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Illustrations By Thea Milinairé

Turns out that silk trend is good for the planet, too

May 10, 2017, 12:00 am

Upon hearing the terms “organic” or “fair-trade” applied to clothing, you may be tempted to pull a little eye roll. But, sadly, the fashion industry is truly hurting our planet. According to a Forbes Energy article by planetary biologist and energy specialist James Conca from last month, more than 150 billion garments are produced annually, and Americans throw away enough clothing to amount to 70 pounds for every citizen every year. Over 70 million trees are logged to create fibers like rayon annually, and a quarter of the planet’s chemicals exist solely to produce textiles. Plastic microfibers shed by synthetic textiles make their way into our water systems and eventually to the ocean, where they suffocate marine life.

Even some processes surrounding natural fibers like cotton are harmful. As a crop grown with pesticides that also requires synthetic fertilizers, it’s damaging enough. And considering it takes roughly one pound of raw material to produce a single T-shirt, it’s mind-boggling that it’s such a common choice.

Fashion and clothing production are trend-driven markets, which have been boosted by online shopping and “fast fashion” brands like Forever 21, tempting us to purchase that skirt we’ll wear once, just because it’s only $6—and then it ends up in a landfill. And, because it’s made of polyester or nylon, which can take between 20 and 200 years to break down, it stays there for a good long while. When it finally does decompose, it releases harmful greenhouse gases.

And maybe you wanted that $6 poly-blend skirt in a few colors. It’s not hard to see the damaging effects of dying processes. Just Google images of “clothing industry pollution” and you’ll find ochre rivers and foaming magenta streams that seem like they’re right out of a psychedelic dystopian film.

When it comes to sustainable or “green” clothing, you want to think about what the garment is made from; natural fibers are always best, but some are better than others. Linen is a lovely material, especially for the warmer weather. Or you can be really on-trend and rock a silk slip dress, knowing it’s a sustainable choice. Start simply: Next time you’re shopping, ask yourself some responsible questions like: Do I need this? Am I going to love and live in it, or is this something that’s going to live in a landfill?

The “slow fashion” movement has pushed the industry to birth designers and labels focused on planet-friendly items, so you have more choices than ever when it comes to finding something that’s both sustainable and stylish.

Reformation (thereformation.com) is my not-at-all secret obsession. The style is wearable and mature, but cheeky. Their summer collection works for all the weddings and baby showers and day-drinking you have coming up. Each item on their site features information about how much water, carbon dioxide and waste was saved in its creation compared to others like it sold in the US.

Christy Dawn (christydawn.com) is sustainable and classic. The Los Angeles-based label makes vintage-inspired frocks with deadstock fabric, which is left over from designers who overestimated their needs and found themselves with too many rolls. Really, they’re up-cycling geniuses and every dress is drool-worthy.

Eileen Fischer (142 Lincoln Ave., Ste. 101, 986-0900) focuses on sustainability with the option to send gently worn items back to the company’s recycling program, and Fischer has always used natural fibers in her designs. She’s a champion of sustainable fashion and has been vocal about her mission to make fashion environmentally friendlier, and the local shop is full of linen choices and sets.

Replacing every item in your closet with a sustainable choice would be costly, as none of these aforementioned labels are cheap. Let’s be honest: We all get rid of old garments and get new clothing. I am so, so guilty of this. But there are responsible ways to go about your spring closet-cleaning: Donate or sell to a second hand store or, when it comes to adding new items to your wardrobe, try just one sustainable piece this event season instead of three fast-fashion ones.


 

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