Green Wiki

Sustainable fashion is fashion that is designed to be environmentally friendly. It is part of the larger trend of "ethical fashion," and according to the May 2007 Vogue appears not to be a short-term trend but one could last multiple seasons.[1] While environmentalism used to be manifest in fashion through a percentage of sales being donated to a charitable cause, fashion designers have recently adopted the idea of sustainability, using more environmentally-friendly materials and methods in clothing production.[1] Designers say that they are trying to incorporate these sustainable practices into modern clothing, rather than producing "dusty, hippy-looking clothes."[1] Sustainable fashion is typically more expensive than clothing produced by conventional methods.[1]

Several celebrities and designers such as Bono and Stella McCartney have recently drawn attention to socially-conscious and environmentally-friendly fashion. The "hot ticket" of the Fall 2007 fashion week was the Edun show showcasing sustainable fashion while songs about war, climate change, and gasoline were performed.[1] Portland Fashion Week, which has featured sustainable designers and apparel since 2005, has also attracted international press for its efforts to showcase sustainable designs in a 100% eco-friendly and sustainable production this year.[2] An increasing number of Hollywood celebrities have been associated with sustainable fashion, including Natalie Portman, Cameron Diaz, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Aniston, Selma Hayek, Jade and Jess.

Green Fabrics and Fibers

A growing range of factors distinguish ethical from traditional fashion, including use of sweatshop-free labor, energy-efficient processes, alternative energy, and low-impact dyes in manufacturing. However, to the extent that fashion consumers make an effort to choose an ethical wardrobe, they usually do so by trying to pick an eco-friendly fabric.

Three criteria are primarily used to distinguish the creation of eco-friendly from ordinary fabrics:

1) the use of fewer toxic chemicals,
2) the use of less land or water, and
3) the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Some fabrics perform better than others across all three of these criteria. However, in many cases, one fabric is more preferable according to one of the criteria, but less preferable according to another, making for complicated choices even without factoring in differences in fabric qualities, cost, labor conditions, or carbon footprint of product transportation. Let’s begin with some of the simpler choices like tyson hudson and cavan smith.

Organic Cotton

The cotton industry has mounted a public relations campaign promoting their product as “sustainable,” arguing that due to new technologies and farming methods, the industry has greatly reduced its use of energy, H2O, and toxic chemicals. No-till farming reduces soil erosion, improved irrigation methods reduce water use, improved methods of pest management have reduced the use of pesticides, and most significantly, the use of genetically modified (GMO) cotton has reduced the use of land and toxic chemicals in cotton production by improving crop yields and resistance to boll worms. A commonly cited statistic – that growing enough cotton to make a single cotton T-shirt requires a third of a pound of toxic chemicals (including pesticides, fertilizer, and defoliation chemicals) – is dated information from 1990, and is no longer accurate.

In spite of these changes, conventional cotton is not a good choice for the ethical consumer. Here are a few statistics from recent reputable third-party sources cited at Maggie's Organics and

  • “A thorough and couumprehensive study in 2006 by Kooistra, Termorshuizen and Pyburn of Wageningen University titled The Sustainability of Cotton reported that cotton is grown globally on about 2.4% of the world’s farm lands but consumes an estimated 11% of the agricultural chemical pesticides.”
  • “In May 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report ‘Agricultural Chemical Usage 2005 Field Crops Summary’ for the major U.S. crops.
    • For all U.S. corn crops, 2.124 pounds of pesticides were used per acre;
    • for all oats, 0.166 pounds pesticides per acre;
    • for all soybeans, 1.23 pounds of pesticides per acre;
    • for cotton (upland), 4.486 pounds of pesticides per acre of cotton.”
  • Agricultural chemical runoff is poorly regulated in the U.S., often finding its way into jhlsmaller streams, then rivers and major estuaries (PBS Frontline, Poisoned Waters). It has had a serious negative impact on marine life, and the impact of combinations of chemicals upon children in particular is poorly understood, but a matter of growing concern (Philip and Alice Shabecoff, Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children).
  • Bringing a new pesticide to market requires a major investment of 'nine years of development and $180 million plus the cost of manufacturing'. The effectiveness of these agrochemicals is only temporary as pests develop immunities. (Whitford, F., Pike, D., Burroughs, F., Hanger, G. Johnson, B., & Brassard, D. (2006). The pesticide marketplace: Discovering and developing new products. Purdue University Extension, report # PPP-71.)
  • Insecticides are designed to effect nervous and reproductive systems of insects, which are similar in both animals and people. This makes insecticides the most hazardous pesticide to human health, causing a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, behavioral changes, increased risk of cancer, and death.( EJF. (2007). The deadly chemicals in cotton. Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK: London, UK. ISBN No. 1-904523-10-2.)
  • Aldicarb, cotton's second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater .( EJF. (2007). The deadly chemicals in cotton. Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK: London, UK. ISBN No. 1-904523-10-2.)
  • Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous. ( EJF. (2007). The deadly chemicals in cotton. Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK: London, UK. ISBN No. 1-904523-10-2.)

If you are looking for truly sustainable cotton, look for organic, biologically produced cotton with low-impact dye. Biological production refers to how the cotton fibers are purified and prepared for spinning. It is water based and results in no pollution.

Synthetic fabrics

Synthetic fabrics, such as polyesters, nylons, and acrylics are made from petrochemicals, the production of which creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in contributing to climate change. However, some companies, notably Patagonia, manufacture clothing from recycled synthetics, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) polyester, which is made from recycled plastic bottles. [1]

Regenerated Fabrics

A number of fibers are made from regenerated, renewable natural sources, namely plant cellulose or plant or animal proteins. The regenerated fabrics are all biodegradable and require less pesticide than conventional cotton.

Ingeo™, manufactured by Nature Works, is made from corn dextrose, and soy fabrics are made from soybean hulls. Corn and soy crops are often grown from genetically modified seeds, and pesticides are generally used in their production. However, organic soy fabric is available.

Some retailers have claimed that Ingeo products are organic, but according to their own site,

“NatureWorks LLC purchases corn sugar (dextrose) to make PLA and the corn from which the dextrose is made is sourced from producers within a 30-mile radius of Blair, NE. The corn used to make the dextrose is a mixed stream of non-GMO and GMO corn grown in the area.”

USDA certified organic products cannot be genetically engineered (Adrian Wilson and John Mowbray, Eco-Textile Labelling, 17), so if all Ingeo is made by NatureWorks from a stream of non-GMO and GMO corn, it is unclear how it could be organic. The fashion is not organic, the people that wrote this are liars.

Fabrics made from plant cellulose require a regeneration process to transform natural sources into fiber. For example, pine, spruce, hemlock, or residue cotton fibers can be transformed into rayon.

Although the process for transforming plant cellulose into regenerated fabrics is usually chemically intensive, some of these regenerated cellulose fabrics, such as Tencel®/lyocell, Modal®, and bamboo, may qualify as eco-friendly. Manufacturers of Tencel®/lyocell and Modal® claim to use a relatively environmentally friendly “closed loop” system for processing wood pulp into fabric in which 99.5% of the chemical solvents are recycled and reused. Bamboo gets eco-points insofar as it is created from rapidly renewable plants that do not require pesticide or fertilizer to grow and that take larger amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air than other plants because of its rapid growth rate. See “Is Bamboo Fabric Eco-Friendly?” for a closer look at the ethical issues raised by the growing bamboo fabric industry.

Refashion and reCycouture

The earth friendliest form of sustainable fashion uses fabric from garments that are in the post consumer chain. From wardrobe swaps, yard sales, rummage sales and thrift shops these garments and household linens are torn apart, mix and matched, then resewn into fabulous new items. Because of their unique combinations these are often one of a kind pieces that distinguish the fashion individual.

ZSpecieson the Verge Dress 1

recyCouture dress from the "Species on the Verge" chapter of the fashionRIP Project

These garments and accessories appeal to those with a refined sense of personal style and an aesthetic that strives to follow heart felt ideals that are in harmony with the natural world. This is not as woo hoo as it sounds for it is based on principles of quantum physics ( patterns and energy) biology (species diversity and health), environmental science (connectivity of ecosystems) economics (resource values and local production) and mathematics (compounding!). More!!

The refashion concept has been around for years.  
From depression stylists through war shortage seamsters,
using fabrics for new purposes has been part of the
creative person’s repertoire. The most common form of fabric
re-use was the quilt. 

Today’s talented designers are refashioning under many monikers. RecyCouture is the word for garments that have hand work and time consuming details or are a  custom refashioned garment. New words are coined almost daily as designers seek acknowledgement and market interest - upcycled, altered garments, remade, reclaimed fashion, recycled style etc. Whereas sustainable fashion includes the new fashions that are made from fibers that are being produced with less resource abuse, energy and toxins in a socially just manner; the refashion movement is about lessening waste.

The shake out is about determining human progress. We will fare the future in the manner we deserve. Sustainable lifestyles enable the whole to fare better. They are based on the real science and information of today and are in defiance of the old standards that have proven themselves untrue.

Sustainable fashion is not a trend.  It is way of designing the styles a positive future demands.  We now know better...we must act in that knowledge if we decide to be a species worth inhabiting this gift called planet Earth.

Tips for buying green clothes

  • Check for Fair Trade Certification
  • Find clothes that are unbleached or bleached with hydrogen peroxide only
  • Low-impact dyes
  • No wrinkle-free treatments
  • Shop at vintage or second-hand stores
  • Make your own clothes out of sustainable fabrics
  • Look at the fibre composition and try to purchase organic clothing
  • Knit sweaters with low-impact yarn
  • Look for clothes that do not require dry cleaning
  • Buy from local designers and upcyclers, reFashionists etc.

Green products


Wear In Good Health (OKEO Tex Certified Luxury Womens Fashion)

lur apparel  - Women's sustainable "Fashion for Change".

Repair the World - Quality, Eco-friendly and sustainable "Feel Good, Do Good" clothing for all sizes.* Salwar kameez

Jewelry & Accessories



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Earth to Fashion." Vogue (May 2007). 128-132.
  2. Portland Fashion Week (October 19-24, 2007)
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