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About Eco-friendly / Environmentally-friendly
Fashion (Clothing and Textiles)


Fabrics | Care of Materials | Definitions | Resources
 Casual Hempwear

When moving to an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, one of the key elements to consider is fashion.

Did you know that growing cotton uses 22.5 percent of all the insecticides used globally? Growing enough cotton for one t-shirt requires 257 gallons of water. On top of that, bleaching and then dyeing the resulting fabric creates toxins that flow into our ecosystem. The use of rayon for clothing is contributing to the rapid depletion of the world's forests. Petroleum-based products are detrimental to the environment on many levels. Fortunately there are alternatives.


Fabrics | Care of Materials | Definitions | Resources

Fabrics

There are a variety of materials considered "environmentally-friendly" for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the renewability of the product. Renewable resources are items that can be replenished in a relatively short amount of time (as opposed to millennia).

The second factor is the ecological footprint of the resource - how much land (usually measured in acres) it takes to bring one of the individuals (plants or animals) to full growth and support it.

The third thing to consider in determining the eco-friendliness of a particular product is how many chemicals it requires to grow/process it to make it ready for market.

Fabrics not currently in this list include: linen, silk, kenaf, and switchgrass, but they are forthcoming.

HEMP

By far, the crop with the most potential for eco-friendly textile use is hemp. The ecological footprint of hemp is considerably smaller than that of most other plants considered for their fibres. Hemp plants grow very quickly and densely which makes it difficult for weeds to take hold, eliminating the need for herbicides and artificial fertilizers. It requires no irrigation as it thrives on the amount of water in the average rainfall, and it is highly pest-resistant.

Hemp has naturally long fibres which makes it suitable for spinning with a minimum of processing. Those fibres are also long-lasting, in fact, historically hemp has been used for making naval ropes that were used in and around water because they resist rot. If it held up to those conditions, imagine how well it will wear as a pair of jeans, or a shirt.

Hemp fabrics come in a variety of weights and textures. You can purchase fabric or clothing, woven or knit; buy yarn, rope, belts and a wide range of products made of this versatile plant.

WOOL

Wool produced by caring farmers can be a wonderful resource, with a few caveats.

Sheep graze plants almost to the dirt, and there is the issue of the manure entering into the water supply. Factory-farmed sheep (as with any factory-farmed animals) live miserable lives where the handlers are concerned with productivity and speed, including during the shearing process, where nicks are common even to the point of slicing the entire nose off the sheep.

Then there is the matter of bleaching the wool to get it white, or dyeing it, but with a responsible eco-friendly manufacturer most of these issues can be overcome.

ORGANIC COTTON

Organic cotton is much more environmentally friendly than the traditional variety as it uses no pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides during the growing cycle. There are many growers of this crop, and the number is steadily increasing.

Usually manufacturers using this plant to make textiles follow up the process by using natural dyes to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem.

Even more promising is a new cotton that is grown in the tradition of the Aztecs - coloured cotton. Sally Fox, a biologist, spent ten years perfecting a coloured cotton with long enough fibres to be spun into thread. She managed to get it to grow naturally in shades of green and brown. It has the added benefit of not fading (in colour) and in fact, it gets more vibrant with the first few washings.

SOY SILK

Legend has it that Henry Ford wore a suit made of soy silk in the 1940s, but the US Government of the day decided to go with rayon instead. Here in the 21st century, though, it's soy silk that has the greater potential.

Soy silk is made from the by-products of the tofu-making process. The liquefied proteins are extruded into fibres which are then spun, and used like any other fibre (woven, knitted, etc.).

You can purchase skeins of soy silk yarn and test it out for yourself. The high protein content makes it receptive to natural dyes, so you can create your own colours.

INGEO™ CORN FIBER
It is undoubtedly too early to believe that Dow Chemicals (Cargill Dow) has turned over a new leaf, but it seems that they are interested in reaching out to new markets through the development of Ingeo™. Ingeo is created by extracting the starch and then sugars from corn, and processing them to make a fibre, which can be spun into a yarn or woven into fabric.
BAMBOO

Bamboo is a highly renewable grass, and it is probably this property that has resulted in its being classified as "eco-friendly". It also has natural antibacterial properties and the fabric "breathes". The resultant cloth is also biodegradable.

FORTREL EcoSpun™

A polyester fibre made out of recycled plastic bottles which can be made into fleece. Manufacturing this fibre is preferable to creating new petroleum-based fibres, and given the sheer amount of plastic bottles in existence, finding a new use for them is a plus.

The fleece that is created is prized by backpackers for its warmth and durability.


Fabrics | Care of Materials | Definitions | Resources

Care of Fabrics

Hot water is the best means of sanitizing your fabrics. It is, however, not always enough to remove stains and dirt. There are a variety of phosphate-free and enviro-friendly detergents on the market, but here are a few other tips. Remember that different types of stains require different treatments. There is no panacea; protein-based stains may get set permanently if you use the wrong method.

  • Sunshine instead of bleach if you have the time to lay your whites in the sun to let them bleach naturally, you can take them outside while they are still soapy and hang them where they will receive at least five hours of direct sunlight.
  • Lemon Juice and sunshine is another powerful combination for stubborn stains. Treat the items the same as in the line above, only add a touch of lemon juice.
  • Eucalyptus Oil is an excellent grease stain remover that won't damage your fabrics.
  • Borax
  • Tea Tree Oil for times when you want to disinfect the laundry and cannot use hot hot water, tea tree oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, germicidal, and fungicidal properties.
  • Rubbing Alcohol - good for grass stains
  • Hydrogen Peroxide - since this is hard on the fabric fibres, only use this method in a pinch and for fresh stubborn stains like blood.
  • Baking Soda

Interesting Alternatives

While researching this page we came across some ideas that seem interesting, and we'd love to find out first-hand how effective they are. So they will be the focus of future Product Review Articles.

They include:

  • ECO-wash laundering system - which seems to be plastic discs with ceramic pellets. From the site:
    The activated ceramic pellets inside the discs are agitated within the machine to release ions. These ions reduce the surface tension of the water, allowing it to penetrate the fabrics and release the dirt. The result is clean, fresh clothes without the risk of chemicals damaging the garments.
  • Eco-Ball - From the site:
    Eco-Ball is an ecological laundry ball with high polymeric contents (organic). It has been filled with this natural liquid which ionizes water molecules and makes them deeply penetrate into clothing fibers.
    Eco-Ball is resistant to high temperatures.
    It must be used together with SANITI CLEAN

Fabrics | Care of Materials | Definitions | Resources

Definitions

organic
Produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.
recycled
Textiles that have been discarded by consumers, retailers or charitable organizations, which have undergone a discriminating process of sorting, grading and separation into waste-free products suitable for reuse.
ecological footprint
The calculation of the amount of natural resources required by an individual or group of individuals (plants, animals, nations) to sustain itself.

Fabrics | Care of Materials | Definitions | Resources

Resources

Links:

  • Effort's Hempwear Effort Industries - Hemp-based fabrics and clothing
  • Hemp and Company (BC) Clothing for men and women, plus body care items
  • HT Naturals Inc. Hemptown Clothing has something for all ages: soft, long lasting T-Shirts, dress shirts, ladies wear, baseball caps and even infant T-Shirts!
  • US

  • Moo Shoes Non-leather shoes and accessories, men and women
  • Round Belly Clothing Earth-Friendly Maternity wear, children's clothing & baby blankets, made of ecospun, organic cottons, and hemp.

Books:

Please note, some of these books take longer periods to ship than others (up to 7 weeks for some of the less-requested items).

Information on this website is for information purposes only.
Please consult a qualified health practitioner before taking any course of action.
Always check for counter-results before deciding on a course of action.

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