What does it take to manufacture, sell, and dispose of clothing? You might be surprised. The clothing industry is one of the most environmentally intensive in the world. If it's made from cotton, it's been doused with as much as 22.5% of the pesticides applied to agricultural crops worldwide. If it's made from a synthetic fiber, its source is actually coal or oil. As much as we might prefer to wear fig leaves, when we have to wear fabrics, what should we choose?
The Green Moms Carnival tackles the clothing conundrum this month. Most of us bemoan how difficult it is to figure out how to buy environmentally-friendly fashions in the first place.
Mary of In Women We Trust regrets how few organic fabrics are designed for the boardroom instead of the beach, and points out the valuable role that the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) play in ensuring that textiles are produced organically.
Amber at Strocel.com compares polyester and acrylic, two synthetics made from fossil fuels, and comes down on the side of buying less clothing over all, and natural fibers over synthetics. "Reducing consumption pretty much always comes out ahead," she notes.
Anna at Green Talk provides a comprehensive analysis of the use of recycled plastic bottles in clothing, as well as other textiles. A big concern is that textiles made from recycled plastic emit the chemical antimony, which has been linked to a wide variety of health problems in laboratory animals. Anna also reports that demand for plastic bottles that can be recycled into textiles has risen so much that some manufacturers are using brand new plastic bottles, rather than recycled ones. Talk about the law of unintended consequences!
Linda at Citizen Green points out several benefits to using recycled plastic, like the fact that "30% less energy is needed to down cycle the bottles into shirts than is needed to make them out of virgin plastic." So what's the worry? Plastic is still plastic, and will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Sarah of Practically Green provides a great set of tips if you're shopping vintage. "Don't keep it if you will NEVER be that size again," she suggests -- good advice whether you're buying old or new. You'll also love her pictures of the vintage clothes she's snagged over the years, from a snazzy leopard clutch she lined with red leather (see photo, right) to her dad's v-necked, cashmere sweater.
Keep reading. There's more!