Here are some things to look for/ask yourself if you want to try to cloth yourself within your own fibershed, or even just in the US, or simply get the synthetics out of your wardrobe:
- Is the original fiber grown, processed and sewn in my state or within a 150 mile radius? If not, is it from the United States?
- Were the people who grew, processed and sewed my garment paid a fair wage and have fair working conditions?
- Is it dyed using natural dyes (which are not completely harmless), dirt or synthetic dyes (there are various types)?
- If it’s cotton, is it “organic” or otherwise grown without the use of any chemicals? (Hint, if it doesn’t say organic assume it’s just dripping in toxic nasties.) The same goes for linen and hemp.
- If it’s wool, there isn’t much of an organic standard for fiber production, but there are for organic meat sheep. So ask yourself are the sheep raised for organic meat? Are they raised with quality pasture and treated humanely? Is the yarn “superwash” treated?* Although I haven’t used their yarn, O-Wool has a good FAQ page about organic wool. *One thing I will say is that at this point, I am not sure about O-Wool’s superwash process. Apparently it is “different” than many other toxic superwash processes, but since they are not transparent about what they’re using, it’s still a no for me. Here’s what they say about it:
O-Wash uses a GOTS certified organic compound to create machine-washability. The compound holds the fibers still during washing so the scales cannot interlock and felt. Conventional “superwash” processes burn the scales off the fiber with an acid bath, or coat the fiber in a resin, or both. O-Wash both has its scales and uses a certified organic compound!
Another note about cotton, cotton is traded as a commodity all over the world, like corn or oil. Think about that. And if you want to dive deeper, read about what they still call “King Cotton“. Cotton is traded for profit and people buy stock in it…That’s not good.
So if you have a choice of fibers, choose a garment made of linen or hemp/ramie, or an animal fiber over cotton. None of those fibers are traded for profit.
I really encourage you to research any yarn company or clothing company, and how materials are processed before you buy. Don’t assume because a company “looks” green that they are. Many are not. “Made in China” in my mind automatically disqualifies a garment or a yarn (and sometimes yarn companies will hide where the yarn is actually manufactured) because they do not have the same environmental and personal standards we do. Sorry China, and yes, I know you’re reading this-there’s a map in my stats that tells me where my readers are.
And again many thanks to Ashley Yousling at Woolful and her wonderful podcasts and articles about superwash here and here, and Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed for the inspiration!
More coming in the near future about rayon, Tencel, etc. Yes they’re “natural” and yes they compost but are they safe for the environment and at what cost in water and chemicals?