethylene), an infamous carcinogen. Check around to local green cleaners or hand-wash certain items—like silk, wool, and linen—in your clean bathroom sink.
Treat fabrics gently.
Most of the time, you don’t need to run your washer with warm water. Unless you’re washing towels you used to clean up your pup’s latest accident, keep the water temp on cool. If you’re looking for a new washer, go for a front-loading, Energy Star variety and invest in gentle, natural detergents (Trader Joe’s has a thrifty high efficiency liquid detergent, and Seventh Generation Free & Clear is another great option). As for drying, try not to do it at all. Line drying is a great way to save energy around the house or apartment.
If you’ve had no luck at the thrift or consignment store, try shopping primarily for sustainable fabrics. This won’t be easy at the mall, so check out Eco Fashion World. They regularly feature stores from across the world that fit specific eco criteria. Here’s a list of stores with office-friendly clothes.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching no credit check student loans as well as grants for minorities. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.