By Shari Blackwell
Owner, The Undershirt Inc.
Earth Day is upon us once again. I remember first celebrating it when I was in middle school, when it was a “new concept.” Today it has grown in magnitude and scope, from Earth-friendly events and celebrations, to full-blown lines of organic and eco-friendly products. Once hard to find, eco-friendly goods are now everywhere.
Organic apparel costs a premium in today’s marketplace. “Why so?” you may ask. Cultivating organic cotton requires more hand labor: weeding and cultivating, instead of using insecticides and pesticides; utilizing “good” insects, like lady bugs and preying mantises to eat the cotton pests; using manure and natural compost instead of chemical fertilizer. Cover crops are grown to choke out weeds, and crop-rotation methods are also used to regenerate the land.
When cotton crops are done, they are allowed to die naturally, instead of being killed off with defoliants. Once cotton is picked, it is taken to the cotton gin. The machinery needs to be scrupulously cleaned from other non-organic cottons, which leave behind residue in the machinery. Federal law requires this.
By producing crops in this way, the environment is cleaner, as there is no pesticide drift from chemical spraying, to be ingested by people or animals in the area. In a pesticide-laden field, insects are exposed to the pesticides; birds eat the infected insects, or make nests in the pesticide-laden grass. These “edge species” are then hunted by man, and ingested by humans in the food chain. Cottonseed is used in food preparation as well, and the insecticides and pesticides are not removed in the ginning process, which allows them to remain in the cottonseed ingested by humans.
That being said, many are seeking out organic products to eat and to wear. Organic T-shirts are extremely popular. Grown in pesticide-free environments, they are soft and usually available in softer-hue palettes, reflecting the sky/earth colors and nature’s shades of green. Bamboo is one of the newer sustainable fabrics, creating a silky-to-the-touch feel against the body.
With the eco-conscious public looking for alternatives to plastic/paper grocery bags in the marketplace, the popularity of reuseable market bags has exploded. Not only reuseable, which is eco-friendly in itself, these bags now come in organic cotton and canvas and are also available made from recycled plastic water bottles. Surprisingly, even jackets are being made out of those same water bottles!
When making your next apparel or promotional item purchase, stop and consider eco-friendly or organic products– they say you care. Sustainable = Responsible.