The Natural Touch

Choosing organic and eco clothing is better for kids and the planet.

The Natural Touch

Photo: Gerri Photography

 

The concept of buying organic or eco-conscious products doesn’t apply to food alone. Many families are now choosing to buy organic and eco-conscious clothing as well.

Most of the fabrics we clothe our families in are laden with chemicals. Regular, non-organic cotton, for instance, uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides. That affects not only the people who wear regular cotton, but also the workers who harvest it, and the environment it grows in.

Likewise, wearing nylon, acrylic and polyester-based fabrics and clothing exposes your family to dangerous chemicals and petroleum-based toxins through skin exposure and off-gassing. Plus, the manufacturing process creates toxic by-products, such as dioxins and formaldehyde, that are contaminating our groundwater and air.
But there’s good news for families and the environment. Green clothing and fabrics are becoming more mainstream and more affordable.

What’s available

Natural and eco-fibres – organic cotton, hemp, wool, flax and linen – are renewable and have the potential to be sustainable depending on how they are grown and/or managed.

Organic cotton is now readily available in clothing, fabrics and yarns. Buying organic cotton means you are supporting a farming method that doesn’t use toxic pesticides, insecticides, and sewage-based fertilizers. As a bonus, organic cotton can be grown in varying colours (browns, greens, tans, whites), minimizing the need for potentially toxic dyes. It is a highly breathable, comfortable and durable fabric too.

Hemp is an incredibly durable, safe, and sustainable product. (Note: Industrial hemp does not provide the same mind-altering effects that its cousin, marijuana, does). Hemp grows extremely fast (like a weed), provides amazing UV protection, is resistant to mould and stains, is microbial and wicks moisture.

Wool is a natural fibre produced from shearing sheep, alpacas and llamas. It provides great warmth, is absorbent and readily available. There are, however, concerns about how the animals are raised and how the wool is sheared. Your best bet is to find animal-friendly suppliers locally or online.

Flax and linen are basically the same thing. Produced from the inner bark of the flax plant, linen has a wonderful natural colour and can also absorb non-toxic dyes. Look for natural linen products that have not been bleached with chlorine or dyed with unnatural colouring agents.

More affordable

More and more vendors are carrying organic cotton and non-toxic clothing and fabrics. Cotton Ginny carries some stylish and affordable organic cotton clothing for women and babies. I recently found organic cotton at the Bay, MEC, and Winners. Even Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club have gotten onboard by providing an organic cotton baby line (under the name ‘Baby George’), teenage fashions, bed sheets, towels, and yoga wear.
Here are some virtual resources for organic and natural fibre products:

Do homework

Much like choosing organic and healthy food products for you and your family, families must make good choices when it comes to clothing and fabrics. Some manufacturers use labels such as natural, non-synthetic, or even organic when it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Visit some of the resources recommended above and learn about their products and their business practices. It’s important not just to choose a safe product but to support those companies and people who are selling products they stand behind because they know they are safe and produced responsibly.

Author: Colleen O’Malley Weber

Colleen O’Malley Weber and her husband Jeff live in Harwood with their daughter. To sign up for her Natural Living newsletter, email her colleen@soulvision.ca or visit www.soulvision.ca

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