ByLisa Beres

Dec 17, 2015

Turn on any evening entertainment TV show and chances are you’ll hear it. We’ve all heard it. The proverbial question posed by media correspondents flocking the (not-so-recycled) red carpet, Who are you wearing? But, isn’t it time we change the conversation with not just celebs – but with all Americans to – What are you wearing?  Is eco fashion the answer? Let’s find out.

Toxic Heavy Metals in Clothing

Many of us go to extreme lengths to protect our health by purchasing soy-, gluten-, GMO-free and/or certified organic foods. However, we may be unaware of the toxic pesticides and heavy metals that we’re exposing ourselves to via our clothing choices. Since our skin is our largest organ, it absorbs 60% of the topical products applied to it. This raises concern since it requires about a pound of chemicals to produce a single pound of finished cotton cloth.

Testing conducted by the Center for Environmental Health revealed lead contamination in purses, belts and shoes sold by Forever 21, Wet Seal and Charlotte Russe; some accessories of which contained more than 10,000 parts per million of lead or higher. Since lead is a neurotoxin, there is no safe level according to most scientists. Lead exposure has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and other health concerns.

According to designer Stella McCartney, who owns a vegetarian fashion company committed to operating a responsible and honest business,

‘The leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals on the job, while the waste generated pollutes natural water sources leading to increased disease for surrounding areas. Studies have found that leather tannery workers are at a far greater risk of cancer, by between 20% – 50%.’

Eco fashion tags

Pesticides in Cotton

The toxic-fashion buck doesn’t stop with lead and leather. Today, 25% of the worlds insecticides are sprayed on cotton and more than 10% of the pesticides are sprayed on cotton. According to the EPA, seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States are deemed “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin). In fact, Cotton is used to produce fifty percent of the total fiber to manufacture clothing today and more than 90% of this cotton is now genetically modified.

Disposable Clothing

Let’s face it; we’re spoiled when it comes to brand spankin’ new, low cost threads. Clothing today has sadly become a disposable commodity for most consumers. I personally have found that it costs more (upfront) money to take an article of clothing to my eco-friendly dry cleaner, than to purchase a new item from a fast fashion retail outlet. But, there is another cost.

“The fashion industry is a $3 trillion a year business and only two percent of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage.” Shannon Whitehead, Founder of Factory45 who takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch.

Low Cost, High Price

While clothing costs decrease, environmental costs increase. According to Livia Firth, creative director of Eco-Age, the world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing and each American generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone! We’ve witnessed a 500% increase in clothing consumption in the past two decades.

The [fashion industry] is based on materialism. The problem is that comes at a really high price. ~The True Cost Documentary

True Cost, trailer below, is a must-see groundbreaking documentary film about the human and environmental costs of fashion.

Eco Fashion, Uncovered

Being consciously aware and informed of the environmental impact these purchases create, I now shop for eco fashion clothing made from quality materials that do not require dry cleaning. Then, when it is time to replace an item or update my wardrobe, I heed my own advice and sell or donate my unwanted items; utilizing the funds collected to purchase something new or gently worn (read: Rags To Riches: 5 Ways To Earn Cash From Your Closet).

Recycled Water Bottles in Clothing

While Jesus may have turned water into wine, there is a company that’s turning water bottles into recycled fibers. Ahh, miracles really are all around us.

REPREVE® is Unifi, Inc.’s flagship brand of recycled fibers, made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles. REPREVE can be found in products ranging from apparel and hosiery to automotive and industrial applications, and is used by some of the world’s leading brands, including Patagonia, Haggar, Quiksilver and Ford. REPREVE’s #TurnItGreen initiative is designed to encourage recycling and raise awareness among consumers that recycled bottles can be turned into cool products they use every day. Eco fashion? You bet.

3 Eco-Friendly Designer Brands

Dousing Kim Kardashian West’s fur jacket in white flour may be verrry tempting, but buying eco fashion is a much wiser action step. A few designers are doing a fantastic job to help mother earth by implementing fair trade practices and keeping the workers sweatshop-free, while still keeping you stylish and sexy.

Gracie Roberts eco fashion handbag
Gracie Roberts eco fashion handbag. Image courtesy of Gracie Roberts New York.

1. Handbags

  • Gracie Roberts New York offers 100% vegan and 100% cruelty-free leather handbags, backpacks, cross body bags and totes including the No Hassel Tassel and On the Fringe designs. I adore this line (I should know – I personally have the Ra Ra tote in black and it’s the vegan bomb). With a price tag of a mere $68.00 for a high fashion, vegan leather purse, it’s a sustainable-steal! The bags are sold online and at Free People.
  • Angela Roi is a premium vegan handbag brand that is animal cruelty-free and sweatshop free. Instead of animal leather, they use high quality PU leather. They value customer satisfaction, not profit margins and believe fashion can be used to both an artistic and charitable effect. For every handbag purchased, they donate by color to support the associated cause.

2. Swimwear

  • Mia Marcelle Swimwear now offers eco-friendly fabrics in their 2016 collection that are not only environmentally friendly, but also are extra durable. The fabrication of all of their navy blue and maroon suits are made from 78% recycled polymide and 22% elastane which is a sustainable techno-fabric made with Econyl®. Econyl is a 100% regenerated polymide fiber from post consumer materials that have been proven to be two times more resistant to chlorine, suntan creams and oils (compared to competitors’ fabrics). All of their suits are proudly made in the U.S. and are carried in retailers such as Diane’s Beachwear, DASH and Lulus.

3. Clothing

  • Bead & Reel…clothes that give back! If you’re seeking more ethical and eco-friendly fashion alternatives that are beautiful, high-quality and stylish, then you’ll love Bead & Reel. It’s a one-stop shop for ethical fashion that is eco fashion in every sense – thoughtful to people, animals and Mother Earth through its eco-friendly, cruelty-free and sweatshop-free outfits. Every product has a beautiful story of where they came from, how they were made and who created them, so customers can feel good about their support. Each percentage of the sales goes to a different charity that empowers women, saves animals or helps fight diseases. Every item sold by Bead & Reel is Fair Trade, Made in America or ISO certified.  Everything sold by Bead & Reel is vegan, so there are no animal products such as leather, silk, feather, wool, bone or non-vegan glues. Additionally, everything is created with eco-friendly materials and processes such as organic, recycled, up-cycled, and energy conscious manufacturing.

Take the Pledge!

You can use your powerful voice to reduce the high cost of fast fashion by taking this pledge to become a responsible consumer and educate yourself.

Next time you shop, consider the clothing, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. You do have a choice. Together, let’s change the world…one thread, one button and one snap… at a time.

Feature image courtesy of 白士 李

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."