As a green living spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) - a national environmental organization dedicated to protecting people, the places we live, and the natural resources we depend on - Alex Kennaugh is the driving force behind a variety of initiatives which make it easy to live a greener, healthier life. If you're looking for ways to to lessen your fashionable footprint on the world, Alex has these tips:
EMBRACE ORGANIC Try organic versions of natural fibers such as cotton, linen and wool. Beware, however, of bamboo which is often heavily processed with chemicals prior to spinning, making it a less green fiber than you might think.
TRY RECYCLING ON FOR SIZE Similar to what happened with paper starting several years ago, you can now get clothing made from recycled content. Look for apparel made from recycled cotton and polyester, and fibers like polypropylene fleece from plastic bottles.
GIVE DISTRESSED DENIM A MISS The distressing process is literally distressing thanks to nasty chemicals and processes dangerous to workers and harmful to the environment.
VINTAGE CHIC In addition to scouring vintage and secondhand stores, give away items you no longer need to friends or charity. Alternatively, try transforming them: cut-up tees make great cleaning cloths, and that bolt of old fabric could make a really cute new spring dress.
CLEANER CLEANING Dry cleaning chemicals are harsh and harmful - both to you and the environment - so avoid buying clothes that can't be cleaned any other way. (It's amazing how many clothes tagged DRY CLEAN ONLY needn't be. Check out Stretcher.com for a bunch of helpful of DIY cleaning alternatives.) If you do dry clean an item, the worst thing you can do is store it in your closet while still in the plastic; instead, take the plastic off and air it (outside if possible) for at least a day or two so it can off-gas before it goes back into the closet.
COLD & COLOR-FRIENDLY Not only are detergents just as effective at cold temperatures, but your colors will stay brighter. Also, if you line-dry some of the clothes you wash this way, you'll save additional energy and contribute fewer global warming gases.
BORAX BOOST Instead of synthetic, chemical-laden stain removers, boost the cleaning power of your wash by adding a ½ cup of borax. A naturally-occurring mineral, it is loaded with antiseptic, antibacterial, water-softening, and whitening properties.
DITCH DRYER SHEETS Both fabric softeners and dryer sheets leave residues and fragrances that aggravate common allergies. A more natural way to reduce static cling is by adding ¼ cup of baking soda to the wash load. And be sure to use a good-quality natural detergent in the recommended amounts - taking both of these steps will help prevent the detergent-residue buildup that leaves clothes stiff.
For more fab tips, check out NRDC.org.
- Lesley Scott
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(fashion swap illustration via europainternational.com)