Recycling cans, drinking from reusable water bottles, taking tote bags to the grocery store and even turning off the water while brushing your teeth– these are all things that many of us do on a daily basis to help protect the environment. Something we don’t often think about, though, are the clothes we wear and how they impact the planet.
In recent years, the apparel industry has seen the rise of “fast fashion,” a method of producing and distributing clothing cheaply and quickly. This leads to the use of environmentally harmful processes, harsh chemicals and unethical labor practices. What’s more, clothing produced in this way often has to travel around the world to reach its market, who then purchase and dispose of it at alarming rates. Because fast fashion is abundant and inexpensive, consumers tend to only keep garments for a few seasons, rather than purchasing better quality, more expensive clothing and wearing it for several years.
At Rock/Creek, we work hard to be sustainable and environmentally conscious in all aspects of our business. Our head buyer, Sara Ray Lewis, is especially considerate of the ecological impact of the clothing brands we carry, choosing only tobring in brands that work to be environmentally friendly. While there are certainly instances in which heavily processed synthetic clothing is a must, sticking to natural materials that are thoughtfully produced can have a hugely positive impact on your carbon footprint.
For this Earth Day, we encourage you to take stock of your wardrobe and consider the environmental impact of where and how you shop. Here are a few sustainable, Earth-friendly fabrics and brands to look for when purchasing clothes, so you can feel good about all aspects of your fashion choices.
The environmental differences between regular cotton and organic cotton are pretty astounding. Organically grown cotton reduces soil acidification, builds more biologically diverse agriculture and protects farmers from the harmful chemicals found in pesticides and fertilizers. Over time, this helps to replenish and maintain soil health in the long term.
Cotton is also a particularly thirsty crop, requiring massive amounts of water that, in some places, are draining lakes and ponds that people depend on. Switching a single t-shirt to organic cotton saves over 100 gallons of water, enough to fill up a bathtub three times.
Brands like Patagonia, prAna and Toad&Co are committed to using only organic cotton, so you can trust that their clothing isn’t doing unnecessary harm to the earth.
2. Merino Wool
Not all Merino wool is created equal, but there are two major manufacturers that are doing everything right. Smartwool and Icebreaker are dedicated to ensuring the health and well-being of their sheep, the land and the growers. The sheep are always provided with adequate food, water and shelter, while the growers are ensured fair pay for their work.
Merino wool is odor-resistant, sun protectant and temperature regulating, plus, it manages moisture better than synthetics and lasts far longer. Merino is also renewable, non-flammable and totally biodegradable, unlike synthetics which are made from non-renewable fossil fuels. When grown and collected ethically, Merino is certainly a friend to the planet.
The second most sustainable of all materials, bamboo seems almost magical in its eco-friendliness. Because of its combined sustainability and comfort, bamboo is quickly becoming a staple in the outdoor clothing industry.
Free Fly Apparel is one brand that’s producing extremely environmentally-conscious bamboo apparel, promising to ensure that their clothing is made in a way that respects both people and the planet. By its nature, bamboo is renewable, requires no pesticides or fertilizers and grows quickly with little water. It’s also moisture wicking, anti-bacterial and has innate UV protection. If up until now you’ve only thought of bamboo as a crunchy snack for pandas, now you know that it’s also one of the most eco-friendly materials around.
Tencel, the name brand of a material called lyocell, is the reigning king of sustainable fabrics and is the only fabric with a totally transparent supply chain. Made from a renewable raw wood pulp, Tencel is biodegradable, compostable and can fully revert back to nature in a relatively short amount of time.
So what makes it so sustainable? Tencel is made using closed loop production, a manufacturing method that simultaneously improves economic and environmental efficiency. This process transforms the wood pulp into cellulosic fibers through a process with high resource efficiency and low environmental impact. Throughout, water is recycled and the solvent is reused at a very high recovery rate. So the resources used are not only less harmful, they are also less in quantity.
And Tencel isn’t just a pretty face. It’s also great at managing moisture, has antibacterial properties and feels smoother and softer than other fabrics. As the movement toward environmentally-friendly clothing slowly gains ground, more and more brands, including Patagonia and Toad&Co, are incorporating Tencel into their collections.
The next time you’re out shopping, keep a lookout for the fabrics we’ve highlighted here. Remember that while they may cost more up front, you’re getting a level of longevity and sustainability that you won’t find in lower quality clothing. By shopping collections like Patagonia, prAna, Toad&Co and Free Fly at Rock/Creek, you’re not only getting durable clothing, but you can also trust that you’re making an eco-conscious decision.