09 March 2009

a secret to real girl power

For International Women's Day, I'm writing about something that all women like and some love to the point of worship - clothes! There are many ways in which you can be green with your wardrobe.

Start looking at the entire process of garment making. Think about the energy it takes to grow the raw materials for your clothes. Also consider the processes of spinning, weaving, dying, designing, stitching, marketing, display, retail, disposal and all the transport between and within stages. Each of these are energy intensive and form a small industry on their own.

As women, there are definitely a lot of things we can do to green out our wardrobes. If you are a homemaker and/or a mother - this extends to your family's clothing needs as well as teaching your children the importance of shopping 'right'. Read on for a few tips:

Shop with a plan
When you bring an article of clothing into your life, that cute little number has to have a place in your wardrobe. Abandoning the impulse buy may sound boring but how exciting is a closet full of stuff that doesn’t work? In the long run, knowing what you're looking for before you shop will save time and eliminate clutter. Think about the clothes you really would like to wear, colours and styles that suit you - don't be a fashion victim, stick to timeless pieces which wear the resistance of time. Really think about how long you are going to use an item of clothing before you buy it and how it will get along with everything else in the closet. If the answer to "Will I still want to wear this in two years?" or “Can I eventually find a way to use it in a craft project?” is no, skip it. Limit shopping for clothes only one or two times a year. Periodically clean out your cupboards - you might find some old treasures you would want to wear again languishing in the back. At the very least, you'll find a bunch of clothes you'll want to give away.

Love your duds
Whatever you've chosen, take good care of it. When you get home, change out of work gear and into your famous dressing gown or leisure suit. Don’t cook or check the tire pressure in clothes you want to wear in public. Learn how to sew a button back on, or how to coax a nimble friend into doing it for you. Get the name of a local tailor or seamstress for major repairs or alterations.

Don't go dry
Though the industry has improved much since since the 90s, there is still a high likelihood that your trusty corner cleaner uses perc (tetrachloroethylene), a known carcinogen. See if there is a local green cleaner employing 'wet cleaning' or liquid CO2 techniques. Many articles whose tags ask for the dry clean treatment can actually be hand washed, especially silk, wool and linen.

Buy vintage or used
People unload clothes for all types of reasons, and you know that adage about trash and treasure. From Oscar-worthy vintage dresses to Freecycled denim, you can likely find the piece you’re looking for second hand. You’ll be giving a cast-off garment a second life, and possibly supporting charitable work in the process.

Wash well
Washing wreaks the most havoc of all. It requires lots of water and energy, so only do it when you absolutely need to and have a full laundry load. Turn articles inside out and use the lowest temp possible. If you know you glowed all over a piece, make a thin salt paste and soak the affected fabric for a half hour before washing. Choose phosphate-free and biodegradable detergents and line dry as much as possible. Treat stains quickly with nontoxic removers. If you’re buying a new washing machine, look for one with an Energy Star label.

Wear organic
Though cotton is marketed as clean, fresh and natural, conventional varieties are anything but. It takes a third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce the cotton for one T-shirt! That means lots of direct, unhealthy exposure for farmers, nearby wildlife and heaps of unnecessary pollution. Luckily, organic cotton is becoming easier and easier to find. As mega-stores get into the game, however, it’s important to stay vigilant about what organic means, so you know you’re really getting clean clothes. Also know that though the cotton may have been organic to start with, your T may be full of processing chemicals and metal-laden dyes.

Find a re-purpose
A re-purposed garment used to be another or many other articles. Designers all over the globe have taken on this transformative challenge in recent years, with very wearable results. This means a one-of-a-kind look for you, a new life for old fabric, and a livelihood for maverick re-users.

Approach new fabrics with skeptical enthusiasm
No doubt you’ve heard the hype around bamboo, soy, or even corn and jute fabric. The idea of finding alternatives to petrochemical-based and conventionally grown options makes us all perk up and we see why many eco-conscious designers are excited about them. Bamboo, for instance, sounds great: it’s a fast-growing plant, not reliant on chemicals, and beautifully drapes the human form. Trouble is, bamboo plantations can displace native forests, and the harvesting and fiber processing are often polluting and unregulated. As with soy, corn, and Tencel (which comes from trees) the processing from plant to fabric is energy and resource intensive. For now, approach these as alternatives to poly, nylon, acrylic or conventional silk and await more info. As always, shop with a plan: don’t fill multiple shopping bags just because the labels say 'eco'.

Choose clothes that work for you
It’s hard to feel beautiful in your raw silk dress when it’s likely that children’s scalded hands were part of the production chain. Conventional clothing might not say it, but clothing made under fair-wage and labor practices will usually advertise it. SweatShop Watch and Behind The Label are good sources of info.

Don’t throw it all away
Finally, a stain, a tear, or changing fashion threaten to separate you from your favorite dress shirt. Don’t just abandon your old friend to the waste-stream! If the condition is perfectly good, you can always donate or Freecycle it. Additionally you can convert it to something else - examples include reusuing old T-shirts as feather dusters and as bits of rags, changing your old denims into trendy handbags etc. It all just takes a little imagination. And every woman is blessed with plenty of this.

Rethink Accessories
Don't fall for the latest trends and buy pieces that suit you. Buy durable, long-lasting pieces that you would like to wear often. Buy pieces that go with a lot of things. Check out innovative jewelery made from recycled and/or natural products. Look for convertible pieces which have more than one purpose - a brooch that doubles as a pendant and/or a belt buckle for example. Buy vegan shoes, bags and belts if you can. The options are endless! Swap accessories with your friends - have a swapping party for a green cause. Mix it up to create a new look even with what you already have.

Girl power doesn't come from having a closet overflowing with the latest trends. It comes from figuring out what suits you and feeling comfortable in what you wear among other things - this process in itself is empowering. So go on, unleash the inner goddess. As any supergirl knows, real girl power comes not from what you wear, but the way you wear it.

(Sourced from: www.treehugger.com)


Moon Ⅱ said...

Good article. Go, supergirl.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan said...

thank you! keep reading!