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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

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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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