What (the %&*^) is Eco Friendly Fashion?

vegan stiletto shoe with pink strapA better title might be: What (the %&*^) is eco friendly fashion and why should you care?

Because when it comes to something as important as your family, it’s easy to find motivation to investigate healthier options. But when it comes to your closet, it’s sometimes tempting to just shut the door.

But what you put into your wardrobe can affect all of us. A great example is cotton. Six of the seven insecticides used in cotton production are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization.

When it comes to your closet, eco friendly fashion can mean different things to different people.

These pesticides include Aldicarb, which can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.

On a global scale, cotton accounts for 16% of the world’s insecticides—more than any other single crop. A full 99% of cotton production takes place in the developing world.

Synthetic fertilizers contribute to global warming; they are 300 times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gas. It takes 1/3 of a pound of fertilizer to make one pound of cotton, and one pound of cotton to make one t-shirt. Think about what it takes to make a pair of jeans!

When put in this context, it makes sense to know your options. I like to think about eco friendly fashion in terms of sustainability.

The United Nations defined “sustainable” in 1987 as “meeting the needs of the present, without undermining the needs of future generations.”

But when it comes to your closet and eco friendly fashion, sustainability can mean different things to different people.

ORGANIC simply means something comes from formerly living—i.e. plant or animal—material. (Think oil. Organic, yes. USDA certified organic, no.) USDA Certified Organic means a product–be it food, makeup or clothing–contains at least 95 percent organically grown materials.

FAIR TRADE is the business practice of sustainably manufacturing goods in economically disadvantaged areas in order to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality. These projects now help 1.2 million workers and their families in 70 countries.

VEGAN products contain no animal materials, like leather, wool, down, fur or silk (except, for some people, ahimsa or “peace” silk). But they aren’t organic or fair trade, necessarily—even those from Stella McCartney.

RECYCLED means using something again—as in the case of thrift shopping or swapping, my two favorite ways to upgrade a closet—and upcycling converts waste into something of higher value. (One great example? Transforming waste plastic bags into fabric.)

When it comes to figuring out what went into making your clothes, a little bit of research goes a long way. For example, Greenpeace’s Detox campaign pressured Zara, Esprit, Levis and Benetton, among others, to publically commit to a phase out of toxic manufacturing. H&M is now the world’s largest purchaser of organic cotton, and has made public their goal of phasing out all non-sustainable cotton by 2020.

Still, the average American dumps 70 pounds of textile waste in the landfill each year because of “fast fashion.”

Shifting to a more eco friendly mindset when it comes to your closet can help change all that. Add another question to those that we women usually ask ourselves before purchasing, i.e. “Do I like it?” “Can I afford it?” and (my personal go-to) “Does it make my butt look big?”

The fourth question: “Is it sustainable?”

If the answer is yes, then happy shopping!



  1. […] vegan to organic, fair trade to upcycled, here are just a few eco fashion goodies that are on my list this holiday […]

  2. […] countries provide western consumers with cheap and disposable goods. You’re all clear on cotton, which uses 17% of the world’s insecticides and is 94% Genetically Modified. And that the textile industry is the world’s second largest […]

  3. […] the antidote is simple: If you’re buying new, choose ethically made clothes and accessories. Better yet, keep clothes out of the waste stream by thrifting, swapping and buying on […]

  4. […] countries provide western consumers with cheap and disposable goods. You’re all clear on cotton, which uses 17% of the world’s insecticides and is 94% Genetically Modified. But with that in mind, sometimes you just have to shop—and many […]

  5. wikipedia reference

    What (the %&*^) is Eco Friendly Fashion? – Mommy Greenest

  6. Amara says:


    What (the %&*^) is Eco Friendly Fashion? – Mommy Greenest

  7. […] for men and women—plus an adorable collection of pants, onesies and hats for babies. With no GMOs, pesticides, fertilizers, bleaches, sweatshops or other nasties in the mix, you can feel good about wearing PACT—as good as you […]

  8. Vu says:


    What (the %&*^) is Eco Friendly Fashion? – Mommy Greenest

  9. […] it’s important to recycle and buy organic and clothes swap and plant a garden and avoid synthetic chemicals in my beauty products and keep my kids away from […]

  10. […] 6. Finally, I’m not a big believer in the idea that humans absorb pesticides from clothes—just washing before you wear solves most of that problem. But I also know that a majority of the insecticides used in cotton production are classified as hazardous by the World Wildlife Fund, and that on a global scale, cotton accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides—more than any other single crop. With that big picture in mind, choosing organic clothing—and/or limiting consumption through thrifting and swapping—just makes … […]

  11. […] crafts that are easy enough for a toddler to manage (with a little help) and also show how much fun upcycling can […]

  12. […] love eco fashion. But eco fashion can mean different things to different people: Organic, fair trade, vegan, etc. For me, recycled eco fashion is key—typically, I thrift and […]

  13. […] In the closet, recycle your metal hangers by bringing them back to your dry cleaners. Dry cleaning bags are recyclable in those plastic bag collections bins we talked about earlier. And if you sell or donate your used clothing to a thrift store, you’ll cut down on the nearly 70 pounds of clothing and textiles that the average American tosses into the landfill each year. […]

  14. […] it comes to upcycled fashion, it doesn’t get much better than this Vancouver-based clothing company, which upcycles reclaimed […]

  15. […] more American than hemp? Apparently pesticide-laden cotton and ridiculous Just Say No policies that lump one of the world’s oldest cultivated fabrics into […]

  16. […] 70 POUNDS of textile waste every year because of fast fashion. Swapping–and upcycling, and thrifting–clothes can keep a lot of that in a closet, rather than a landfill. Plus, it’s SO MUCH […]

  17. […] can you do in the mean time about fast fashion? Think slow. Just like the slow food movement, slow fashion is about buying clothing made in a sustainable way—typically, these designers are working locally to produce smaller quantities of goods. And look […]

  18. […] But if I knew then what I know now about gold mining — it leads to razed forests, disrupted eco-systems and giant trenches of earth poisoned by cyanide and sulphuric acid and, according to the EPA, generates more toxic waste than any other industry in America — I wouldn’t have chosen that gold ring in the first place, but would have looked for recycled and upcycled options. […]

  19. […] I like the trend of boyfriend jeans. It’s recycled eco friendly fashion in action—if you do it […]

  20. […] this reducing and reusing stuff is important when it comes to clothes, if you consider that the average American throws away 70 pounds of textile waste each year. Yes, […]

  21. […] forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but I just can’t justify a third of a pound of pesticide-laden fertilizer going into the cotton that made that slinky little …, no matter how alluring its rosettes may […]

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