Sunday, July 15, 2007

Green is the New Black

Today's Toronto Star has a nifty commentary today about an "environmentally friendly" clothing line introduced by CTV's eTalk and manufactured by Canadian manufacturer Brüzer. The olive-colored tees feature the catchy slogan "green is the new black" and, according to eTalk's website,

"are made from bamboo and organic cotton, material that is highly sustainable and grows quickly without use of pesticides or fertilizers. Naturally fresh with anti-bacterial properties, eShirts feature naturally charged negative ions, which have a positive effect on mind and body, and contain natural micro gaps that siphon away body moisture."

The catch? The fabric might be green, but the dyes...not so much. Now, having a PhD in textiles usually isn't particularly useful or marketable, but it does equip me to be able to say that being an environmentally-conscientious fashionista is not easy. Cotton is an agricultural product, and even organic cotton uses resources that could be used for food crops, which can be a problem. (See also the problems now stemming from diverting corn from the food chain to your fuel tank.) Synthetic fibers -- nylon, acrylic, polyester -- are petrochemicals, aka fossil fibers. Rayon is recycled, but its manufacture involves the use of carbon disulfide, implicated in hearing loss in textile workers. Wool, silk, linen, lycra, hemp, bamboo: no fiber is completely green, and that's not even getting into the additional complications of dyes, finishes and laundering/dry cleaning.

Assuming naturism is not an option, what does a Nice White Lady do? Americans hate to hear this, but the problem is not so much WHAT we consume but the bottomless pit of our desire. Forty tee shirts? Twelve pairs of organic cotton jeans? A different pair of shoes for each day of the month? Why, why, why? Consider this: when Hurricane Andrew, (after Katrina the second most destructive storm in our history) hit Florida in 1992, the Red Cross issued an anti-plea: no used clothing. Even in the midst of 26.5 billion dollars' worth of destruction, there was enough second-hand clothing in Florida to clothe the naked many times over. If the clothing factories all shut down tomorrow, it would be a while before most of us literally had nothing to wear.

Here's what's in my closet: 5 linear feet of clothes, including two pairs of jeans (the old ones and the new ones). Mostly "classic" garments. No fad items.  Some of my favorite items are thrift-store finds, like my $3 Benetton sweater. When I buy something new, I discard or donate something old.

1 comment:

Robin said...

The Salvation Army is our favorite place to shop! The girls are expert bargain finders.

Next favorite way to get clothing is at swaps! Our school (with a mission of sustainability that also requires outdoor equipment for all sizes) holds a minimum of two clothing swaps each year.

I'm enjoying your blog, Jo! Glad we ran into each other.