Thursday, June 3, 2010

What clothes should we buy?

Almost all of us wear clothing at some point in the day. For most people its a lifelong expense that can have a huge impact on our health and the environment. What are the best clothing choices that we can make?

I was raised on second hand clothing. Panties, bras, and socks were the only things that were purchased new. My parents did this because they couldn't afford to buy me new clothes, however I feel it was the best thing they could have done. Very little waste was generated in me getting the clothing.

By the time something is ready to be given away, most of the chemical burden is removed from the fabric making it healthier for the wearer. Of course, this system does rely on someone getting new clothing, but several people can wear clothes before they become scraps. One of my favorite examples of clothing reuse is Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback. I highly recommend this children's book to everyone!
What are the best choices when buying new clothes? There are so many choices now. Should we buy conventional clothing from small independent stores, or organic fair-trade clothes from a website? What materials should we buy? Organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc? I debate these decisions every time I buy something new. 

The newest material that has come to my attention is made from beech trees. Ellen at Thrifty and Chic Mom is currently running a Body Bark Ecofriendly Style Giveaway. Body Bark seems like an interesting company, but I always wonder about greenwashing.

Body Bark claim that wearing  their products under dry clean only clothing will allow you to go longer between visits to the dry cleaners, thus saving you money and helping the environment. Nice idea, but how many of us dry clean our clothes? I haven't been to a dry cleaners in over 8 years, and the only things I've ever had dry cleaned were second hand gowns.

I also wonder how sustainable is it to grow beech trees? I'm sure they're being grown on monocultured tree farms. How much water do they require? Fertilizer? I love the idea of the material, but must question what the true impact is.

I would love to hear your opinions on what types of clothes to buy. If you have experience with any of the eco-friendly materials out there, please share it with us!
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