By Gillian Flower
Tip! Baby Foods: A 1995 report found 16 pesticides in approximately half the non-organic baby food samples.
Many of us have made the shift towards an ecologically-aware lifestyle. Perhaps you have chosen to eat organic foods, to buy more locally made products, or to switch to public transport. While you may be living sustainably in many parts of your life, is this choice reflected in the clothing you wear every day?
Why Change your Clothes?
The clothing industry is rife with issues that deserve our attention. Child labour and poor working conditions are often part of clothing manufacturing in distant factories.
Our environment is threatened by the heavy metals in most dyes and by pollution from synthetic fabric production. Even “natural” alternatives like cotton aren’t as pure as they seem. So what choices are out there for the fashion-savvy shopper with a conscience?
Despite perceptions of cotton as a “natural” alternative, the production of this fibre is chemically intensive. Twenty-five percent of the world’s insecticides are used on cotton crops alone. To put this staggering number into perspective, the cotton T-shirt that you may be wearing right now required a third of a pound of chemicals for its production.While you may not be aware of the pesticide residue in your wardrobe, our air, water, and soil all feel the effects. We know that cancer rates increase with the use of some pesticides, and choosing to wear organic clothing has an impact on everyone’s health.Happily, thanks to rising consumer awareness, organic cotton clothing is increasingly available.
Major manufacturers are making the switch to organic threads, leading the charge for real changes in the clothing industry. Active wear companies like Mountain Equipment Co-Op (mec.ca) and Patagonia (patagonia.com) have developed impressive product lines made from organic cotton. Anti-sweatshop advocate American Apparel (americanapparel.net) now offers 10 styles for men, women, and children in their Sustainable Edition line.
Tip! Mulching – This is a great way to prevent soil erosion, add organic matter to the soil and reduce evaporation. However, you need to leave space around the base of each plant.
Hemp Hemp Hooray!
Although some still confuse hemp with its well-known cousin, marijuana, this ancient plant is enjoying popularity as an eco-alternative to conventional fabrics. Growing hemp is kinder to the planet than growing cotton, as this resilient, adaptable plant requires little water or chemical additives.
Hemp fibre has some unique and interesting characteristics, which makes it a suitable replacement for conventional fabrics. Historically, hemp was used to make rope and sails, items that made use of the plant’s impressive tensile strength. Today, clothing companies like Of The Earth (oftheearth.com) and Hemptown (hemptown.com) promote hemp’s wicking properties and its resistance to bacteria and mould. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts appreciate hemp’s insulating properties. Like wool, this fibre breathes well in hot weather, insulates in cool weather, and retains heat when wet. The wicking properties of hemp make it a great first layer for any outdoor enthusiast.
Tip! Do not always assume organic is more expensive. Look at the prices of conventional and organic products and compare.
The Future of Fibre
As hemp and organic cotton become more available, manufacturers are experimenting with creative blends using these fibres. In their 2004 collection, Of the Earth introduced an ingenious T-shirt fabric that blended soy with organic cotton and Lycra, resulting in a hard-wearing but delicate fabric that is silky-soft against the skin.
Clean Clothes, manufacturers of Maggie’s Organics (organicclothes.com), has been making simple, basic, wearable pieces since 1992. Recently, the company moved organics into the future by launching their first natural performance sock. Blending Coolmax, a patented wicking fabric with organic cotton, Maggie’s sport socks ensure that both your feet and conscience are kept happy.
So take the next step towards an organic lifestyle by simply changing your clothes. You can make a great difference with simple, conscious choices.
Tip! You will have no additives in your vegetables. Research by organic food associations has shown that additives in our food can cause heart diseases, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity.
Gillian Flower is an environmental products specialist with Grassroots Environmental Products in Toronto. As a student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, she plans to bring an awareness of environmental issues to her future practice as a naturopathic doctor. She is a regular contributor to alive magazine. Visit http://www.alive.com for related articles.
size=”1″>Tip! Sustainability. In his book, Gardening Organically, John Fedor defines sustainability as “the ability of a society or an ecosystem to function indefinitely without squandering the resources on which it relies.
Grow your own
The cheapest method has got to be to grow your own. The great thing is that it doesn’t require you to have much garden space, or even a garden at all!
We grow tomatoes, and strawberries in containers and the extra benefit is that you get total control over the growing conditions.
The best combination is to have organic soil together with organically produced seeds or plants, that way you ensure you get the full flavour and benefit.
Containers can be placed anywhere that receives a reasonable amount of daylight, which means that you can use them on balconies or other hard surfaces.
Tip! Strawberries: 500 pounds of pesticide an acre is sprayed on non-organic strawberries.
Look for your local suppliers
One of the most satisfying things to do is to buy organic food locally. That way you get the freshest ingredients for your kitchen and also get to support local businesses. With no transportation costs for the supplier too you should get very competitive prices.
Don’t forget that these same businesses will be employing local staff so you are also helping the local economy, everybody wins in this scenario.
We visit a big monthly market held on a disused airstrip. Organic food is just one of the variety of items sold there but the prices are very, very good indeed. Of course they are all local suppliers and with several of them in one place we benefit from healthy competition and get to sample a lot of fruit!
Tip! Failing to plan – Planning is crucial to a successful organic veggie garden. You need to consider the aspect of your plot/s.
Local box schemes
If you are unable to get out of your house or are too busy working to select your groceries by hand then why not subscribe to an organic box scheme?
You will receive, delivered to your door, a weekly selection of fruit and vegetables in season.
Finally, investigate whether any farms near you are operating an organic farm shop. Our local one is operated on an open farm so that you can go and see where the animals are being kept and take a look at the crops being grown.
Tip! Bananas: Non-organic bananas from Central and South America are produced using benomyl (linked to birth defects) and chloropyrifos (neurotoxin).
They actually have a well-designed walking route around the farm which makes a nice day out for the kids too.
If you investigate the options above you should be able to make considerable savings whilst you and your family sample the delights and advantages of organic food.
Virginia Louise is a keen convert to the organic way of life, having two children has especially highlighted the benefits to be gained by them from eating organically.
Virginia runs an information site on the advantages of organic food where you can obtain lots of free information about what makes organic food so beneficial, where to get it and suggested recipes.