Tagged: fabric

If You Need It: Organic Unmentionables

This I Wear | Organic Unmentionables

Photos via (left) PACT and (right) Hanky Panky. See below for links!

Yes, I said unmentionables. You were not expecting me to set you straight on what you’re wearing underneath your clothes today. But what better way to start building a sustainable wardrobe than stripping down to the basics?

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Hanky Panky, my favorite brand of pricey and in-demand women’s intimates, was now producing a “Cotton with a Conscience” line. And since this organic line is sold at the same price point as their conventional cotton line, this was one easy switch! I already knew that unlike the Gap Body intimates I’ve been buying for years, Hanky Panky’s pairs will last forever, which is both impressive and totally justifies the cost. So not only are these skivvies made to last, but they’re newly organic, incredibly comfortable, and, as always, made in America. It’s a great step forward for the company, and I hope they’ll share more about this conversion with their customers soon!

There are also quite a few options for the gents: PACT’s fair trade organic cotton boxer briefs win the day for style, but Pants to Poverty’s options are a close second. Both brands have women’s lines too.

As long as we’re getting down to the basics, we should also answer the very basic but often misunderstood question of why we should choose organic clothing. The argument for organic food is straightforward enough: when we spray pesticides on the food we grow, those chemicals enter our bodies when we eat conventionally-produced food. Eating organic food means keeping those pesticides out of our bodies.

The argument for organic fiber gets messier, but we can keep it simple. It is often debated, but at this point fairly accepted, that when we wear conventional fibers, pesticides are not seeping into our bodies through our skin. However, our health as well as the health of the farming communities, the environment, and wildlife can be directly impacted by pesticides that enter our air, water, and even our food. When we use pesticides, we introduce them to our ecosystems. From there, according to all laws of nature, they don’t just disappear – they have to go somewhere. Unfortunately, that “somewhere” can still be in our communities, since the US is the third largest cotton producing country in the world, and conventional cotton requires more insecticides than any other crop (read more here). And just when you thought you weren’t eating this conventional cotton, the truth is that cotton by-products do find their way into our diets from the cottonseed fed to cattle to the cottonseed oil used in processed foods. So at the end of the day, choosing organic cotton and other organic fibers means we’re taking a big step to keep ourselves and our communities pesticide-free, so we can all be a whole lot safer.

There are many more reasons to advocate for organic fiber, but we’ll keep it basic like our skivvies today. In the meantime, if you want more, read up on how PACT does a whole lot more than just use organic cotton and then check out TextileExchange’s quick fact sheet on organic cotton. And if you have a great organic cotton resource, I hope you’ll share.

My Closet: The Bamboo Scarf

This I Wear | My Closet: Bamboo Scarf

As a college student, I worked in a beautiful boutique in Washington, D.C. And as a college student, I was rarely able to afford the beautiful things we sold, even with an employee discount. Each item I bought usually was preceded by longing stares for weeks with crossed fingers in hopes that a customer wouldn’t buy the last one before my next pay day.

This scarf dates back to my time spent in the shop. I was still in my early stages of finding my passion for environmental issues, and anything that was labeled “eco” was an instant point of obsession. Not only was this scarf promoted as a “green” product, since bamboo grows quickly with no fertilizers or pesticides, but it had the luxurious shine and feel of silk. So I bought it, and I loved it.

During the following year as I researched alternative textile fibers for my thesis, I found that it is true that bamboo does quickly replenish itself and grow without the need for chemicals. However, I also discovered that the process of converting bamboo into a textile fiber was filled with chemicals to make it into what we know as rayon or viscose (Note: Rayon/Viscose can be made from a number of wood-based fibers). Could the good outweigh the bad in this case?

Actually, no. According to Patagonia’s fantastic guide to bamboo, “The solvent used for this process is carbon disulfide, a toxic chemical that is a known human reproductive hazard. It can endanger factory workers and pollute the environment via air emissions and wastewater. The recovery of this solvent in most viscose factories is around 50%, which means that the other half goes into the environment.” My scarf might have been made all the way in Nepal, but I certainly don’t want the Nepalese drinking water contaminated with these chemicals.

It quickly became clear that my scarf and a lot of the bamboo textiles appearing on the market at the time were by-products of green-washing. Or, at my more optimistic moments, I perhaps attributed it to just a long chain of unintentional ignorance that made its way down the chain to me, the consumer. But mostly I just felt swindled. How could I have so blindly trusted this fabric that had seemed almost too good to be true? This scarf was an imposter.

Yet I continue to keep this scarf around. It serves as a reminder that I have to keep asking questions. It reminds me that there are a lot of things that we just don’t know yet – as businesses, scientists, shoppers and just plain human beings. Luckily, we’re getting better information all the time, especially when we pursue it. And if this scarf did go through all those scary chemicals to become the silky fabric that keeps me warm, I have a responsibility to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t cause any more trouble than it already has.

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