“These kids come from the whole range,” said John Reganold of Washington State University. “Some have farmed for generations and want to learn organic, maybe shift part of the family operation to organic.”
Making, processing, transporting, using and disposing of our clothing amounts to a major impact on the environment. Cotton production accounts for 25% of US pesticide use as well as enormous amounts of water. Demand for synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon, has steeply increased over the last 15 years. The manufacturing of these synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions into the air and water. The EPA considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators.
Finishing, such as dyeing, often uses heavy metals that contaminate sewers and rivers and bleaching results in the production of the toxin, dioxin. Almost all polycotton and ‘permanent press’ cottons are treated with formaldehyde. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) are gaining worldwide recognition as neurotoxins. These are the family of chemicals that act as flame retardants. They have been linked to neuro-developmental and behavioral deficits, thyroid hormone disruption, and possibly cancer. PBDEs are used more heavily in the U.S. and Canada than anywhere else and studies show increasing levels are prevalent in humans and wildlife. PBDEs are slowly released over the life of the plastics, foams, and fabrics to which they are applied accumulating in water and working their way up the food chain. Flame retardants are often added to children’s clothes, pajamas, and mattresses.
Today, 30% of world apparel exports come from China and increasingly more clothing in the U.S. comes from countries that regularly keep their textile workers in slave-like situations. As well, child labor is still going strong in most of the world and grows with the demand for more cheap clothing. According to UNICEF there are more than 218 million child laborers worldwide (excluding domestic labor). Gap recently came under scrutiny when it was discovered that some of their kids clothes were being made by child laborers in brutal conditions in India. Unfortunately, sweatshop situations still flourish in the U.S. The Northern Mariana Islands exemplifies this situation: many textiles there are made in sweatshops and then sold as “Made in the USA.”
WASTE AND LIFECYCLE COSTS
An estimated 21% of annual clothing purchases never leave the home (until they enter the garbage)! Where they account for about 4% of total landfill space. The majority of energy used in the life cycle of a simple cotton t-shirt comes from washing and drying after it is brought home, thus even after clothes are purchased there is ample opportunity to reduce the environmental impact. Drycleaning reaps a high environmental burden and kids can be particularly sensitive to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that drycleaned clothes emit.
- Get hand-me-downs for your children. Sometimes people feel awkward giving handed-down clothes as gifts, so make it clear on party invitations or in person that this is not only acceptable, but preferable.
- Buy organic, fairly-traded clothing when buying new. (More and more you can find organic kids clothes everywhere, even Target. As well, there are many websites and boutiques that provide organic clothes for children. Under the Nile, Hanna Andersson, Lapsaky, Grembo, are just a few well-known companies. Many other companies, e.g. American Apparel, have organic baby clothes.)
- Make your own baby clothes from organic or all-natural materials.
- Look for clothes and textiles that bare labels such as the Öko-Tex Standard 100. (The European Union has adopted the Öko-Tex Standard 100, a testing and certification program that provides uniform guidance to the textile and clothing industry to help eliminate all substances that might be harmful to humans from the raw materials to the finished products and every stage in between.)
- Remember that you can save energy, water, and pollutants by how you care for your clothes at home. Buy a front-loading washer and line dry.
REAL WORLD OPTIONS
- Shop for alternative materials such as bamboo and hemp (and even corn!) or, popularized by the major retailer Patagonia, recycled PET fleece.
- Avoid buying children’s clothing and pajamas made of flame-resistant fabrics. Choose cotton over polyester, it is less likely to have been treated with flame retardants. (Watch out for those cute polyester pajamas, many of them have PBDEs in the material.)
- Buy an organic mattress for your child. Your baby spends half his life in bed, get one that will limit his chemical exposure. Organic mattresses don’t have to be expensive, visit www.tinybirdsorganics.com for a range of inexpensive options.
- Use cold water to wash your clothes and don’t cook clothes when using the dryer.
- Pass on your children’s clothes when they have outgrown them: gift them, take them to resale stores (e.g. Once Upon a Child), donate them to a charity, or drop them off at a thrift store.
See original post http://www.thegreenmama.com/greener-clothing-choices
- PBDE Flame Retardant Levels Among Californian Pregnant Women Highest In The World (medicalnewstoday.com)
- High levels of potentially toxic flame retardants in California pregnant women (eurekalert.org)
- Study finds high levels of flame-retardant chemicals in California pregnant women (eurekalert.org)
- Dust on office surfaces can be a source of exposure to PBDEs (medicalxpress.com)
- High levels of potentially toxic flame retardants in California pregnant women (medicalxpress.com)
New law would let farmers donate surplus produce to food banks instead of letting it rot in the fields
By Anne Hart
A new law would give farmers a 10 percent tax credit for the cost of fresh produce donated to food banks. Who will be voting for the new bill, A.B. 152 which would allow state farmers to donate their surplus fresh produce to aid food banks and similar organizations rather than let the vegetables and fruits rot in the fields because they can’t afford the price of gas to truck the food to various markets?
The new law or bill already has been approved by the Assembly in Sacramento. A.B. 152′s author is Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes from San Fernando Valley. This week Fuentes will visit the Senate Appropriations Committee. Will the bill pass into law? If so, A.B. 152 will help the local farmers harvest their vegetables and fruits. Without this type of help, the food would rot in the fields.
The goal is to get the local surplus produce trucked to food banks. The law would give financial assistance to the farmers. Otherwise, the local farmers would not be able to afford to move the surplus produce to the food banks and similar places where the food is given away to local people in need.
At least we know that so far the bill has passed through the assembly with no votes against it. All were in favor of the A.B. 152. The next step is to get the bill approved and signed into a law. How it would work is to provide a 10 percent tax credit to farmers for the cost of fresh produce donated to food banks. Then the food banks would give the food free to Sacramento’s hungry population who could not otherwise afford the fruits and vegetables. Think of the alternative. Without the incentive, the food rots in the field anyway.
For further information, check out the website of the California Association of Food Banks. If you live in Sacramento, you’ll soon find out that the entire state of California still does not have an emergency food-assistance program as do 38 other states. See more statistics on this topic in the August 11, 2011 Sacramento News and Review article by Hugh Biggar, “Take it to the (food) bank – News – Local Stories.” So what you do have are little organizations that feed the needy such as the food banks in Sacramento. You also have a few churches that give food donations from their pantry to the hungry, and what’s increasing is the concept of churches growing produce on their land and giving it away free, but that’s just catching on and only if the church owns enough land to grow seasonally. (more…)
Eighty percent of baby products contain toxic or untested chemical flame retardants, according to a new study of products such as car seats, changing pads and portable cribs.
Eighty percent of baby products contain toxic or untested chemical flame retardants, according to a new study of products such as car seats, changing pads and portable cribs
Four brands — BabyLuxe Organic, Baby Bjorn, Orbit Baby and Boppy — say their products meet California’s standards.
One-third of products, which also included nursing pillows, contained a chemical called chlorinated tris, which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because of cancer concerns, though the chemical was never banned, says a study released Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said there is a “moderate level of concern” about links between tris and cancer, developmental problems, reproductive problems and other health concerns. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has found that tris “may pose a significant health risk,” spokesman Scott Wolfson says. (more…)
I had the real pleasure of visiting Patagonia HQ in Ventura, California. It’s a brand that I, and many others, have admired for so long because of the powerful alignment between their core values and how they run their business and make their products. To better understand how they achieve this, I asked Rick Ridgeway, the VP for Environmental initiatives to walk us through their process.
SM: Hi, I’m Simon Mainwaring and I’m here at Patagonia HQ in Ventura, California. I have the great privilege of being here with Rick Ridgeway, who is the VP for Environmental Initiatives. I wanted to talk to him about a program that I find so exciting because it reinvents the relationship between brands and customers. It’s called the Footprint Chronicles. Rick, thanks for your time. Tell us, what is the Footprint Chronicles?
RR: Well firstly, Footprint Chronicles had its origins in our need to figure out how better to communicate our sustainability efforts to our customers. We didn’t just want to make an annual standard CSR report. It just didn’t feel like us. So we were trying to figure out what we could do, when we had this idea to go into our supply chain and make videos that a customer could see when they come into our website and find out what the real origins were of their jacket or T-shirt, going all the way back to the farm where the cotton was grown and ending up at the warehouse where the product finally ends up. They can see slideshows, videos and interviews of the people behind the product. But more importantly, these slides, videos and interviews discuss what is good about the product and what sucks. It’s the good and the bad. It’s total transparency. That’s what the Footprint Chronicles is.
SM: So walk us through the process.
RR: Sure. Take this jacket for example. If you go onto the website and see this jacket you are interested in buying, click on the jacket. From there, you’ll be able to follow the origin of the product all the way from the beginning in California, where our design department and our headquartersdesign the product. You can hear the designers tell you about their choices, like in the fabric. For this jacket, they wanted to have a fabric that was made out of recycled polyester to reduce the footprint of the jacket. They also wanted a fabric that, when completely worn out, can be brought back to us for us to recycle. You can hear this story.
From there, you go around the world to Japan, where you’re going to meet the factory where the polyester is made. You’ll see how it is made from recycled water bottles which, again, reduce the footprint of the product. Once the polyester is made, it is woven into a fabric, which is shipped to a factory here in China, where it is constructed into the garment, which then goes on a ship and crosses the ocean over to here into our warehouse, where it is then dispersed across to the United States and ends up in your closet.
SM: So it’s a well traveled garment even before you get to wear it.
RR: Right, so we’ll tell you how cool it is that this is all made from water bottles. We’ll be able to tell you that when it’s all worn out you can bring it back for us to recycle. We’ll tell you how it sucks to make this thing in China and ship it clear across the ocean. That’s not so cool. What can we do better? So with every story you get to hear both the good and the bad.
SM: Why have you committed to such transparency, and what value have you seen that add to your brand in terms of the response of the customers?
RR: The answer to that question goes back to what our core values are. At Patagonia, it’s to make the best product we can. It all starts with that. That’s our pledge to you. But we’re going to make that jacket with no unnecessary harm to the environment. We choose this wording because it implies that manufacturing is harmful, which we tell you in the Footprint Chronicles. Then, when all that is done, we are going to use our success as a company, which is predicated on your loyalty, to reduce our footprint as much as we can and take our success and give it back to the environment.
We find solutions to what we consider to be the environmental crises. That’s why we’re in business, and because that is our larger goal, we wanted to be as transparent as we could about everything we’re doing that’s both good and bad, because we are in business to make these clothes with no unnecessary harm. By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation. On the Footprint Chronicles, there is a place to let us know what you think, or if you have any better ideas on how to make our products.
SM: So if people want to understand more and explore the Footprint Chronicles, where should they go?
RR: Patagonia.com Right on the homepage you’ll see Footprint Chronicles.
SM: Patagonia has always been a leader in terms of the value they put into a product, but even more so in terms of the values they bring to a brand and the marketplace. Thank you so much for your time Rick. Much respect for what you’re doing here.
Do you find such transparency and accountability from a brand affects your purchasing decision and loyalty? Should a brand be obligated to provide this?
- How Patagonia Made a Boot With a Smaller Footprint (greenbiz.com)
- Patagonia, Adidas, Walmart Team Up On Sustainable Apparel Coalition (fastcompany.com)
- Patagonia reached 6m mobile users with environmental music campaign (mobile-ent.biz)
- Apparel Industry Leaders Launch Sustainable Apparel Coalition (yubanet.com)
- Clothes Makers Join to Set ‘Green Score’ (nytimes.com)