Hot Summer Trends from a Greener Eye: Swimsuits & More

By Erin Dale

There’s no time like summer to flaunt the hottest trends. The weather is gorgeous, and you may be feeling more adventurous than in winter, when you cowered in your cozy knits. There are plenty of snazzy summer items available for every budget, but what if you crave greener wardrobe choices? With a little research, it’s easy to find eco-friendly versions of this summer’s trends—you just have to know where to hunt. I’ve selected what I consider to be this season’s biggest trends – guided by my favorite fashion magazines – and have done some heavy “research” (i.e. major shopping) to find some of the greenest options out there.

Floral prints were everywhere in the spring, and the runway look has carried over and will be even bigger this fall. Let your wardrobe blossom with this floral tube dress by Urban Renewal. It’s made from vintage fabrics and great for a fashion lover on a budget. But be aware: buying this brand may not be your greenest choice because it’s sold in a major store (maybe you could find something similar from a thrift store or an eco-friendly designer). However, everything in the Urban Renewal line is made from recycled fabrics, so not one piece of clothing is alike. Each outfit is handcrafted in Philadelphia from vintage and surplus materials sourced from rag mills. I love to buy made-in-the-USA clothing, and have been buying Urban Renewal pieces for years, long before I knew much about eco-friendly fashion. Keep in mind that Urban Renewal is sold at Urban Outfitters, which you may not feel comfortable supporting; the store also sells plenty of factory-produced imports. So if you prefer to steer clear, you can still find Urban Renewal pieces on eBay. I peeked and found a few cute sundresses for sale, so check it out while you can!

Sunglasses. Since floral prints are a summer classic, they should be paired with an equally iconic accessory. Back in high demand are aviator sunglasses. Complement your boho-chic look with an earth-friendly alternative to the plastic glasses you’ll see on most everyone else. I found this awesome pair of iWood aviators on thegreenloop.com that are made from sustainably-harvested wood. If aviators aren’t your thing, iWood has plenty of other styles to choose from.

Jessica Alba featuring Tolani scarf in fabgrind.com

Scarves. One trend may seem a little strange— summer scarves! Blame it on Hollywood, as numerous celebrities have been spotted wearing light, gauzy scarves. But you don’t have to buy the same designer mufflers; you can find unique, handcrafted scarves that are also fair-trade. I found this beautiful striped scarf from Nepal, but it’s already sold out! But I also found this silk scarf from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade operation. The site carries this awesome fuchsia and orange cotton scarf, whose proceeds benefit impoverished women in India, where the scarf was made.

Blake Lively with the Kooba bag (www.instyle.com)


Bags. And what summer outfit would be complete without the perfect bag? Luckily enough for the eco-conscious shopper, stylish “green” bags are everywhere. My favorite is the Kooba for Barneys 100% organic cotton tote. The gorgeous metallic trim is made from recycled cork! The bag, recently carried by “Gossip Girl” actress Blake Lively, comes in pale olive green or off-white and retails at $245.00. This bag is stunning and environmentally-friendly, but I find the price tag a little steep! Instead, I’ll be carrying the Feed 100 Bag designed by model/humanitarian Lauren Bush. The organic cotton and burlap bag is only $30, and that money is used to feed 100 children in Rwanda. It’s not quite as stylish as the Kooba bag, but the white cotton will go with any summer outfit.

Eco Monokini featured at http://www.niksters.com                           Monokini at Sunandsin.com

Swimsuits. To me, the most challenging summer wardrobe piece to green-over is the swimsuit. Sexy one pieces are bigger than ever this year (yes, one pieces!), but what are your eco options? I don’t know about you, but this is one thing I don’t want to buy vintage! Thankfully there are companies like Nikster. Not only is their stuff eco-friendly, but it’s perfectly on trend with monokinis, another blast from the past you’ll see this summer. I fell for this made-in-the-USA, purple monokini with a ruffle trim. Sunandskin.com has a list of the top five most eco-friendly swimwear designers, and I really like this Anna Cohen suit and cover-up. According to the site, this company strives to be as environmentally and socially responsible as possible.

What do you think? Do you plan on following any of these summer’s trends? What are some of your favorite summer looks, and how would you “green” them over? Let us know!

Top photosource: http://www.sunandsin.com

‘Greener’ Showers Start with the Curtain

Photosource: designspongeonline.com

By Erin Dale

My mother recently replaced her shower curtain. I caught her carting the old one toward the trash. “Wait!” I cried. “Can’t you at least recycle that thing?” Shrugging, she said, “I doubt it, but it’s disgusting and needs to go.” I cringed. It’s going, all right… to its new home, the landfill. “I hope you at least replace it with a fabric one,” I said. “Oh, I already replaced it. I just bought the same thing again.” Livid, I groaned “Mom, I wish you’d talked to me first!”

Is a shower curtain really worth obsessing over? Consider this: most shower curtains are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the nastiest of all consumer plastics. Producing it is energy-intensive, and the manufacturing releases carcinogenic dioxins and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. According to Christie Matheson in “Green Chic,” “About seven billion pounds of PVC are discarded annually in the United States and most recycling facilities won’t accept it, because recycling it is highly labor-intensive and potentially hazardous.” My town’s facility won’t take PVC; I checked.

So now my family has a brand new, perfectly smelly PVC shower curtain that will also get nasty and need to be tossed, and get even worse when it winds up in a landfill, leaching its harmful chemicals back into the ground… just like the last shower curtain, and all the others that have been innocently replaced over the years (see typical landfull below).

Florida landfill featuring plastics….photosource: static.flickr.com

The simple solution would have been to find an eco-friendly shower curtain, as there are plenty of options out there. However, this seemed too daunting for my mom. For some quick shopping tips, I found organic hemp shower curtains at rawganique.com.

According to this site, hemp is a durable and naturally antifungal and antibacterial materials for curtains. I’ve owned a few hemp products over the years (not a shower curtain, yet), and my only complaint is that the material tends to get ratty. I wonder how long it would take before I’d need to replace a hemp shower curtain? The good news is that, when I do need a new one, hemp is biodegradable.

Something less labor-intensive, perhaps, would be a curtain made from organic cotton. Cotton may not be as strong as hemp, but I’m sure it would wash a little easier (and it’s also biodegradable). Pristineplanet.com has a decent selection of organic cotton and hemp shower curtains, starting at $26 (nice) and going up to $139 (yikes!).

Matheson recommends gaiam.com for linen shower curtains. This would have to be my favorite choice; linen is always classy and gorgeous, and the site promises the curtain will last through many washings (for $59, one would hope so!). Linen is also more mildew-resistant than cotton.

For something tough that may never need replacing, try curtains made from pack cloth, a urethane-coated nylon fabric. Nylon, like PVC, has an energy-intensive manufacturing, but it will outlast a PVC curtain. Satara-inc.com boasts, “It may be the last shower curtain you ever own!” Theirs retails for $50, so purchasing one will definitely save money over the years; however, these are less attractive than the more pricey curtains made from organic fabrics.

You’ll notice, in general, that these sustainable curtains are far costlier than PVC choices, but PVC is costlier when it comes to your – and the planet’s – health. And don’t forget the perk of owning a fabric shower curtain— no more plastic-y smell! If you, too, already have a PVC shower curtain, don’t run out and replace it with an organic one. Use what you have (as long as you can stand the fumes!). Then decide on a product that’s worth it.

What do you think? Have you tried an organic or eco-friendly shower curtain?

What was the result? Does your town recylce PVCs? Let us know greencottonblog@gmail.com

Does Organic Cotton Equal Organic Jeans?

Linda Loudermilk denim featured at http://girldir.com

By Brit

Apart from the lycra to make skinny jeans fit supernaturally tight, jeans are made of cotton. Cotton, the most popular natural fiber in the world, is also one of the most pesticide-dependent crops, making a switch to organic cotton not just desirable, but vital.

In response to consumer demand, more and more farmers are converting to organic cotton. The current definition of organic cotton means that which is grown organically, in the same way as a food crop. Once the cotton has been picked, however, there are no standards for organic processing.

Cotton processing workers are exposed to heavy machinery, and cotton dust which irritates the lungs. And then there’s the weaving, then cutting and sewing, and dying of the garments. The rise of organically grown cotton is wonderful, but if the workers who process it and sew and dye the garments are being subjected to the same low standards as regular garment workers traditionally are, then we have not come all that far.

Organic cotton is almost always ginned and milled on the same machines as regular cotton, which would imply those who process it labor under the same conditions. “Ginning” has nothing to do with Tanqueray – it is the process where cotton seeds are removed from the cotton fibers.

And then, once the fabric is made, and the jeans are cut and sewn, they are dyed, and then depending on the style, distressed, faded, resin coated, using chemicals and enzymes. Synthetic dyes are notorious pollutants and their use consumes several gallons of water to dye one pair of jeans. White and pale colored jeans no better – they are bleached.

Despite the popularity of organic t-shirts and baby clothes, organic denim is still nowhere near as prolific as you would expect, especially considering most women’s wardrobes revolve around the perfect pair (or eight) of jeans.

Here’s a look at some high-profile and lesser-known organic denim labels.

Levi’s organic denim at shown at treehugger.com


Levi’s launched the Eco range of organic cotton jeans in 2007, but how ecological are they? Is it possible to make a fairly traded organic pair for $70? Compare, the Levi’s Capital E premium jeans, hand sewn, dyed with natural indigo, and hand processed with minimal chemicals, which retail at $198.

Edun denim featured at http://www.tobi.com

Bono, Ali Hewson and Rogan Gregory brought organic, fairly traded jeans to international attention with Edun. The brand emphasises fair trade and fair working conditions in their factories. Edun’s signature inky blue denim styles are worthy of the amount of times they have graced red carpets.

Rogan Gregory’s other lines, Rogan, and Loomstate, also use organic fabrics, “All Loomstate factory partners are required to adhere to a code of conduct and Terms of Engagement in our company manufacturing agreement. These factories must use the highest environmental and labor standards, controlling factory pollution, and enforcing fair labor as the cornerstone of the effort.” Edun and Loomstate jeans retail for $150-$200, with Rogan jeans running around $250.

Kuyichi denim at http://www.inhabitat.com


Kuyichi are a Dutch company who are trying to make the field-to-store process as ecological and sustainable as possible. Kuyichi jeans are made of fairly traded Peruvian cotton. The cotton farmers are partners in the company, and they get to voice problems, and share in the profits. Not officially available in the US (yet) but can be obtained through retailers like ASOS who ship to the States. The desirable lightweight boyfriend trousers are $150, comparable with other premium denim brands.

Good Society denim featured at http://www.slingandstones.com


Slings and Stones American grown (and Japanese processed – but let’s not pick about air miles) organic cotton skinny jeans can out-skinny the best of them. The slim-cut denims are fair trade, and the neat detailing, particularly the zig-zag yoke, sets these apart. I love the square button and rivets, all handmade and antiqued in India from 24K gold. Anyone else noticed the trend for gold hardware on designer denim? I can’t decide if it’s tasteful or tacky.

Sharkah Chakra denim found at http://www.hippyshopper.com


Sharkah Chakra jeans are gorgeous, made with handpicked cotton, woven on hand looms in India, and signed by the person who made them. They have pretty pocket detailing, a beyond-fabulous fit, and more of that gold hardware. They “lay claim to having created the greenest jeans available in the world of fashion”. A neat touch is the option to order your size with a variety of inseams, but then I would expect a certain amount of customization for the $330 price tag.

ROMP, a British design duo in the process of conquering Los Angeles, claim to be the ‘World’s First Soil Association Certified and Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Couture Fashion House,’ with their body-conscious dresses and denim. Their innovative website offers you a chance to trace where the garment was sewn, the fabric processed, (with vegetable dyes and natural bleaches) and the cotton grown. The $340 white cotton wide-leg jeans are on my dream-big-wish-list for this summer. I would be skipping the paradoxical accompanying fox-tail though. (Note: their glitzy website should not be viewed on anything other than broadband, or your internet browser will suffer the same fate as the fox.)

$300 pairs of jeans, however worthy, are just not in the budget of most people. Here’s a label to watch out for: Good Society, who “present an affordably priced, forward thinking collection that is fully sustainable – both ecologically and socially”. Good Society organic, fair trade jeans run around $100 and their sleek, clean style is what I’ll be choosing for my summer denim purchase. A raw denim indigo skinny pair would be perfect in my wardrobe.

Organic jeans – true, all the way from cotton seed to wardrobe organic jeans – do exist. Independent companies who know that if they take the lead to produce jeans with the least footprint possible, then people who are equally committed to living lightly on the planet will buy them, and other designers and manufacturers will be inspired to follow.

We’ve forgotten how much work it is to make things by hand. Making one pair of jeans involves an incredible amount of work, and the price of a fairly-traded, organic pair reflects what it actually costs to pay people a living wage to plant grow, harvest, sort, gin, mill, weave, cut, sew, dye and process one pair of jeans.

It’s hard to stop thinking about jeans as a garment for the masses, as they have been throughout their history. But perhaps it’s time to respect what actually goes into one pair of jeans, and instead of buying one, or two, or three cheap jeans, choose and love one organic pair.

What is your favorite pair of organic jeans? Tell us about them….greencottonblog@gmail.com

Eco-Factory in Sri Lanka: The Cutting Edge of Green Manufacturing

Source: CS Monitor, courtesy of MAS eco-factory Depicts a rendering of the lingerie factory in Sri Lanka (now complete) runs on renewable energy and employs 45,000 workers.

CS Monitor announced last week the completion if the first ever eco-sustainable apparel factory in Sri Lanka. Built with evaporative cooling technology, solar panels and hydro power, the factory is the first of its kind in Asia (and perhaps even worldwide), setting a new standard in apparel manufacturing.

One problem with organic and sustainable garments today is that the fabrics may be green, but so often the manufacturing is anything but (not to mention a majority are still made in sweatshop conditions). The MAS factory solves this problem by greenifying HOW the clothes are made and dramatically reducing the carbon footprint of that part of the process.

With energy-efficient task lighting, low-emission permitting glass (which cuts down on heat transfer), and traditional applications such as courtyard design and tree plantings, the factory is an oasis of low carbon production amidst an industry of profuse waste (e.g. see Cambodian garment factory dumping its refuse in its backyard for passersby to scourge for materials).

Costing 25% more than the average garment factory, the MAS plant will cut and sew lingerie for a number of labels. So far according to the authors, there isn’t a mass retail company out there yet that has developed a full sustainability standard that accounts for the garment across every step of production.

We have the organic certification, but so often that is for the fabric itself and may exclude steps in the production process that occur after the certification. Furthermore, carbon footprint is not a factor separately considered in that certification process. For example, a garment may be made with organically grown cotton, but if coal-fired boilers and poor treatment of waste- water or toxic dyes are used later on, then the garment ultimately has a huge carbon footprint and potentially damaging effects on the environment.

As Linda Greer, a Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist who specializes in toxic chemical pollution in textiles production notes,

‘true sustainability requires independent certification, extensive consumer-education campaigns, and a desire and ability to review entire supply chains.’

I could not agree this statement more. With certification we move toward a more informed consumer base as well as regulated supplier market, and move away from haphazard ‘green and socially responsible’ labeling with little meaning.

We all know that green-ification of goods costs more and without the strict certification and labeling in place and high levels of consumer awareness, it is very difficult to justify those additional costs. So the question is, how is it that a company like MAS is able to afford and/or justify such a substantial up-front investment?

According to the author, ‘economies of scale is one answer’ but in addition, MAS will arguably save money in the long (and even short run) in energy costs. Furthermore, by being the first to commit at this level, they will gain credibility and loyalty among consumers who are increasingly Green and socially conscious.

Just as Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farms, reflects in his new book ‘Stirring it Up,’ nearly all of the green decisions he and his company made in its 25 year history proved economical and beneficial for the business in the long run. I might add, in an era of rising fuel costs, how can sustainable, energy efficient architecture and systems not be beneficial? By leveraging energy efficient solutions such as solar, hydro and other technologies, MAS will be ahead of the pack in less than a few years if energy prices continue on their current track.

See CS Monitor for more information.

The Cheapest Dress is the World ($8.98): Part II


Photo source: Keetsa.com

For the first part of this post see Part I. This post is in response to last week’s NY Times Style section article on the world’s cheapest dress.

So lets take a closer look at the first 10 miles of apparel production. For a garment to be sold at a price as low as $8.98 – guess what the fabric had to cost per yard before dying – a heck of a lot cheaper than that! Probably less than a dollar per yard. Furthermore, we must also think about how many pesticides were spilled into waterways and the food chain as a result of the cotton grown. In addition, how many children were employed to pick that cotton or spray the pesticides? How many laborers were paid insufficient wages and make the fabric and what kinds of dyes were used? For more information on the real costs of cotton, see White Gold: the true costs of cotton production.

I was at a trade show recently in Las Vegas recently and stopped by the sourcing section to talk to some vendors and visit with sustainable designers. As it turns out, organic fabrics cost anywhere from $11 to $50 per yard. Some online retailers and wholesalers are available at Harmony Art and Near Sea Naturals so you can see for yourself. This is a big difference between conventional! No wonder few retailers are talking about moving in this direction in a big way.

Yet at the same time, organic cotton follows a bare minimum of environmental and social standards to ensure resource management and human rights compliance. Furthermore, as certified organic fabrics, they meet a whole set of criteria at every step in the production process – that ensures they are good for the environment and good for you. For more on differences, see Organic v.s Conventional.

These fabrics cost more because guess what? It costs more to make a good product. Don’t be fooled by cheap prices. There is definitely something to be said for economies of scale and just-in-time inventory, but there is a limit to how low one can go with out sacrificing the environment or humanity along the way.

In general, higher priced organic cotton reflects the TRUE cost of producing materials in alignment with environmental conservation and sustainability. Furthermore, the natural resources used and conserved in the process arguably last longer – so the good news is we can be ‘buying dresses’ for a lot longer! Plus, we will have less contaminated waterways and ecosystems and our great grandchildren may actually live to see some still thriving elements of our natural world.

Be a smart consumer. Ask questions and be aware of supply chain steps and demand that your clothing fair, environmentally smart, good for you & the world. You know something is wrong when 2 lattes cost more than the dress you are wearing (thanks to Steve Allen’s comment).

Remember: we vote with our wallets. The checkout line is the biggest voting machine in America, and in the world actually. So, next time you are at the check out line, ask yourself, could this really be this cheap? If your honest answer to yourself is no, then don’t buy it! I know its tempting to buy cheap goods, but if you don’t need it and can’t afford the ‘smarter’ one, simply don’t get it.

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The Cheapest Dress is the World ($8.98): Part I

Photosource: Tony Cenicola for The New York Times

Maybe you read the article this week in the NY Times Style section on Steve & Barry’s incredibly low prices such as the $8.98 Sarah Jessica Parker dress?

Well even if not, the story raises some very interesting and important issues. I must admit, that after reading the article, I was left feeling a bit depressed and confused.

What is missing from this model? How can a dress of this caliber (e.g., designed by Sarah Jessica Parker, who obviously gets a cut from each garment) sell for $8.98 and STILL make a profit for Steve & Barry? What is missing from the economic model? Is this a classic case of market externalities in which there are a number of negative costs spilled out into the marketplace and more broadly into our environment that somehow get absorbed elsewhere now or in the future? Where are these additional costs getting absorbed? (and by the way, Steve & Barry’s is not the only company that can get clothing so cheap to make one’s eye’s pop – see also, Forever 21, Wal-Mart, Target).

What bothered me the most however is the fact that the company’s executives declared ‘ absolutely not’ to the notion that their clothes are made under sweatshop conditions. In fact, the management states openly that they ‘monitor [their] subcontractors carefully and demand ethical business practices,’ which I do not doubt. I bet they are telling the truth and that their subcontractors are complying with whatever local laws they need to comply with. So where is the missing link in this puzzle?

Having delved into the issues of organic and fair trade clothing production for quite some time now, I have a few conclusions and questions.

(1) When Steve & Barry and others talk about ethical business compliance, are they speaking to a very specific context: e.g., the country in which they are manufacturing the clothing under their subcontractor’s jurisdiction or international fair labor laws? I would fathom to say the later. For example, when a company declares they are compliant – that is with the local labor laws in whichever developing or other country they are subcontracting to (eg Kenya or China). If a subcontracted factory is either of those two mentioned countries (which we know they often are), we can be assured that human rights compliance, fair labor law enforcement and environmental stewardship is minimal to zilch. So the question: whose laws are we/they complying with? What is certain however is that companies like Steve & Barry’s are not member certified by accredited Fair Trade monitoring bodies such as the Fair Trade Federation and/or the European Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO). If they were, they would publicize that. We do know that these organizations set forth established criteria for fair wages and labor requirements in tune with international humanitarian standards, so if that standard is met –we can be assured some level of transparency. If not, then who knows? It’s a bit of a big black box.

(2) The last mile. Secondly, the other gaping hole appears to be in what I would like to term the ‘last mile’ of retail. This ‘last mile in the supply chain train’ is the point at which a majority of major brands and retailers step into the picture. This is where accountability begins and consumer awareness starts. But what about the first ten miles? What happens there? Do we even know? What sorts of compliance measures have been put in place, what environmental and social accountability exists – who is doing what and how is it done?

It may be fair to say that a majority of major American brands are primarily responsible for the ‘last mile of production and branding’ in the apparel industry, and not necessarily part of (nor want to be) privy to earlier steps in the supply chain. This has advantages for retailers and disadvantages for consumers. When it comes to accountability, who wants to be responsible for production starting with cotton growing, when you can take responsibility for just the last stitch on the cloth? By the way, there is a reason why less than 5% of global cotton production is organic. No one wants to take responsibility for the environment that much. This is one of the key reasons why the garments can get as cheap as they are, e.g., $8.98. Importantly, organic certification itself includes compliance with fair labor practices, so by gaining that certification, one also tackles the other issue simultaneously. But guess what – the demand starts with us – consumers. If we become more aware and we demand it, they will do it. We need to be better informed. Furthermore, as more and more companies take on this socio-enviro responsibility, the fabrics will get less expensive. Its that simple – but we must demand it.

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Stay tuned for Part II….coming soon!

The Dress is Back, Even in Organics

Photosource: Jute & Jackfruit.

Fashion & Style section of The NY Times reported today that the dress is still alive (at least for now). While fashion editors and designers have been predicting that the dress is going extinct for some time now, even going so far as to say it will be fully obsolete by September 2008, others beg to differ. Women in particular seem to be voting otherwise.

Anne Slowey of Elle magazine recently summed up the emerging trend with her conclusion that “the eye is looking for something new.’ While on the set for the upcoming Fashionista show, she added “and so is the psyche.’ Slowey went on to say that come August, 2008, the dress will be completely out, and the ‘trouser’ will make its way front and center for the fashion-conscious woman.

While this may be true, it is interesting to look back through the past few decades and consider when women wore dresses and when not. In particular, for women who raised their children in the 50’s and 60’s in the US, the dress was all they knew; it was the staple outfit. Then in the 70’s, the daughters of those women, resisted that style opting instead for the bell-bottom and pant-centric styles. Following that generation, I believe it is fair to say that the pant and/or trouser remained the norm. As women became more and more empowered in the workforce and in public life, the pant, pant suit and its entourage became commonplace. Sure, there were variations to the suiting angle, many of which were sexy and flattering, but all in all pants dominated withe more ‘feminine’ looks at the fringe.

Speaking from my own experience, as a product of the 70s and 80s, I must confess I never wore a dress until after graduate school unless it was for a wedding, special occasion or major event. I was a pants person through and through as were many of my friends and colleagues.

Now however, as I enter my mid-thirties, I find I am re-discovering the dress. Even when it comes to professional clothing, I am experimenting more with the feminine, sophisticated angles, to showcase (not shy away from) my feminine side. As I look around me as well, I find other women doing the same. Why is this? Well, it is interesting to look back through history because it seems, one reason might be that for many women, who perhaps grew up on pants, the dress is something new. It also happens to be something that is incredibly flattering on a wide range of body types and is one of the simplest outfits to put together and look absolutely stunning. It seems that in this era, more and more women are feeling empowered enough to get back in touch with our feminine side, while at the same time, exerting our independence and strength.

The women interviewed by the NY Times summed up the benefits of the dress nicely by saying:

  • “I feel glamorous in a dress, and it’s easy.”
  • Another woman stated that she finds that dresses are slimming, and they cover all the problem areas and highlight all the curves.”
  • Finally, another woman added, the dress ‘is very easy and very flattering — a no-brainer, really. It’s comfortable, and you can easily go from day to night. And guys like it because it’s so feminine.”

I personally think that the dress will continue to remain popular for seasons to come. The dress is not on its way out, nor going extinct as it provides too many advantages for women: great fit, comfortable, easy to wardrobe, and unfailingly flattering…

Along these lines, up and coming organic and sustainable designers are increasingly experimenting with variations on the dress. They are designing dresses that not only look terrific, and feel great, but also use organic and sustainable fibers and are therefore much better for the environment and for our skin.

One such designer, Kelly Lane, known for her use of color is doing just that. Kelly has a beautiful collection of dresses to light up the spring and summer – all made with organic and sustainable fibers. Likewise, up and coming online boutique Jute & Jackfruit will be offering a selection of her colorful dresses for fall as well another designers.

What is your opinion on the ‘dress’? is it going in or out? I’d love to hear from you. Greencottonblog@gmail.com

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Green Cotton Celebrates Earth Day

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Photosource: http://www.newworldbiomass.com

5 Things you can do on Earth Day to make a difference.

(1) Attend your areas local events – see more at Earth Day Network (and highlights below)
(2) Ride your bike, walk or take public transportation to wherever you go.
(3) Recycle.
(4) Read more about Climate Change and call your local senator/representative.
(5) Take the Sustainability Tour. Learn how about our US environmental footprint. Topics include waste, buildings, climate, water, energy, food, materials, transportation. ways to improve. Source Center for Sustainable Systems.

Inspirational quotes for the day:

“The good news is we know what to do. The good news is, we have everything we need now to respond to the challenge of global warming. We have all the technologies we need; more are being developed. And as they become available and become more affordable when produced in scale, they will make it easier to respond. But we should not wait, we cannot wait, we must not wait.” — Al Gore

“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.” — Theodore Roosevelt

A look back on Earth Day through history:
According to Wikipedia, Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York. Founded by the organizers of the first April 22 Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action worldwide.

Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local, national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year. Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.

What is happening around the world this week?
1. In San Francisco, Green Apple Festival is hosting its second annual event in Golden Gate Park. Should be a wild and fun event with Bill McKibben as a guest speaker, live music and a goal to get 1 million calls to congress for tougher Climate Change legislation.
2. In Barcelona, organizers are hosting the Catalunya Earth Fair to be held in Parc de la Ciutadella. Theme: the Fight Against Genetically Modified Organism which Poison the Planet.

3. In Buenos Aires, there is an event in Plaza Naciones Unidas (United Nations Square), organized by Butterfly Comunicación Ambiental. Theme: not an academic, entertaining but also with purpose to raise awareness. The event will target the 4 main environmental issues in Argentina: Garbage, Energy, Water, Transportation.

4. In Miami, Green Apple Festival comes for the first time with an event for the whole family. Environmental leaders, community activists, A-list talent and top speakers will all CALL FOR CLIMATE, a demand for immediate, effective and equitable action against global warming.

5. Tokyo is holding an event in Yoyogi Park, organized by Earthday Tokyo, a Social Movement promoting a greener economy. Focus topics include Earthday Energy Action, managed 100% by green energy, solar, bio-diesel and hydrogen. Earthday Food Action: Organic, locally produced, non-GMO food will be available from over 40 different restaurants, cafes on site. Earthday Agri Action : Organic Farmers Market.

Thousands of other events are happening with an estimated one billion people participating around the world. Join in the fun and do your share.

Organic Cotton vs. Conventional: What’s the difference?

Photosource: NYTimes.com/2005

There are a number of important differences between conventional and organic cotton. Starting from the tilling of the soil to the selection of seeds, labor paid and water used, organic cotton farming requires significant investment of time and resources to radically overhaul conventional cotton growing methods.

Cotton is a crop that attracts a wide range of insects (eg cutworm, cotton bollworm, tobacco bollworm, army worm, loopers, aphids, whitefly, spider mite among others). This is one of the reasons why it is one of the largest pesticide dependent crops in the world.

The following table outlines some of the major differences at each stage of the growing process. Sources used for this table include: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Organic Exchange, Organic Trade Association (OTA), and Harmony Art Organic Designs. For more information on organic cotton certification, please visit OTA or OneCert.

ORGANIC VS. CONVENTIONAL COTTON COMPARED

Click to enlarge images. The following chart (2 pages) was created for Green Cotton using the sources mentioned above.

For a similar chart by Harmony Art Ogranic Designs, please visit her beautiful website: http://www.harmonyart.com/

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Organic Cotton: Easing the Transition

Photo source: looporganic.com

It is clear that producing organic cotton, especially certified organic cotton, costs more. The transition from conventional growing to organic growing can be a significant burden on the small to medium size farmer.

While it is true that certified organic cotton can receive a price premium, worth the cost of investment, the process of certification can take months to years. Meanwhile, the farmer must invest thousands of dollars in transforming its farming practices to meet the certification requirements.

Organic farming upgrades include:
• Transition to zero pesticide use (FYI cotton happens to be one of the highest-pesticide dependent crops in the world so transitioning the crop to no pesticides and still yielding a productive, viable crop is no small feat). See Green Cotton for more information.
• Better use of water management
• Must be grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment.
• Farming production systems must replenish and maintain soil fertility.
• Farming must reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers; and,
• Organic farming must build biologically diverse agriculture.

While the above list of organic farming requirements are all terrific, they are, as one can imagine, incredibly costly. Unless a farmer can ensure that the new crop will yield the price premium it deserves, transitioning over to these methods could mean the end of their business.

We have all read lately about the 3 and 4 fold surge in organic cotton demand. For example, organic cotton sales, not including other organic fibers, reached $1.1 billion in 2006 and is projected to double to $2+ billion in 2007 (Organic Exchange 2007). More and more retailers are demanding use of organic fabrics, including some of the largest ones (e.g. Wal-Mart, Barney’s and Target). At the same time, the supply can not easily keep up with demand, especially when certified organic farming can take years to establish.

As noted in the above requirements, it can be very risky for a farmer to transition too quickly unless they can be assured that there is a buyer. Furthermore, because the organic transition can take years to complete, the in between years mean higher costs for farmers and potentially low returns if not going out of business.

There are some retailers however who are recognizing this problem, AND in addition to being benevolent, happen to be the largest potential buyers of the organic cotton themselves. As such they are willing to step in and ease the transition for farmers by buying their transition product at the premium price. To be specific, Wal-Mart recently offered to pay transition farmers, those that are converting their farming practices from conventional to organic, the premium price for organic, even though their product is not yet certified. Side question: Is Wal-Mart going to label this product in their stores as organic cotton? This is one issue, since there is A LOT of organic cotton on the market that is not truly certified organic. Suppliers tend to overuse the term for the benefit of marketing, without communicating the whole truth as to whether it is CERTIFIED or not. This is a side note, but something for consumers to be aware of when they shop for organic clothing…

All in all, by Wal-Mart paying the interim premium price, it helps the farmers lower their risk, remain in business, AND be well-positioned to provide the increased supply needed of organic cotton to buyers such as Wal-Mart and Barney’s who want the organic cotton.

Note: Organic Certification requires a 3rd party organization to verify that farmers are using the methods and materials allowed in organic certification. Find out more about organic cotton certification at the Organic Trade Association .

You can also check out OneCert, one of the oldest and most reputable certification organizations on the market: http://www.onecert.net/

You can read more on this particular issue at Reuters.

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