With concern over global warming, deforestation, and water and air pollution, consumers are becoming more aware of the impact on the environment of the products that they consume. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic are created from petroleum. Oil wells, offshore oil rigs and ships that transport oil are infamous for drenching pristine shorelines with oil.
Cotton, the second most popular fabric requires 25% of the insecticides used in the world. Ten percent of the pesticides used in the world are used to protect the cotton plants. Those toxic chemicals become part of the soil. Through the water cycle, they spread becoming part of the food we eat and the air we breathe. According to the Environmental Agency, EPA, seven of the fifteen chemicals used to grow cotton are possibly, likely, or known to cause cancer.
Two popular alternatives to these fabrics are bamboo and hemp. Bamboo fibers are used to create a silk like cashmere fabric as well as more casual fabrics. Bamboo absorbs and evaporates moisture as they have micro pores and micro gaps that allows the fabric to breathe. Its unique anti-bacterial agent naturally prevents body odor and sweat. Natural UV protection and anti-static properties would make bamboo a smart fabric choice. Bamboo is actually a grass and is considered one of the fastest growing plants. It replenishes the soil and produces more than 35% more oxygen than trees. They do not consume much water, so they can be grown in a variety of locations. (This is not the bamboo eaten by pandas.) The fabrics are produced in China, so it is important to make sure that the company you purchase your clothing from guarantees that they use manufacturers with fair labor practices. The Natural Clothing Company is one of the companies that produce every day clothing that ensures they were produced with green and fair practices. Some others are TASC performance clothes and Bambooki.
Hemp is the another alternative fabric that is gaining momentum. Hemp is a fast growing crop that also replenishes the soil. It has been used for fabrics for over 1200 years. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp growers. This type of hemp is a cousin to marijuana, but is not used for pharmaceuticals. Hemp is resistant to bugs and disease severely reducing the need for pesticides and insecticides. The stand of hemp shades the soil, so weeds are naturally eliminated. Hemp is naturally UV resistant similar to bamboo. It is also anti-microbial and mildrew resistant.
There are many companies who use hemp to create comfortable daily wear. Hemp’s a 1995 company created when its founder was inspired to create a hemp bag to hold his surfing wax. Today they make hats, backpacks, board shorts, wallets, craft supplies and body products. All made from organic hemp fabric. Hempest and Hemp and Company are a couple other companies to check out, if you want to add some hemp clothing to your wardrobe.
If you prefer designer clothing, Scandanavian designer Bonnie Siefers has created fabulous clothing using trademark fabrics she created with bamboo and hemp fibers. She uses her unique watercolor dye techniques and unique processes to create luscious fabrics with names like peace silk and energy satin. You can see her designs at her company Jonano.
Along with recycling, conserving water, and reducing our use of fuel, we can add to the environmental health of our planet by mixing some of these alternative fabrics in our clothing purchases.