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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Fall 2009

Material World

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Get wrapped up in eco-friendly fabrics that feel good against your skin and help protect the planet.

You choose clothes that make you look good and feel good. Now, by greening your closet with eco-fashions that won’t harm the environment, you can feel even better about yourself.

And you won’t have to work hard to find them. “The acceptance and incorporation of green fibers by major apparel manufacturers has been nothing short of outstanding,” says Sandra Marquardt, fiber spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association. “Every major brand from Levi Strauss to the Gap is offering at least some organic and sustainable clothing, and they’re committed internally to making it happen, even in difficult economic times.”

Finding sustainable fabrics is a cinch now that they’ve gone mainstream. Marquardt says most major retail outlets sell organic and sustainably made apparel; just check the garment label or ask a salesperson for help. Many online stores specialize in sustainable apparel, and a quick Google search for the type of fabric you’re looking for will pull up dozens of sources. You can also check and for other sources of organic and sustainable clothing.

Here are four sustainable fabrics to look for next time you go on a clothes shopping spree:

Tencel is a registered trademark of lyocell, a natural material made from wood pulp that’s breathable, absorbent, withstands high iron temperatures and has a good drape that flatters the body. Even better, Tencel is made in a closed-loop manufacturing system, which means the fabric is created using renewable energy and resources.

Bamboo is an environmentally friendly plant, but the chemical process most often used to convert it to a soft, silky fabric is toxic, Marquardt says. A small percentage of bamboo fabric is produced mechanically rather than chemically, which is a more sustainable option that makes a fabric called bamboo linen.

Organic cotton is the leading organic fiber, driven by demand from apparel manufacturers. Considering that nonorganic cotton farming uses approximately 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticides, going organic is a smart choice. Check the garment’s label for the word “organic.” But Marquardt says that some companies may actually use a blend of organic and regular cotton even though they don’t use an organic label.

Wool, by nature renewable, is a natural fiber that wicks away moisture and keeps you warm. Organic wool is a small part of overall production, but the Organic Trade Association reports that the segment is growing. Check for “organic” on the label or, if you knit, look for organic wool yarns online and at specialty stores.

Don’t Forget Baby
A new arrival often triggers an interest in organics as parents think carefully about what to feed their infant. Now they’re increasingly considering what to put on Baby as well. According to the Organic Trade Association, 2006 sales of organic infants’ clothing and cloth diapers grew by 40 percent and accounted for sales of $40 million.

Babies ”R” Us began exploring environmentally friendly merchandise in response to customer requests for hypoallergenic products, says company spokesperson Meryl Schrank. “We realized the organics industry would continue to grow, so we began to offer organic products in 2006,” she says. Today the chain’s organic and natural bedding accessories are popular choices with new parents. If you can’t find organic cotton baby clothes, blankets, diapers and accessories locally, go online to search for specialty retailers.
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