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Wearing Well: Good-Looking, Healthy Fashion

We’d like to look good, but with the way many of our clothes are produced today, we all look bad. And we don’t have to.

Dressing Not to Kill

Right now many natural fabrics from cotton to wool and silk require land and water resources—more than 25 percent of the planet’s pesticides are slathered on cotton crops alone. That’s not good for the environment or consumers, and you could be one voice (and pocketbook) that persuades farmers to grow cotton organically. By buying one organic cotton t-shirt, you prevent the use of a third of a pound of farm chemicals and fertilizers.

Or add more linen and hemp clothing to your closet. Both linen and hemp can be grown with fewer pesticides and fertilizers, and linen dries more quickly than cotton, which saves energy.

Dyed in the Wool, Sustainably

And if you like your clothes colorful, beware. Fabric dyeing and bleaching procedures typically use toxic chemicals like chromium in some wool dyes. That’s a problem because chromium, a heavy metal, threatens our drinking supply when it’s not properly disposed of during the dyeing process. Chlorine bleaching can be harmful as well; it’s been linked to dioxin pollution, which causes birth defects. Your safest bet is to shop for clothes prepared with all-natural and nontoxic dyes.

Buying with a Conscience

Oh, yes, shopping. It can be done responsibly: look for the fair-trade label. If it’s there, it means the farmers who grew the raw materials for your skirt or pants were paid reasonable prices. They also probably used sustainable farming practices, like composting, terracing, and reforestration, to grow the fabrics naturally.

But maybe your wardrobe doesn’t boast a lot of natural fabrics. You love polyester pants and nylons. Not a problem: buy more of them at vintage or resale shops, the ultimate sustainable option in clothing today, especially when you think about the heavy toll of synthetic fabric production on the environment and our health. Nylon production, for instance, emits large amounts of nitrous oxide, while many polyester dyes are carcinogenic.

Then there’s the simple fact that synthetic materials don’t biodegrade, which is why fleece makes a great alternative. It’s made from recycled plastics, removing waste that would otherwise add to our already crowded landfills.

Whether you get your duds from a vintage shop or buy organic cotton socks dyed without toxins, there’s a way to turn your passion for sustainability into fashion. An interest in nature and the environment doesn’t mean you have to go au-natural to support the cause.

For long-lasting fashion, sustain your style by:

  • Shopping at vintage or resale shops.
  • Buying clothes marked by a fair-trade label.
  • Wearing organic cotton clothing.
  • Outfitting yourself in linen or hemp.

Learn More

For do-gooders who want to look good, try the Sustainable Style Foundation.

Not sure sustainable fashion is for you? UK-based Anti-Apathy received a range of comments from newcomers to the world of sustainable fashion.

Eco-friendly fashion is supported by the Sustainable Technology Education Project.


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