Understanding Terms

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do you know how to buy clothes ethically, sustainably, eco-friendly, green clothes, organic clothes, fair trade etc.? Did these terms confuse you? Do you know what they mean? I don’t expect you to. You might read all these terms on various clothing websites and different news websites.

How can a consumers buy clothes ethically if they don’t know what it means?

Let’s learn today:

  1. Organic Clothing: Organic clothes are made of organic and natural fibers like cotton, silk, hemp, wool etc. and grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals, related to or obtained from living things. Having characteristics of an organism, developing in the manner of a living plant or animal. Organic fibers, e.g. organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. They are non GMO.
  2. Fair Trade: Fair Trade basically means the exchange of goods based on principles of economic and social justice. Fair Trade Federation works on 9 principles:
  • Create Opportunities for Economically & Socially Marginalized Producers: Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation & sustainable development.
  • Develop Transparent & Accountable Relationships: Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent & respectful.
  • Build Capacity: Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence.
  • Promote Fair Trade: Fair Trade encourages an understanding by all participants of their role in world trade.
  • Pay Promptly & Fairly: Fair Trade empowers producers to set prices within the framework of the true costs of labor time, materials, sustainable growth & related factors.
  • Support Safe & Empowering Working Conditions: Fair Trade means a safe & healthy working environment free of forced labor.
  • Ensure the Rights of Children: Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education & play.
  • Cultivate Environmental Stewardship: Fair Trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • Respect Cultural Identity: Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive & equitable change.
  1. Green: In apparel there are two considerations to apply to what we might call “green” clothing. The first is that it is made from natural, organically grown plants (non GMO and without pesticides or herbicides). This makes clothes organic and it must be processed ecologically to make it green. Green just does not mean organic. If organic fiber made clothes is dyed with harmful chemicals, they are not green. In fact, it’s hard to figure out if a garment claiming “green” is actually green or not. Best way is to look for universally accepted symbols like GOTS and Soil Association. These two organizations restrict. Manufacturers to use harmful chemicals on clothes,
  2. Recycled: In clothing and textile industry, recycling means that clothes are made from recycling donated and used clothes. Most of the clothes can be recycled. Below is the how recycled clothes are used:
  • Stuffed toys and pillows become car seat stuffing and automobile insulation.
  • T-shirts, sheets, towels, and clothing become wiping cloths.
  • Denim becomes home insulation.
  • Shoe soles become paving material.
  • Sweaters and coats become carpet padding.
  • Curtains and drapes become stuffing for pillows, sleeping bags, and animal beds.
  • Wool sweaters and materials become baseball and softball filling.
  • Velvet materials become jewelry box lining.
  • Leftover fabric scraps become paper money.
  1. Sustainable Clothing: Means clothing made from the fiber to finished product using least harmful and most natural materials. Also using the least energy possible to produce and distribute the clothing. Starting at the fiber, using natural, easily renewable fibers like bamboo help lessen the amount of land and energy used. Using organic cotton instead of regular cotton prevents chemicals from getting into the surrounding natural and human environments. Using fibers found closest to the end retail location also cuts down on energy consumption. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 notes, “Sustainability is about much more than our relationship with the environment; it’s about our relationship with ourselves, our communities, and our institutions.” Sustainability involves complex and changing environmental dynamics that affect human livelihoods and well-being, with in intersecting ecological, economic, and sociopolitical dimensions, both globally and locally.
  2. Eco Fashion: Clothing and other goods made from recycled materials or otherwise produced by methods that are not harmful to the environment. Eco friendly clothing provides an alternative to chemically treated clothing. ECO FASHION is a broader term used for all clothing, fabrics and accessories that have been manufactured in an environmentally conscious way.

Organic and recycled clothing, as well as garments made using the wide range of eco fabrics now available, all come under the umbrella of eco fashion. Technological developments in the textile sector now mean that environmentally friendly textiles have become a viable alternative to conventional fabrics. Eco fashion fabrics are hemp, organic cotton, organic wool, wild silk.

  1. Ethical fashion/clothing: Ethical Clothing represents an approach to producing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment. Ethical is morally right or morally acceptable.

Ethical clothing consumption not only means no harm but representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimizing and counteracting environmental concerns.

Ethical clothing consumption falls under below criteria:

  • Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  • Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  • Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
  • Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
  • Minimizing water use
  • Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  • Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  • Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
  • Animal rights

We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world. – Jennifer Nini


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