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What is Organic Clothing?

Updated on February 1, 2017
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy lives in Austin, Texas and has written about environmental issues and conservation for more than a decade.

What is eco-wear? Bamboo! Cotton! Silk!

Sustainable plants like bamboo and cotton are great sources for eco-friendly fabrics.
Sustainable plants like bamboo and cotton are great sources for eco-friendly fabrics. | Source

What is green clothing? Read on!

Are you looking for ways to be even more environmentally friendly than you are now? If you are truly into living a Green life through recycling and monitoring utility use, take it to the next step and look for eco-wear and organic materials when you’re buying clothes and shoes.

Eco-wear is a clothing term now gaining popularity. It signifies to the consumer that the item was produced with an eco-friendly attitude toward the environment, sustainability and the global community we live in.

Several qualities can make a garment, shoes or even accessories fall into this category.

One way to remember the important features eco-wear can have is the mantra of environmental awareness – the “Three Rs” – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. You might want to add a fourth category – Respect for those who produced what you buy.

Surprisingly, clothing can be manufactured with all these standards in mind. Here’s what to look for on labels packaging when you shop:

Look for eco-frendly farming and irrigation practices

Cotton is one of several sustainable fibers; it's fast and easy to grow.
Cotton is one of several sustainable fibers; it's fast and easy to grow. | Source

Which fabrics and fibers are sustainable?

Some fabrics and fibers are far more sustainable to produce than others. Silk, for example, can be produced without depleting our resources or harming the environment. Look for garments made from plants that grow quickly and were produced without harmful pesticides.

Cotton, bamboo and hemp are among the organic fabrics made from sustainable plants that grow very quickly and do not require chemical pampering to yield a healthy harvest.

Garments made from these fabrics are soft and comfy to the skin, like you’re surrounded in coziness (despite the rough feel some of these plants have before they’ve been reincarnated into fabric).

Eco-clothing can also be easier on sensitive skin, because these garments are usually made without harsh sizing or other elements added during the manufacturing process.

Other great choices are clothes and accessories made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles. Yes, plastic bottles. Those thousands of plastic bottles we recycle each year (you are recycling, aren’t you?) are repurposed into clothing fibers for sweaters and other amazing garments you’d never think possible.

Some notable manufacturers focusing on Earth-friendly clothing are PrAna, ExOfficio, Patagonia and Flax. One manufacturer might specialize in only using natural fibers, and another might focus on recycled materials or using natural dyes.

The Synchilla line of eco-friendly clothing, by Patogonia, includes fleece vests, sweaters and jackets in styles that are classic rather than trendy. These warm garments were made from repurposed plastic bottles.

Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, is a dedicated outdoorsman known for his passion for the environment; he recently decreed to use only organic cotton in his clothing line rather than cotton produced by over-harvesting or the use of harmful farming practices and chemical pesticides.

Important reasons to buy organic clothing

What Do You Think? Take this poll!

Do you look for eco-friendly clothing when you shop?

See results

Eco-friendly clothing manufacturing practices

In addition to the fabric and fibers used in clothing, pay attention to where it was manufactured and under what conditions workers toiled to produce the items.

With a little research and some careful examination of labels, you will learn whether the manufacturer respects the economic and cultural environment of the country that produced the shirts, blouses, pants, jackets, handbags, shoes and other things you wear and use.

Sweatshop factories are not just folklore; they really do exist in Third-World and underdeveloped countries. But those of us in more developed countries can help by simply avoiding products that were made through exploiting workers in depressed areas.

One firm, Fair Trade, specializes in helping women in underdeveloped areas create their own home-based business through providing the raw materials for handbags and then paying the women a fair wage for turning the silk or other fabrics into beautiful handbags.

Similarly, New Zealand-based SmartWool not only manufactures eco-friendly clothing, but takes steps to apply its corporate values throughout every stage of production.

Green clothing with style!

Is eco-wear stylish? How much does eco-clothing cost?

While über-organic clothing years ago may have seemed clunky and dull to wear, increasingly, you will find stylish designs that are well-constructed, fashionable and yet classic enough to last you for years.

It may be true that eco-friendly clothing costs a bit more than the traditional garb you purchase off-the-rack, but these garments generally have far better construction than clothes designed with a fashion (and manufacturing) half-life of only a few months.

You can wear them and wash them repeatedly without fear of losing shape or losing your sense of style.

Eco-friendly handbag made of recycled silk, by Fair Trade

Eco-friendly accessories

If you’re buying shoes, handbags, belts or other accessories, check the label to see whether the materials are recycled.

Whole Earth Provision Company (based in Austin, Texas) is just one of many firms that offers shoes that have soles made from recycled materials.

Used tires, plastic bottles and many other durable (and therefore slow or impossible to decay in landfills) materials can be converted into these items. Some manufactures are even creating shoes with biodegradable soles.

With a little thought, you can be dressed in eco-wear from head to toe, and walk out your door each day knowing you and the environment are one with the other.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, Natashalh! It's incredible to learn what we can buy that doesn't require killing a tree or putting a bunch of chemicals into the environment, isn't it! I know what you mean about the term 'organic clothing' making people blink. It's a new concept when people learn 'organic' is more than a term for fruits & veggies!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Kris - so glad you like the hub, and that you've discovered the cozy feel of renewable fibers! Thanks for reading and sharing

  • Natashalh profile image

    Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

    I own some organic clothing. People look at me funny when I say that because they don't understand what I mean! And a former roommate used to by bamboo paper for her printer.

  • Kris Heeter profile image

    Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

    I've been looking more for eco friendly clothing and fabrics. I just recently bought towels and it was a toss up between bamboo and organic cotton, I ended up with the organic cotton because of the color I was looking for. But at least it's nice to see that were a number of eco-friendly options out there! Great hub (voted up and sharing)!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Vocal Coach - thanks for the great testimony about the things we can buy, use and wear made from bamboo! Glad you like the hub!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Marcy - Bamboo is my favorite eco-friendly fabric. I always shop for bamboo clothing, towles and even sheets. This is a marvelous wake-up call for everyone. May your words bring more awareness and action. Love it! (Will be linking this to one of my "green" hubs.)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    That's a good point, TirelessTraveler. Maybe consignment or resale shops would be a green way to go? I may add that to this hub, actually, now that you mention the challenge of formal wear. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

    I spent the whole day looking for an outfit for an evening wedding. It's so much easier to be eco-friendly when you don't have to be formal.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Summerberrie - I'm glad you got new ideas here. Check out bamboo clothing - it's incredibly soft! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • profile image

    summerberrie 4 years ago

    Another great and useful hub! I've worn cotton and linen clothing for years, but nice to know about the other eco-friendly materials. It is nice to read others' comments about the durability of eco-friendly fabrics.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, TirelessTraveler - Sounds like SmartWool is getting some great votes here! I need to look for a pair of those. I have some cozy wool socks, but we only need those things about one week out of the year, so I don't wear them too often here (but they're heavenly, when I do need them). I can't remember who they're made by!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

    Smart wool is one of my favorites for socks. Nice to know they are a good company.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Aviannovice - these products are way more durable than people realize - and they're usually the highest quality of design and construction. Thanks for sharing your experience with SmartWool!

  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    The SmartWool socks that I have had for YEARS are still holding up well. Granted, I only wear them in the winter, but I think they have lasted 6 years now.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    @BraveWarrior - Bamboo indeed grows like crazy! You can make any number of types of clothing from it; as Melovy mentioned, after your comment was made, it makes great sweaters, T-shirts, socks and cardigans. It becomes very soft as when used for fabric (even though it's so bark-like in its natural state). You can also make other garments - it's really up to the imagination. And, of course, it makes great flooring, baskets, window coverings, etc. It's a very versatile plant. Thanks for your comments!

    @Melovy - Thanks so much for mentioning your experience with Bamboo - I think those comments helped answer BraveWarrior's question! I'm not green yet, either (unless you count owning something forever so you don't end up buying 'new'). But I'm working on it! Thanks for the tip on Braintree - I am always on the lookout for good brands of clothing or other things that come recommended by others!

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

    I love bamboo clothing - we have socks, tee-shirts and cardis made from it. It's so lovely and soft as well as good for the environment. I also often buy hemp or organic cotton. My favourite eco labels are Braintree - an Australian company, it also manufactures in the UK, I don't know if it's available in the USA. They are very reasonably priced and no more than conventional clothing.

    I have to confess that I'm not 100% green with my clothing as yet, and sometimes sometimes buy ordinary cotton as well.

    Thanks for highlighting this - it's very important!

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Very interesting. I have bamboo growing wild and rampantly on my property. I had no idea it can be broken down into something you can wear! What are some examples of clothing made from bamboo?

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Unknown Spy - I appreciate your comments - and my thanks for stopping by and reading!

  • unknown spy profile image

    IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

    Think green. VEry interesting hub full of detailed info on eco friendly clothing. Thumbs up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    HI, Billy - it's amazing how soft bamboo and hemp are once the fibers are processed and turned into cloth! Thanks for reading and for the kind comments!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    That's terrific information, Outbound Dan! I have been so impressed with the progress made in finding sustainable ways to live and produce goods. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    We have several garments made of hemp and bamboo and love them. They are quite popular here in the Northwest. Very good hub Marcy!

  • Outbound Dan profile image

    Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

    Many of the companies I buy my performance outdoor clothing from, like Patagonia, have been using eco-friendly fabrics that perform admirably in harsh conditions.

    One of my favorite base layers from Marmot uses Cocona - coconut husks- as its fabric. It is naturally antibacterial, dries quickly, resists UV light, and is very durable.

    Great Hub Marcy!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Nare - thanks so much for reading and commenting! I had been guilty for years of just buying whatever I saw and not taking these things into account. It's an eye-opener to view things in a Greener way.

  • Nare Anthony profile image

    Nare Gevorgyan 4 years ago

    Wow, this is so interesting Marcy! I love fashion and love shopping for clothes. I learnt a lot from this hub. Great job!

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