Creating An Earth-Friendly Wardrobe

Ellen Gavin
Birch Clothing

Fair made clothing is produced under fair labor conditions. Whether made in the USA or overseas, fair made clothes are sewn and produced by workers who earn a fair wage in their local contexts and who work under safe, humane conditions. Some examples of unfair or unsafe work conditions are: workers being forced to work long overtime hours: doors being locked to prohibit workers from leaving the premises; workers not given breaks to eat or use the bathroom.

What are environmentally friendly or eco-fabrics? They are fabrics made from fibers that are grown without harmful chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides or insecticides. Eco-fabrics are also manufactured without the use of chlorine, formaldehyde and other chemicals. These treatment agents can harm human and animal health, contaminate drinking water and pollute the earth.


Organic cotton is grown in an environmentally sound manner but conventional cotton is not. Here’s the dirty little secret about conventional cotton. While cotton is touted because it is a natural fiber, conventionally grown cotton uses…“ of a pound of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to produce one t-shirt. In addition, conventionally grown cotton uses about 3% of worlds farmland yet it consumes about 25% of all insecticides and more than 10% of all pesticides used today.

Cotton is not just a fiber, but also a food. Cottonseed oil is a major ingredient in many common food items such as baked goods, snack foods and salad dressing. Cottonseed is also a major source of feed for dairy cows. Therefore, organic cotton farming improves our food supply as well as the health of farm workers, cotton producers and the earth.

Hemp is another environmentally friendly fabric. Hemp is naturally pest and weed resistant. Therefore, it can easily be grown chemically-free. The only fertilizer requirement for the hemp plant is nitrogen, which can be provided naturally by using manure. Hemp is also stronger than cotton. It looks like linen and softens with wear. In addition, hemp blocks up to 95% of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This durable, comfortable fabric is easy to wear and care for.

Tencel is another earth-friendly fabric choice. Tencel is made from wood pulp. Most of the chemicals used in the production of this fabric are recyclable. Tencel feels like silk, cools like linen and warms like wool. Even better, tencel resists wrinkles and washes easily.

Bamboo fabric is light and cool to wear. It delivers supreme breathability and absorbency. Bamboo is also biodegradable, naturally regenerative, and manufactured without the use of chemical additives.

Soy is sooooo soft. Soy in fabric form offers second-skin comfort, luster and impressive drape. It washes easily and withstands wear. Soybean protein fiber has the advantage of being a renewable natural resource and a byproduct of food manufacturing. Eat the tofu, wear the soy!

Earth-friendly fabric options give you the opportunity to look good and feel good in your clothes. You can wear fashionable, soft, comfortable garments and know that your choice will promote a sustainable future for your children, community, the environment and yourself. Here is the best part: the clothes you will be wearing feel so much better next to your skin than conventional fabrics do. Give them a try and see for yourself.

Reused Clothing

Wearing gently used clothing conserves resources and saves you money. There are many convenient options in the Twin Cities to buy stylish second hand clothing. Purchasing used clothing from charitable and consignment shops keeps textiles out of the landfill.

Read Up

Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops by Robert J.S. Ross, University of Michigan 2004.
Let my people go surfing: the education of a reluctant businessman by Yvon Chouinard (Owner of Patagonia), Penguin 2006.

Act Locally
Birch Clothing
2309 W. 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN

North Country Fair Trade
St. Paul, MN, 651-336-1698

Earth-Friendly Wardrobe

Our Sponsors