Saturday, September 8, 2012

Going green, living healthy: Clothing

This is part of a series of posts on Going green, living healthy. The first post is here. I'm not an expert on this subject, so if you find errors please let me know. I have tried to provide pointers to my sources where possible.

My first awareness into the materials used for clothing came about when I was using a number wrinkle-free and wrinkle-resistant products.  Many of these were labeled at being 100% cotton, so why is it that everything that's made of cotton is wrinkle free or at least wrinkle resistant.  A bit of research on the Internet showed that these clothes are made using fabrics treated with toxic chemicals,  For example, this article in the The New York Times states:
Though it is not obvious from the label, the antiwrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids in dissected frogs in biology class.
For me, there were two takeaways from this:
  • Clothing labels can be misleading because they don't require a full disclosure of chemicals used in the processing.
  • Simply buying organic cotton clothing does not mean that such chemicals were not used.
This has meant that while I try and stick with organic cotton clothing, I am not paranoid about it.  Instead, I try to look for manufacturers that care about the environment and focus on using simple fabrics that are not heavily treated with chemicals.  I've noticed organic cotton tends to be a lot softer.

I haven't found many mainstream brands that offer such clothing, but fortunately there are a few.  Patagonia is one that seems to use organic cotton exclusively (i.e. they don't use cotton that is not organic), but they tend to blend it with synthetic fabrics such as polyester.  But they do offer a few pieces that are 100% organic cotton.  Timberland also offers some organic cotton clothing under their Earthkeepers line, but for some reason their selection is very limited in the USA and they are often blends of organic and regular cotton, or organic cotton and polyester.  On the other hand, in Europe and Asia, almost everything that they offer is 100% organic cotton, but they also tend to be more expensive.  Why is it that the US has such a limited selection?  In an email exchange with them, they cited "market demand and other factors."

Greenroom Voice lists a bunch of brands and apparel that meet its standards for eco-friendliness.  Most are European.

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