Kermit the Frog told us log ago “it’s not easy being green,” but fortunately times have changed, and it’s easier than ever to Go Green with your purchases, consumption and lifestyle. One often neglected area is super simple to “green up” — your closet!
- Wash in cold water whenever possible to save energy.
- Wash only when clothes are dirty or have odor.
- For adults, most clothes can be washed on a delicate cycle, which also helps to keep them looking good longer.
- The more clothes you can hang dry, the more you’ll save energy and wear and tear on your clothes.
- Look for plant-based, low-to-zero scented, and dye-free laundry detergent to avoid adding unnecessary chemicals on our clothes and into the waste stream — brands to look for are Ultra Purex Natural Elements, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, Green Works Laundry Detergent, Method Laundry Detergent, and Tide Free and Gentle.
- For dryer sheets, you can use them to do dusting after they are used — a dual purpose! Some brands to look for – Method Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths*, Snuggle Free Clear, Seventh Generation Fabric Softner Sheets*, Mrs. Meyers Lavender Dryer Sheets. The dryer sheets with a “*” don’t have animal-derived ingredients so you can not only dust with them but also throw them in the compost.
Dry Cleaning Do’s and Don’tsTraditional dry cleaning methods use dry cleaning solvents called perchloroethylene aka PERC or PCE, tetracholorethylene, or tetracholorethylene. These chemicals can cause serious health problems with long-term exposure, which is not good news for those who work in dry cleaning. And some people are sensitive to the residue from these chemicals on a short-term basis — such as dizziness and nose and throat irritation — which isn’t good for you if you dry clean a lot. These chemicals are also hazardous to dispose of — which means they are not eco-friendly.
There are greener dry cleaners, meaning those who provide professional wet cleaning and recycled carbon dioxide cleaning – both methods are environmentally friendly. Some dry cleaners use a silicone-based solvent called D-5 from Dow Corning and say they are green, but the EPA’s studies say there may be a cancer hazard associated with this chemical. And any dry cleaner which uses a hydrocarbon method is also not green, because of the chemical’s VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) release and use of petroleum. If you don’t have a greener dry cleaner near you, make sure you let your clothes air out after picking them up before you wear them. And, whenever possible, handwash items that aren’t “dry clean only.”
Greener Clothing MaterialsDon’t just think eco-friendly when caring for your clothes. You have greener options when purchasing new clothes, too. If you can find clothing made out of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, recycled polyester, or Tencel (made from wood pulp) — these are the more eco-friendly fabrics.
Organic cotton is currently one of the more commonly found eco-friendly materials. To grow and process regular cotton (also called “conventional cotton”), it usually requires a lot of intensive chemicals and pesticides — and some people feel that the residue from those chemicals stay in this cotton after a shirt or pants are made. However, with organic cotton the farmers are required to grow the cotton without toxic fertilizers and pesticides. This is of great benefit to you, so that you’re not exposed to these chemicals, as well as great benefit to our soils, water, and beneficial insects (like bees).
Hemp is not as common but has great promise because it requires little-to-no pesticides or herbicides, less water to grow, and can be turned into several different types of fabrics — faux silk, linen, knit, stretch, canvas, and muslin.
Other fabrics like bamboo, recycled polyester, and Tencel are great for reasons of using less resources to grow (bamboo), re-using (recycled polyester), and being biodegradable and chemical free (Tencel).
Re-use/vintage is also a way to go, but you can be more sophisticated about it. If you love the Boho-chic style, you’ll find loads of style options for yourself at second-hand stores. And, if you’re crafty, it is simple to add a little embellishment, a little extra dart or pleat, or some fun accessories to put together a very happening re-use combo. At Etsy.com and Ebay.com you can find a number of retailers who re-purpose and re-sell vintage wear.
Jewelry for all styles is something that can be particularly green when you source through second-hand stores. A unique piece of jewelry can really turn a plain outfit into wow! And I have found quality re-use pieces even at Goodwill — for just a few dollars instead of big bucks.