Wash & Wear

How to Green Everyone’s Wardrobe

Every fall, even with back-to-school sales, buying clothes can be costly for families. Also, new togs take a toll on the planet: Most common synthetic fabrics are petroleum-based; and according to the Sustainable Cotton Project (SustainableCotton.org), 25 percent of all insecticides applied in this country, including known carcinogens, are used to grow cotton.

Perceived as a disposable commodity, garments purchased for growing children are typically discarded after serving only a fraction of their useful life, while teens dismiss outfits when fashions change. Adults often have closets full of items from when they weighed less.

Here are 10 commonsense ways to redress the problem and lighten the family’s ecological footprint.

Wash only as needed. Avoid wasting energy and water by washing clothing only when it’s dirty, rather than after a single gentle wearing; then dripor line-dry.

Go unisex for tots. Siblings can wear family hand-me-downs and share basic items like shirts and pants.

Share. Family members, friends and neighbors can swap perfectly wearable fashions when they tire of them.

Help strangers. Charitable nonprofits, detailed on websites like DressFor Success.org (women’s business attire) OneWorldRunning.com (athletic gear sent to developing countries) and SalvationArmyUSA.org (caring for the homeless), all have on-the-ground networks in place to redistribute goods.

Give it back. Some brands take back and recycle their products. Nike (NikeReuseAShoe.com), for instance, repurposes any brand of worn-out athletic shoes in the making of new sports facilities.

Shop where you drop. When dropping off donated clothing and other items at a thrift or resale store, walk inside and see what’s for sale.

Read labels before purchasing. Some clothes require more maintenance that isn’t eco-friendly, such as special detergents, ironing or even dry cleaning, which typically uses toxic perchloroethylene (PERC)—unless it’s a green cleaning process.

Look for alternatives. Clothing made from organic, low-impact or recycled materials such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and recycled fibers, is available in stores and online.

Dress casually. Dress suits for men and women require dry cleaning, so whenever possible, leave such fine attire in the closet.

Buy the good stuff. Brand names often live up to their advertising. Prestigious trademarks often get that way by producing better-made, more durable clothing and also protecting their image by avoiding exploitive practices. Check them out online via third-party evaluators.

Source: Adapted from BigGreenPurse.com.

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