The Light Side of Fashion: Regenerative Fabric

May 26, 2016

A #RegenResolutions Update from Lauren Tucker, Co-Executive Director, Kiss the Ground

My resolution in 2016 “for the earth”, was to only purchase fabric that is organically grown (e.g. organic cotton) or regeneratively grown (e.g. hemp or bamboo – plants that rapidly sequester (store) carbon in the soil while growing).

The laundry list of offenses committed by the fast fashion industry is much greater than just platform sneakers and jeggings: from human rights abuses and the high environmental impact (from the toxic chemicals, gallons of water and pounds of carbon dioxide used to make every single garment), to reinforcing a culture of dissatisfaction and rampant consumerism – buying a new piece of clothing can be highly problematic!

As an urban gardener and aspiring farmer with a passion for regenerative agriculture, I’m very passionate about purchasing food grown locally, organically, and from farms building the healthiest soil.  

But, until I committed to it this year, I hadn’t given too much thought to my clothing and fabric (sheets, towels, furniture, etc.) choices.

Sure, I’d always shopped at local thrift stores and avoided purchasing tons of new clothes on unnecessary (and unaffordable) shopping sprees. And I’ve always been aware of the toxic effects of chemicals in feminine cotton products: I choose to use either a Diva Cup or natural tampons and last year tried ditching them all together by purchasing a few pairs of this incredible invention.

The feeling since making the resolution has been similar to the feeling you have when you get a new car and suddenly everyone is driving that car. It’s a common thing: when you put your attention to something it shows up everywhere.

The world of sustainable fashion or eco-fashion is a large one full of products and brand alternatives that are responsibly grown (without chemicals) and/or made (with fair labor practices).

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  • You can cut your wardrobe by half or more and be super happy. I gave away over half my closet this year and feel lighter, not lacking. Less is more.
  • The organic cotton comforters were a bit out of my price range but I found a $100 bamboo comforter that is so comfortable that my son wanted one and I ended up with two. Bamboo Fabric is contested because the process does include chemicals but the trade off for me was that bamboo grows so easily and is constantly sequestering more carbon.
  • I found organic cotton sheets from Target, of all places. While we know that organic industrial agriculture is an imperfect system, at least these sheets weren’t grown with tons of toxic pesticides that we then sleep on every night.
  • I purchased organic bamboo napkins from this Etsy shop. I stopped using paper towels and paper napkins years ago but I was ready to purchase some new cloth napkins and realized that last time I purchased them I didn’t think about the type of fabric.
  • I purchased a t-shirt through a crowdfunding campaign for Zea Hungry Goods, an awesome company that diverts food waste from the landfill by the sale of organic cotton t-shirts.
  • And some new shirts from Alternative.
  • I decided to start running regularly and searched for an all-recycled running shoe with materials that are able to be upcycled at the end of the shoe’s life. I ended up with a pair of Kigos. They are so fun!
  • I still love to get most of my clothing second hand.  I recently started using ThredUP, an online thrift store and app.  It’s the way that I’m currently purchasing all of my 6 year old son’s clothes.
  • On the kids note, we just signed up for this incredible toy swapping site called Pley. You pay a monthly fee and you receive a toy. When you’re finished with the toy you pack it up, ship it back, and receive a new one.  A $23/month fee to “Pley” is way cheaper than a $70 lego set every few weeks. I’m hooked. Less waste, more fun for the kids.

What’s next?  

  • I’m saving up for a purchase from Reformation. They make “killer clothes that don’t kill the environment.”
  • I’m looking at purchasing all organic underwear.  If it’s going to touch my body every day, it shouldn’t have any toxic chemicals in it.
  • I’m excited to watch this documentary soon: The True Cost about the fashion industry.

I’m realizing that I’m just starting to wrap my head around my consumer cloth choices.  The ideal that we’re aiming for is locally produced and consumed cloth that is positive for the environment.  Check out Fibershed to learn more about what an ideal fabric industry would look like.

And, as always, I’m not an expert; most of us aren’t.  We’re simply looking at our consumer choices with a critical eye, realizing that our purchasing power drives what’s available, and asking lots of questions and learning along the way.  If you have a suggestion or comment, please email lauren@kisstheground.com