If you’re already into cruelty-free toothpaste and soaps, you’re probably going to love environmentally friendly clothing.
How can clothing be green, you ask? And what is eco-friendly clothing, exactly? There are many facets and sustainable threads to consider, so you can find what works best for you and your family. The greenest piece of clothing is one that you will remain in style and keep for years.
Here are some thoughts on making your wardrobe reflect your eco-friendly lifestyle:
Traditional cotton can be hard on the land that produces it. This crop requires numerous pesticides and fertilizers that often cause water pollution, which is harmful to aquatic life and recreation (no swimming in a lake full of algae blooms!). Organic cotton is a better choice that’s even better if it’s unbleached.
Linen is a great, eco-friendly clothing option and has been used for centuries to make garments. This material is made from flax, which is easier on the Earth to produce, and creates a more durable product. Paper currency is often made of linen due to its long life. One downside to this material is it’s almost always imported into the United States, as we don’t grow much flax in America. Linen is best washed either by hand or on the delicate cycle in a washing machine. A dryer may be used, but drying the clothing flat is preferred. Linen can be ironed and will probably need it (although doing so is a bit of an energy hog).
Hemp is another great green material to choose. Less land is needed to produce hemp compared to cotton, and it can be grown in colder climates. Growing hemp requires zero pesticides or herbicides and much less fertilizer than cotton. Hemp clothing is not scratchy and is more durable than cotton. Again, though, most hemp products are imported into the United States. Clothing made from hemp can be machine washed on a delicate cycle and should be line-dried.
There are many other green fabric choices, including bamboo (because it’s quick to grow and needs no pesticides), silk (“naturally” made by silk worms), Ingeo (a newer fabric on the market made from fermented plant sugars), soy-based fabrics, and more. Consult this list at Green Living’s Guide to Natural and Eco-Friendly Fabrics to find more.
More than Material
Beyond fabric choice, there are other factors to take into consideration when choosing your new environmentally friendly clothing for the family. Where was the source of the fabric grown or made? Where was it put together, and how close are these places to you? How about the dyes used to color your new duds? Vegetable based dyes are ideal, but hard to find. Additionally, locally-made anything is best for the environment due to transportation energy costs and because it supports your local economy.
When You’re Done With Your Clothes
First, make every effort to keep your clothing as long as possible: choose pieces that will still be stylish after one season, keep your duds in good repair, and learn how to remove stains. Once your clothing is either really out of style, doesn’t fit, or is fit to be rags, you may wonder about what’s the best thing to do with them.
A few brands will accept their clothing back to be recycled. This is a great incentive to buy from these brands to begin with. You can also upcycle your spent clothing into new items such as baby clothes, quilts, cloth napkins, dryer balls, and more. This is a great chance to get creative. Additionally, most non-profits that accept clothing will recycle the fabric of clothing that’s beyond wearability. There are also a few groups working to recycle fabric curbside, so look into your local options.
What other factors do you take into consideration when buying green clothing for your family? What’s your favorite green fabric? Let us know on Twitter!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.