Groovy Globe: Chic and Conscious Clothing

Groovy Globe organic tees make an eco-friendly fashion statement that you'll love to wear. Photo: Courtesy Groovy Globe

Groovy Globe organic tees make an eco-friendly fashion statement that you’ll love to wear. Photo: Courtesy Groovy Globe

As a consumer who tries to purchase organic and ethical products, I’ve discovered how difficult it is to find clothing that matches my values.

When I look through my pantry, I see fair-trade coffee, hormone-free poultry, organic fruits and vegetables, and Rainforest Alliance Certified tea bags. All of these products were purchased from within minutes of home at my local supermarket. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how much easier it’s become to purchase environmentally conscious foods without having to go to a specialized store.

But when I look through my closet, I see an expanse of polyester, rayon, nylon, viscose, and, of course, cotton — which, according to groovyglobe.net, is the most toxic crop on the planet as it accounts for a quarter of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of worldwide pesticide sales.

An Easy Choice

Candac Vadnais, founder of Groovy Globe, wears one of her signature tees. Photo: Courtesy Groovy Globe

Candac Vadnais, founder of Groovy Globe, wears one of her signature tees. Photo: Courtesy Groovy Globe

Recently, I was introduced to Groovy Globe, which sells 100-percent organic apparel. T-shirts are made from 100 percent organic cotton and totes are made from 100 percent recycled cotton, as well as silicone wristbands. Never has it been so easy to make an eco-friendly fashion statement for less than $30–$40.

And your money goes even further when you buy from Groovy Globe. Ten percent of profits are donated to Global Green USA and Trees for the Future.

Founder Candace Vadnais, a former public relations executive, launched Groovy Globe in the beginning of 2012. As a lifelong “compulsive recycler,” she was inspired by brands like (RED).

The organizations that receive a portion of Groovy Globe’s profits are also dedicated to making a difference, supporting the construction of green buildings, and planting trees.

Vadnais knew she wanted a globe on her apparel. She has a friend who is a designer and, with some help, the globe logo was born. After bouncing around ideas with her family, she came up with the name Groovy Globe to match her design concept.

“When you have a shirt that has a message, people see it,” says Vadnais. “They ask about the message.”

Stylish and Casual

I recently wore the white Groovy Globe t-shirt given to me for review. As someone who enjoys style and has green values, I was pleased to find it a cute and flattering shirt that was made of organic cotton and supports sustainable causes.

The pre-shrunk organic cotton is soft, and the globe logo is simple but stylish. It can be worn with gym shorts to go jogging or with jeans to run errands or grab a casual lunch. Vadnais’ hope that people will ask about the shirt is sure to be accomplished.

Expanding the Mission

“We are gaining momentum,” says Vadnais. She’s spreading the word about Groovy Globe on Facebook, Twitter, and green blogs.

On plans to add additional products, Vadnais excitedly says, “Oh gosh, I would love to!”

She hopes to expand as soon as possible and would love to add tank tops to the collection. As a new Groovy Globe fan, I will be checking the website frequently to see when they’re available for purchase.

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living

The Fine Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a complimentary sample of the products reviewed in this post. No other compensation or incentive was provided.

Our policy is to review only those products we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a product more than we dislike it, we do not review it. We are not influenced by free products and provide our honest opinions. For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

Design Student Creates Jewelry to Aid Gulf Wildlife

Wildlife afficianado, Nadilyn Beáto, modeling one of her sea turtle necklaces. Photo: Courtesy Nadilyn Beáto

Like nearly everyone who sees the damage its caused, Nadilyn Beáto is upset about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But she isn’t just complaining, she’s doing something about it. A junior at Parsons – The New School for Design in Brooklyn, New York, Beáto has recently begun designing, making, and selling fashion jewelry to benefit the wildlife affected by the vast oil leak.

This reddish egret is for sale to benefit Gulf Coast wildlife affected by the oil disaster. Photo: Courtesy Nadilyn Beáto

Beáto’s jewelry depicts some of the animals that she wants to save: sea turtles, orcas, dolphins, American oyster catchers, black skimmers, and more.

She uses Super Sculpey to create her jewelry pieces, then paints them with nontoxic paints. Her creations include necklaces, charm bracelets, and earrings. Each individual piece of jewelry takes her about an hour and a half to make.

The turtles sell for $15 in Beáto’s Etsy store, with $10 donated to the Gulf Coast Response team at the Environmental Defense Fund. Her goal is to create and sell 150 pieces of jewelry, raising $1,500 for the rescue and rehabilitation of the wildlife in the Gulf.

“After seeing a story about a sea turtle, the first animal that was rescued, I started by making a couple of sea turtle necklaces to see if I could sell them to raise some money. People started asking for more, and I started making additional designs,” she told Blue Planet Green Living.

Beáto makes a variety of jewelry for the fundraiser. This bracelet includes an orca, a dolphin, a shark, and a sea turtle. Photo: Courtesy Nadilyn Beáto

“Soon people began requesting earrings and magnets… So I’ve been making a variety of items,” she says. “The turtles are $15. The birds are $20, because it takes longer to make them. I also make bracelets, which cost $20 because they require more materials.”

Beáto has selected the Environmental Defense Fund Emergency Response as the recipient of her donations. At the time of this writing, she has made 101 sea turtles, 5 dolphins, 2 sharks, 4 crabs, and 2 whales. This is her first time to raise funds by creating jewelry.

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico inspired Beáto’s project, but her interest in the environment predates the event by many years. On her Facebook profile, Beáto describes herself as “Artist, Environmentalist, and Wildlife Conservation Advocate,” then adds, “I love animals :}”

She posted the following as one of her favorite quotes. It’s an apt description of the motivation that drives this young activist:

The quarter shows the relative size of the sea turtle necklaces. Photo: Courtesy Nadilyn Beáto

“Someday the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you will die too.”  ~ John Hollow Horn

Earth is weeping now, with red tears streaming from the seabed. Nadilyn has made her choice to help. Please consider purchasing one of her beautiful jewelry pieces to help rescue and rehabilitate wildlife covered with oil from Earth’s gushing wound.

Follow Nadilyn’s Project

Facebook: Sea Turtle Necklaces (BP Oil Spill)

Etsy: Demonicsyco

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Earth-Friendly Fashion Cry – “Save the Ties!”

Costello repurposes used neckties to create fine fashion accessories. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Costello repurposes used neckties to create fine fashion accessories. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

A few years ago Brooke Costello couldn’t use the word “recycled” in describing the unique line of fashion accessories she produces at the helm of her independent Chicago-based design company, Tongue Tied. 

“That didn’t help the sale,” she explains. “So I coined the term ‘respirited.’ I’ve seen it used by other people since, but I believe that term originated with me.”

Couture on a Budget

Now the association of her wares with the recycling movement contributes substantially to the bottom line. “People across every socioeconomic level are responding to the concept,” she says. “Shopping in resale boutiques is born of the philosophy that you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom to wear couture.”

Costello uses men's neckties in surprising ways, including this very feminine ruffle. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Costello uses men's neckties in surprising ways, including this very feminine ruffle. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Since founding Tongue Tied in 2006, Costello has proven that her creativity goes far beyond an apt turn of phrase. From the original concept of the waist sash she created by combining a couple of men’s ties into an eye-catching accessory inspired by the Japanese Obi, she has branched out into an entire line of items ranging from totes and purses to laptop sleeves and cell phone cases, accent pillows, headbands, shawls, stoles, and ascots. Her latest creation, the Truffle, can be worn as an ascot or belt.

All of these one-of-a-kind pieces are handmade using repurposed ties. “I’ve always been struck by how beautiful ties are,” she explains. “Each and every one of them, even the kooky ones.”

Brooke Costello, wearing her Tongue Tied creations. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Brooke Costello, wearing her Tongue Tied creations. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

But ties go in and out of style at quite a clip. Considering the frequency with which ties are purchased or given as gifts, there’s an ample surplus of them hanging unused in closets around the country. Most ultimately land in landfills or in resale shops and thrift stores where they may be of little use to the shoppers who patronize such outlets.

These are the places Costello trolls for finds. It was just such an establishment she wandered into in the spring of 2006, the day after accepting a buyout package from the Chicago publishing firm where she’d been employed at as advertising sales executive.

A New Look with Old Ties

“I walked into this resale shop on a Saturday morning and walked out with 20 vintage ties,” Costello says. She had no idea what she was going to do with them. She selected two of the ties that, she observed, looked as though they had been “separated at birth” – with complementary color palette and fabric – and pinned them together to create her first Obi.

Costello pairs twoTongue Tied creations: a stole and an obi. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Costello pairs twoTongue Tied creations: a stole and an obi. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Costello describes wearing the pinned-up obi to a bridal shower the next day. “All the women crowded around me saying, ‘What is that?’ I asked them if they thought I could do something with that design. They said, ‘Absolutely!’ The hostess gave me the name and number of her seamstress. She stitched up the obi and I had my first piece.” 

Innovation just seems to come naturally to Costello. “Something I’ve said my entire life is, ‘Well I can make that!’ ” she says. From that initial showing and first design, Costello stepped up production and marketing, employing a team of local seamstresses to fabricate the unique accessories for sale at Chicago popular outdoor event, the Randolph Street Market Festival.

Since then, she has expanded into other outdoor shows, gift shows, and select retail outlets. She continually comes up with new ideas for fashion and home décor accessories, using men’s ties, women’s scarves, upholstery samples, and other recyclables.

“A couple of designs came about because I was looking for ways to use parts of the ties that were landing in my scrap bin. I was taking the narrow part of the tie to make headbands and setting aside the whole wider portion – there had to be some use for all that material!”  The solution was the “sling kaching,” a holster style sling for mobile phone, camera, or I-pod, which can also be used as a minimalist purse for an evening out, carrying essentials like keys, ID, and cash.

Tongue Tied customers also are continually inventing new looks and different ways to wear the items, Costello says. “Anyone who loves accessories will always figure out another use for something.” As does she. While arranging various Tongue Tied accessories during a recent fashion shoot, she gave birth to three new applications for the items on the spot.

Cardinals fans can carry their iPhones in a red-and-blue sling. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Cardinals fans can carry their iPhones in a red-and-blue sling. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Maintaining a fast-paced schedule of events and showings out of her Chicago base as well as in Kohler Wisconsin, Miami, West Palm Beach and hometown St. Louis, Costello remains loyal to her Missouri roots: her Cardinals themed sling-kaching is a big seller in the Gateway city.

Holiday shoppers will have an opportunity to purchase Tongue Tied accessories at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart One of A Kind Show and Sale.

Open to the public from December 3-6, the show attracts 50,000 attendees from throughout the Midwest and features unique gift items from more than 500 artists, artisans, and designers.

A complete listing of future shows featuring Tongue Tied merchandise will be available at www.BrookeCostello.com, when the designer’s site goes live in December of this year.

Tie One On for Charity

Costello has a wide variety of purses and other accessories for sale. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Costello has a wide variety of purses and other accessories for sale. Photo: Courtesy Tongue Tied

Tongue Tied wares are also available through private events; information will soon be available online. “Hostesses can sponsor in-home fundraisers through the Tie One On program,” Costello said. “Select a charity partner, and Tongue Tied will donate 20% of event sales to your cause.”

Supporting great causes by selling accessories fabricated locally from re-purposed materials strikes Costello as a winning proposition from every angle. As she says, it enables her to complete her chosen mission: “Lessen the landfills — produce locally — save the ties!”

Caryn Green

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Event Banners Get New Life as RetroActif Fashion Accessories

RetroActif turns retired banners into fun, fashionable accessories. Photo Courtesy: RetroActif

Take a walk through any major city, and you’ll see tall banners fluttering from light poles or hanging from rooftops on the sides of a museum. Most are colorful and attractive. Some are splashy, with eye-catching designs. Nearly all are time-sensitive, advertising this month’s music festival, tomorrow’s convention, or next weekend’s exhibit.

Each RetroActif handbag features an attractive graphic. Photo Courtesy: RetroActif

Because banners have to survive the elements day and night — often for months at a time — the material they’re made from is generally not biodegradable. So what happens to these used banners? Do they retire to a storeroom to collect dust, or make a one-way trip to the landfill?

Thanks to the creativity of Monica Shuman, co-founder of Florida-based RetroActif, the number of discarded banners is rapidly dwindling. Shuman turns retired banners into fashion handbags, hats, backpacks, purses, and more. She and her husband, Ziad, established RetroActif in December 2006 and have rescued tons of used banners. The company has partnered with a manufacturer in Florida, who supplies them with used banners, which Retroactif repurposes into fashion accessories.

Two and a half years after establishing RetroActif, the Shumans have transformed their company from an idea into a thriving business. The couple divides the business between retail accounts  and corporate accounts. The company uses retired banners to create stylish fashion merchandise, which they wholesale to boutiques around the world.

If you’ve ever visited a rare museum exhibit or attended a festival or convention, you are sure to have noticed vibrant banners hanging throughout the area, drawing you to each event. RetroActif uses attractive banners from events such as these to create special collections. Each collection is made from banners for a specific event, which may number as few as 10 or more than 100.

Sample items from RetroActif’s collections are displayed on the their website, but can only be purchased through a retailer or by contacting the company directly. RetroActif also works with a wide range of corporate clients, who are looking for unique, eco-friendly giveaways for their events.

FROM RETIRED BANNER TO FASHION ACCESSORY

Shuman personally designs each RetroActif fashion accessory. She closely follows the entire production process for each accessory, from banner selection to washing, cutting, and manufacturing.

RetroActif handbags come in a variety of styles and designs. Photo: Courtesy RetroActif

Cleaning a banner may sound simple, but some of the banners RetroActif receives have been exposed to nature’s elements for many years. Because of their size and the materials they’re made from, they can’t be washed in an industrial machine; each banner must be hand washed and dried. After being thoroughly cleaned, the banners are then cut into pieces for assembly.

In addition to banner material, each item may require cotton, straps, zippers, and lining from other manufacturers. Shuman says that RetroActif tries to uses as much banner material as possible. “If the bags need reinforcements, we’ll put an additional layer of banner between the lining and outside banner for extra support. We are very good about that,” Shuman says.

What’s the end result to this labor-intensive process? Not your average handbag. Each item features a unique design that has been carefully placed to highlight interesting elements of the original banner, while not revealing any copyrighted corporate logos or branding.

Because banners are made to withstand weather, the finished bags are resistant to nights caught out in the rain or the accidental rendezvous with a puddle. If a bag does happen to encounter nature’s elements, all it takes is a quick wipe down with a wet cloth and possibly some mild detergent, and the bag will be as good as new.

Monica Shuman reminds customers that the key to keeping their bags in good condition is simply to handle them with care. As proof of this, she mentions that she is still using bags she made when she started the company three years ago. Some banners are made with ink that will fade faster than others, or scratch more easily. Some are thin, while others are thick. Regardless of the banner material, the stitching is dependable, Shuman says, and if customers are kind to their RetroActif accessories, they will get years of use out of them.

WORKING WITH CORPORATE CLIENTS

Corporations have many options for the RetroActif giveaways, such as these notebooks. Photo Courtesy: RetroActif

RetroActif has experienced rapid growth as consumers have begun to appreciate the benefits of repurposing banner material. Shuman’s handbags and other fashion accessories are for sale in almost 100 stores around the world. The company recently expanded its wholesale operations to retailers in Canada, Australia, and Europe.

For the past year and a half, RetroActif has been working with corporate clients to develop prizes, presents, and giveaways for their specific needs. “We make a variety of items for our corporate clients. The types of clients we serve are so different: Banks. Museums. We’re working now with the Miami Heat. We worked with Four Seasons. We don’t just make bags; it’s amazing the variety of things they want us to make for them,” Shuman says. RetroActif offers a wide range of eco-friendly gift alternatives, such as backpacks, computer bags, and notebook covers.

Corporate customers have the option of providing their own banners or choosing from banners in RetroActif’s stock. For example, when Bank of America approached RetroActif about making a giveaway for a conference in Miami, they had no banners of their own to work with. They selected a theme for their conference, found banners in Shuman’s stock that fit their theme, then attached their own labels to the finished items.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Colorful banners are repurposed into trendy backpacks. Photo Courtesy: RetroActif

I asked at beginning of this post what happens to banners when they are no longer needed. According to Shuman, many manufacturers were simply storing used banners for their clients.

But as the popularity of banners rose, the manufacturers began to run out of storage space. They were faced with the unpleasant task of informing their loyal customers that they would either have to pay for storage or send the banners to the landfill.

Shuman provided a welcome alternative, and their supplier now offers customers a third option: Donate retired banners for use in RetroActif’s custom accessories. This arrangement provides a winning scenario for everyone, including the environment.

SOCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS

The Shumans are committed to sharing their success and have adopted the non-profit organization Room to Read. A percentage of every RetroActif purchase is donated to this worldwide cause, which partners with local communities to establish schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructures. As Shuman says, “Our eco-conscious philosophy goes hand in hand with Room to Read. We believe that educating today’s children will eventually benefit our environment in the future.”

Megan Lisman

Intern

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post

My 5: Monica Shuman, Co-Founder, RetroActif

Swishing – A New Green Craze for Frugal Fashionistas

“That’s so cute! Where did you get that?”

We’ve all said it to our friends, admiring a blouse, a skirt, a purse, or a pair of shoes. And they’ve said it to us. But we all get tired of our own clothes after a while. Instead of running out to the store to pick up a new item for yourself, consider swishing — swapping before shopping — as an environmentally friendly way to get those super-adorable clothes your friends own. Swishing is easy to do, and a fun way to enhance your wardrobe without spending a dime.

Potirala checks out the clothes before her swishing party.

Potirala checks out the clothes before her swishing party.

THE BASICS

The traditional dictionary definition of swishing is “to rustle, as silk.” But Futerra Sustainability Communications, a group advocating for environmentalism through swishing, has redefined the word to mean “to rustle clothes from friends.” Swishing has become a major trend in London, and swishing parties are making their way across the ocean to the United States.

Swishing parties in the U.S. are most commonly found in New York and other metropolitan areas. These parties are known as Swap-O-Rama-Rama workshops and are defined as “where a community explores creative reuse through the recycling of used clothing.” Sound boring? It’s anything but!

Swishing is a great way to prevent older clothes from ending up in the landfill, and it’s really quite simple. If you’re in the UK, you can find times and places of organized swishes on the official Swishing website. If you’re in the US, go to the Swap-O-Rama-Rama website. All you have to do to attend a swishing party is bring at least one piece of fine quality clothing (no rips, holes, or stains allowed), a pair of shoes, or accessories pulled from the corner of the closet you no longer visit. Of course, you are always more than welcome to bring more than one article of clothing. While brand-name garments are great to trade and to receive, it’s not at all a requirement.

Considering a possible swishing find

Considering a possible swishing find. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Typically, the host serves drinks and food before the swish. Guests can use this time to check out the items that have been collected. Once the swishing begins, it’s a free-for-all. You can leave with as many items as you can get your hands on, but you are not allowed to claim any items before the swish opens. The more people that attend, the more stuff you’ll get!

Typically, at least one organized swish occurs every month. But you shouldn’t feel limited to large-scale, organized swishing parties, because you are more than welcome to host your own. That way, you can keep all the clothes that no one else claims after the party ends, or donate them to charity if you’d like.

I hosted my own party as a way of encouraging friends and acquaintances to become more environmentally friendly about their used clothes. It’s so easy, anyone can do it.

MY SWISHING PARTY

What about this one? Photo: Sabrina Potirala

What about this one? Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Preparing for an evening of swishing is relatively simple and stress free. Since swishing is intended to be a party, I decided to make it feel like one by sending out invitations. Because the success of the party relies on how many people attend, I made sure to specifically include in the invitation that my guests could bring as many people as they wanted.

As a university student, I’m always busy, so I took a simple approach and just made out a general invitation with the date, place, and time. If you are going to host your own party, you can  spruce up the invitation in any way you want. Or, to make it a bit easier on yourself, you can download a pre-made invitation from Swishing.org.

Once I had established the date, time, and number of guests, I collected clothes from guests from a few days to a few hours before the party. About three hours before the swish, I began to display the clothes I had collected. Because of tight space, I had to get a bit creative with laying out the clothes. I hung dresses on hangers from nails in the wall, sprawled clothes over couches and tables, and placed shoes in a single line in the hallway. I even hung clothes on the shower curtain rod.

Swishing expands your wardrobe without costing a dime. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Swishing expands your wardrobe without costing a dime. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

To make the swish a bit more organized, I separated clothes based on function: formal and casual clothes, dresses, and shoes all ended up in different locations. Nothing about how you place the clothes has to be professional, though, because in a few hours people will be rummaging through things like mad.

I started my swishing party with drinks and snacks that were easy to prepare ahead of time. Although many people who host swishing parties prefer to serve wine, I took the cheaper route and decided to share Kool-Aid and fruit punch with my guests. It might seem silly, but these drinks are far from bland. I spruced mine up by playfully serving them in real wine glasses and by mixing flavors to create something that tasted  “exotic.”

Because I didn’t want to worry about baking treats prior to the party, I bought chips, popcorn, and other simple snacks. To play up the store-bought goodies, I put jelly beans and individually wrapped chocolates in larger glasses, so each guest could have their own. It doesn’t really matter what you serve for snacks — or what you serve them in. Use whatever you have. Make it easy on yourself and have some fun.

Cool shoes! And they're hardly worn. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Cool shoes! And they're hardly worn. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

When my guests arrived at 7 p.m., I allotted 30 minutes for conversation and snacking. This was also the time when people could sift through the clothes to pick out things they wanted to go for ahead of time. About five minutes before officially opening the swish, I gave a warning so everyone could prepare themselves, followed by a five-second countdown when the time for browsing was over.

This dress still has the price tag on. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

This dress still has the price tag on. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

When the swish opened, people were running around all over the place to get what they wanted. But because we were more of an intimate group than larger, organized swishes tend to be, it wasn’t terribly hectic, and nobody needed to worry about getting trampled over a cute pair of shoes. At the end of the swish, everyone had claimed something new that they loved, and some even walked away with brand-new outfits. It’s certainly an experience won’t soon forget, and because I had so much fun, I plan to host another in the future.

BE GREEN AND SAVE GREEN

Buying new clothing is overrated. The cost of sweaters, purses, shoes, and jeans can add up quickly. Too often, we end up not liking some of those items we “just had to buy.” Before they’re barely worn — or with price tags still on — they get tossed in the trash or neglected in the back of a closet. Swishing is a great way to give clothes and accessories away and get free items in return. Hey, there’s nothing better than free stuff! So get out there and throw a swishing party of your own

.

Sabrina Potirala

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Eco-Friendly Fabrics Make Green Fashion Statement

As consumers become increasingly concerned about the environment, the marketplace responds with new technology to fit the demands of a greener lifestyle: CFLs now provide a more energy-efficient alternative than the fluorescent light bulbs of a few years ago. Hybrid cars use less gas and emit fewer fumes than their gas-only counterparts. Solar installations and wind turbines create off-the-grid energy to power homes and businesses. Even clothing is becoming more eco-friendly.

Eco-fashion, also known as green fashion, features clothes made with respect for the environment. Environmentally friendly fabrics are woven from organic fibers that were grown without pesticides or artificial herbicides. In addition, organic fabrics, such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy silk are not treated with harmful chemical dyes or bleaches.

Scarf made from 100 percent soy silk Infinity fabric by SOYSILK. Photo: SWTC Inc.

Scarf made from 100 percent soy silk Infinity fabric by SOYSILK. Photo: SWTC Inc.

Green fashion and organic materials are gaining popularity. Several high-fashion clothing designers, including Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Jil Sander, and Versace include designs made from earth-friendly materials in their lines.

Vogue magazine recently compiled tips on how to help save the world — and still turn heads — by wearing eco-friendly textiles. Even popular stores such as TopShop and H&M are promoting organic fashion by featuring eco-friendly clothing.

Components that determine the environmental friendliness of textiles include sustainable farming practices, transportation of both raw materials and finished clothing, fabric biodegradability and, most significantly, the growth and manufacture of fabric fibers.

IMPACT ON THE PLANET

Most consumers recognize the role of transportation in the overall carbon footprint of manufactured goods. But the role of fabric manufacturing is less well-known, though extremely important to keep in mind. Here are a few ways that the fabric production adds to pollution:

  • Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop. Every year, cotton growers around the world use approximately $2.6 billion worth of pesticides, equivalent to more than 10% of the world’s total pesticides. Cotton growing also uses nearly 25% of the world’s insecticides, according to Pesticide Action Network North America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, in the United States, 1.2 pounds of insecticides and 2.1 pounds of herbicides are applied to each acre of cotton. These synthetic chemicals not only endanger the environment, they also put at risk the health of people and animals living near these fields.
  • Sock manufacturers treat socks with nanosilver and ionic silver in order to kill foot odor. As an ongoing study by the University of California Davis shows, once the silver is washed out of socks, it may kill beneficial microbes in soil, groundwater, or streams.
  • According to a January 2008 report by Textiles Intelligence, man-made fibers, such as nylon, accounted for 58 percent of fiber demand in 2006. These fibers are made of petrochemicals, and their production requires the use of declining oil and gas reserves. Synthetic fibers are non-renewable, do not biodegrade, and are not easy to recycle. Of even more concern, if these fibers are thermally broken down by being melted in a dryer or very hot water, they may emit a complex mixture of compounds including — but not limited to — carbon monoxide, ammonia, aliphatic amines, ketones, nitriles, and hydrogen cyanide.
  • Manufacturing a ton of textiles requires ten times more energy than manufacturing a ton of glass, according to Recycle for Essex.

Yet, not every fabric is harmful to the environment. Incorporating fibers made from organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, or soy into clothing will minimize the impact of cloth manufacturing on the environment.

ORGANIC COTTON

cotton fleece

Organic cotton fleece available at Clothworks in Iowa City, IA. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

By definition, organic farming doesn’t use pesticides or artificial fertilizers. An important benefit of growing cotton organically is that the lack of chemical pesticides promotes a healthier workplace. According to the World Health Organization, 20,000 deaths occur each year from pesticide poisoning in developing countries, many of these from traditional cotton farming.

Members of the Sustainable Cotton Project are dedicated to assisting farmers meet the demand for organic cotton by helping manufacturers become greener through The Cleaner Cotton™ Campaign. The SCP’s tactic for creating cleaner cotton focuses on replacing synthetic fertilizers, using innovative weeding strategies instead of herbicides, controlling insect pests with traps rather than pesticides, and finding alternatives to toxic defoliants in order to prepare plants for harvest.

Lynda Grose, marketing Consultant for the Cleaner Cotton™ Campaign, told this reporter that, because of high costs, growing organic cotton has had limited success in developed countries. The Cleaner Cotton Campaign has helped fund organic cotton as a micro niche for farmers in California, in order to give the market a boost in the United States.

Organic cotton cloth woven in a herringbone design, available at Clothworks in Iowa City, IA. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Organic cotton cloth woven in a herringbone design, available at Clothworks in Iowa City, IA. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Like its traditionally grown counterpart, organic cotton is used to make more than just clothing. Organic cotton can also be used in the manufacture of cotton puffs, ear swabs, sanitary products, make-up removal pads, towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, toys, diapers, and bedding. Although not yet at the level of traditionally grown cotton, demand for organic cotton is increasing. In 2008, organic cotton acreage in the United States grew from 6,786 acres to 7,669 acres, according to the Organic Trade Association.

HEMP

Because hemp requires no pesticides and needs little water, this plant has high potential to create eco-friendly textiles. Hemp grows quickly and densely, eliminating the need for synthetic herbicides or artificial fertilizers. Hemp has naturally long, sturdy fibers, making it long-lasting and durable. Clothing produced from hemp is also warmer, softer, more absorbent, and extremely breathable compared to other textiles. According to Lotus Organics, hemp does not contribute to the greenhouse effect; during the growing process, the plants absorb as much CO2 as what will later be released if the stalks are burned for fuel.

Hemp plants to be used for fabric. Photo: Votehemp.com

Organic hemp plants to be harvested for fabric. Photo: Votehemp.com

Adam Eidinger, Communications Director at the Hemp Industries Association, said substituting hemp for other materials is another way to reduce potential ground water pollution, because herbicides and pesticides are not used in the growing process. Eidinger also said that hemp is beneficial to the environment because “shifting away from fossil-fuel-based products is another way to conserve [natural] resources while introducing less toxic stuff into the lives of people everywhere.”

Harvested hemp stalks. Photo: Votehemp.com

Harvested organic hemp stalks. Photo: Votehemp.com

The future of hemp in the United States is uncertain, because growing hemp has been prohibited here since the 1950s, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classified all C. sativa (hemp) varieties as “marijuana.” Eidinger said hemp will remain a blended fiber with organic cotton until the U.S. certifies industrial hemp.

China, England, France, Holland, Hungary, Russia, and Canada do not have the same restrictions. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States indicates that world production of hemp fiber grew from 50,000 tons in 2000 to almost 90,000 tons in 2005. Hemp currently accounts for less than 0.5 percent of total world production of vegetable fibers.

In Eidinger’s opinion, U.S. farmers will only grow hemp once they receive government assurance that they will not face prosecution.

BAMBOO

Like hemp, bamboo is an extremely rapid grower that doesn’t require pesticides and herbicides. Bamboo plantations require minimal energy because the plant requires very little water and can survive both drought and flooding conditions, according to the Environmental Bamboo Foundation. Because these forests are so dense, the stands release 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees. Some bamboo sequester up to 12 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per hectare.

Organic bamboo cloth is colored with natural dyes. The fabric is 100 percent biodegradable, so it is safe for municipal disposal programs. Bamboo is naturally softer than cotton, is allergy-reduced, and has a natural anti-microbial agent that prevents bacteria from forming on it.

Bamboo is unique, said Adrienne Makita, manager of the Bamboo Fabric Store, because “it’s more luxurious than cotton, more breathable than synthetics, and more delicate than hemp.”

mittens and hat

Mittens and hat made from 70/30 organic bamboo/ organic cotton fleece, available from www.bamboofabricstore.com. Photo: Sabrina Potirala

Several different processes can be used to transform bamboo into a fabric. The most environmentally friendly is to mechanically crush the woody parts of the bamboo, then use natural enzymes to turn the bamboo walls into a pulp. The natural fibers are then combed out and spun into yarn.

Bamboo can also be turned into a fabric using chemicals. This chemical process is not as green as the mechanical process. Michael Lackman, a reporter for Organic Consumers Association, wrote “it is important to consider that these chemicals when compared to the pesticides and defoliants used in conventional cotton are much safer on both the environment and arguably, more importantly, the farmers.” Lackman advises consumers to look for the Oeko-Tek certification when buying bamboo clothing, because the certification ensures that the textiles are free of any processing chemicals.

SOY SILK

A lesser-known, eco-friendly fiber is soy silk, which is made from tofu-manufacturing waste. Soy protein is liquefied and then extruded into long, continuous fibers that are cut and processed like any other spinning fiber. Because soy has high protein content, the fabric is much more receptive to natural dyes — eliminating the need for synthetic dyes. Soy silk is 100% biodegradable.

The model's blouse is made from SOYSILK's Pure fabric (100 percent soy silk). Photo: SWTC

The model's blouse is made from SOYSILK's Pure fabric (100 percent soy silk). Photo: SWTC

In 1941, automobile pioneer Henry Ford, a strong proponent of soybeans, wore the first “soy suit” made of 25 percent soy fibers and 75 percent wool fibers. Today, the South West Trading Company, Inc. (SWTC) features SOYSILK®, a soy fiber and yarn used for spinning, knitting, crotchet, and weaving. Jonelle Raffino, President of SWTC, Inc., said the fabric is “as soft as cashmere.” Soy silk also wicks away moisture and has a soft, gentle drape.

DRIVING DEMAND

The future of our planet is heavily influenced by the decisions we make today. By insisting on clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics, consumers will drive more demand for environmentally responsible clothing. The benefits to the planet are undeniable. Besides, what could be better than looking good and protecting the environment at the same time?

Sabrina Potirala

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)