Eco friendly clothing : a definition from ecoGear

The word ecofriendly as defined by the Oxford dictionary means being friendly to the environment. Having a net positive effect on it. This means that

you could have an ecofriendly lifestyle perhaps by planting trees in your neighbourhood or choosing to buy organically grown food products but you cannot have an eco friendly product as producing anything, will create an impact on the environment no matter how you made it.

The proper term for any products that have been processed, as opposed to an organically grown apple straight from the tree, should be an ecofriendly option or as the good folk at Terrachoice call it, environmentally preferable. An example would be in a case where you had to buy a new dress or jacket today, you opt for the ecofriendly option as opposed to the regular option.

And what makes an ecofriendly clothing? Is it organic cotton where the only redeeming factor is that it doesn’t use pesticides or agrichemicals in its cultivation? What about the fact that one single organic cotton tee uses up to 2500 litres of water just to grow? Whether organic or not, cotton is one thirsty plant and its cultivation single handedly dried up the world’s fourth largest lake, Lake Aral in Russia as all its tributaries were diverted in order to grow cotton*.

The people that made bamboo clothing jumped all over this point and made claims that bamboo not only requires zero pesticides and agrichemicals but uses less water in its cultivation. Did that make bamboo clothing ecofriendly? And what does anti bacterial features have to do with being ecofriendly? It was a good thing for the FTC to shut down all the eco claims they made**.

On top of that, no one so far has dared to open the can of worms to the public eye that involves the finishing processes in clothing.The cultivation of raw fibres may have been a more ecofriendly process but that’s a small percentage of clothing’s final impact on the environment.Unlike fruits or vegetables that are ecofriendly because they’re organically grown, when the raw clothing fibre is harvested, it goes through multiple processes all done by different factories from the raw fibre processer to the spinner to the dye house and finally the weaver or knitter. All these processes require copious amounts of energy, fresh clean water and loads of chemicals. Stripping the natural oils from the cotton ball for example usually calls for the use of heavy metals to speed up the process and bring consistency. In the case of bamboo textiles, sulphur dioxide is added to the pulp to speed up the melting process where the tough fibres are turned into a sludge before its extruded into a yarn.

The dyeing process is an even worse polluter of air and water. This report from 1999 lists all the emissions from the various dyeing and finishing processes in great detail. Even though there has been a push since for a more ecofriendly process with closed loop production systems, the fact remains that the biggest producers of clothing and textiles today are in places like India, China, Bangladesh etc where no such facilities or technology is available. Marks & Spencer, the venerable British store has led the push to go green in their textiles with solar powered factories and cotton fibre supplies from sustainably irrigated fields but does this make their clothing ecofriendly? Not according to the folks at Terrachoice, whose standards for eco clothing is that it must be from organically grown fibre and NOT dyed. According to their standards then, every clothing or textile item in the market that has been either yarn dyed( stripes,check patterns etc ) or solid dyes is not ecofriendly regardless whether its yarns were organically grown or not!

With all these issues in mind, is there such a thing as ecofriendly clothing? The products that come closest to being anywhere kind to planet earth is recycled fibres. Not so much the recycled plastic bottles or rePET as its commonly known as this product has also gone through the same dyeing and refinishing processes but recycled cotton scraps. The odds and ends from factories that are chopped back into short fibres for spinning into new yarns. The technology is not new and companies like Jimtex in the USA have been around for years. Another maker, 2ndNature yarns has a great list of eco savings for recycled cottons from chemical and energy savings to landfill diversion and land savings.

A word of caution here though, as amazing as recycled cotton sounds, you have to dig deeper into its manufacturing processes as recycled cotton yarns are almost always blended with synthetic fibres to improve the strength of the yarn. The most common one is acrylic which some makers dye unfortunately, in order to achieve color brilliance or consistency. The other synthetic fibre commonly used in recycled cotton blends is recycled PET or plastic bottles and it’s the same case here, some users of this fibre use a dyed rePET yarn for color whereas some will ask for the more ecofriendly option, the undyed version.

Last but not least, is how the up to this point, eco friendly clothing item is finished. We’ve seen products on the market covered with plastisol inks that should have been banned from this earth for all the phthalates, PVC and other noxins in them. Some people just don’t get it.


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Eco clothing for the Outdoors.

What constitutes eco clothing for outdoors.

Most of us head into the outdoors to enjoy the wilderness of it all. The fresher air, the smells of new blooms and sounds that no audio system can reproduce exactly. We call ourselves nature lovers and for the most part, we are a crowd that is aware of the problems facing the natural environment including pollution and development that is increasingly narrowing down the green spaces that once was there.

Extirpated Species as inspiration for the ecoGear women's hoody


Consumers however, are starting to wise up and question eco claims and in many instances, have had major brands changing their green tunes like this case of Porsche and its eco claims. The same backlash is happening to the Outdoors industry and the industry has responded with the creation of a group to set standards for its members. Aptly named the Sustainability Working Group( as in working towards sustainability ) the group covers every possible concern that could come out of any eco claims and provides guidance for its members who are cashing in on the Outdoors person and their love for nature.

The Eco Index is an impressive guide for their members and challenges all Outdoors brands and manufacturers to work towards the standards set here so that their products can truly be called eco friendly.


Looking a few of their key points :

-Select raw materials that require less energy and have a low carbon footprint throughout their lifetime.

-Select materials that minimize the amount of fresh water used and wastewater created through their lifetime.

-Select raw materials that contribute to significant positive changes in manufacturing and processing efficiencies.

The most common fibre used in Outdoor type apparel and gear today is polyester. The virgin stuff that’s made from oil and contributes hugely to pollution of air,land and water. To make it even more toxic, performance finishes are often added,whether to yarn or finished fabrics and anything that can repel rain water or food stains and block out wind, cannot be good for the environment. I’ve wondered about this for the longest time and have not been able to confirm what happens, when all this lamination and chemicals is boiled down and recycled into a new yarn that’s commonly known as rePET. Did the chemicals leave the sludge when it was boiled down? And how was the sludge disposed of? You’ll see guidelines in the Eco Index asking manufacturers to dispose of sludge responsibly. How is that done? If you bury it deep enough, it will disappear? Out of sight out of mind sort of thing?

Anyway, onto the next phase, now that the item has been produced and sold, the new considerations become care of the garment. SWG’s guide specifically advises members to “specify low impact care such as cold water wash, line dry and no dry cleaning!” The energy savings mentioned here are tremendous as the washing machine and hot air dryer are two of the biggest energy hogs in your house. More benefits like that amazing sundried smell and feel can be checked out on this laundry site.

Its easy enough if we’re dealing with a recycled polyester hoody or cotton tee shirt but what do you do with a fully lined and padded “eco outdoor” jacket? What’s a nature lover to do?

The true nature lover will reject products like these.Any product that calls for dry cleaning should be avoided at all costs. In our opinion, the nature lover will go back to the days when clothing was made simply and as naturally as you can make it. None of this performance,rain repellent,stain resistant product that leaves such a heavy imprint on the environment.

When the winds blow cold, the nature lover will add on a scarf and another layer of clothing to keep the warmth in. Not add on a synthetic layer of cloth that will wreak havoc on the environment in its manufacture, in its use and in its end fate.

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Green Party goes green with eco Gear

Women's tee shown in this image

Green tee for women

the coolest green tee shirt from ecogear

The Green Party's cool new green t shirt for men

Go go go, go greens!

I’ll be honest with you. This took a huge fat monkey off our backs!

For years we’ve been after green groups and companies to consider using the greenest tee shirt of them all, the ecoGear tee shirt from recycled cotton and recycled poly.

It was heartbreaking and hugely disappointing to have them choose other products because “ yours is a few dollars more than what we’re paying and it will hurt our fundraising bottomline.”

That’s a huge contradiction right there. Groups that call themselves green or groups that make their paychecks by saying they protect the environment CANNOT choose economy when the ecology is at stake! This turns whatever they claim to do into greenwashing because if you don’t watch the environmental footprints of your own group and its related actions and merchandise, how can you say you’re protecting the environment?

Then again, we don’t really blame them. Paychecks are important after all but most importantly is that none of us want to face the monster in all our closets. Ya, the clothing we all wear. Most of us know, especially those in the environmental protection business, about the massive destruction clothing wreaks upon the environment.

You get countries like Uzbekhistan being declared the environmental disaster of the century by the United Nations for its cotton growing. Rivers in India flow orange water from the dyestuffs. China’s Yangtze river flows blue from all the denim factories along its banks. Fish and animal species have all but disappeared from rivers and lakes where clothing factories discharge their chemicals. Bleach to turn the natural fibres white so they can be ready to dye. Dyestuffs. Then more bleach and enzymes to “soften” the clothing up before going to market. Not to mention the heavy metals and formaldehyde that always gets tossed into the dyeing and finishing processes of making tee shirts and jeans.

In recent months, we’ve been countered with “oh, we process our organic clothing in closed loop production systems where all the waste waters are treated before being released.” Sounds good right? Definitely eco but what they don’t tell you is that when you treat waste waters from dyeing clothing, there is a lot of inert dyestuffs, chemicals etc that are caught in filters or if they use a different capture process, more chemicals are added to the waste waters so that the dead dyestuffs etc  are bonded together into a sludge. So they’ll skim the sludge off the surface…what happens to it? No one will tell us.

The point is, to make eco clothing in 2010, with the technology that is available, you don’t have to plant new crops to grow fibres. There is no need to go redye anything and burn up tons of coal and use fresh drinking water for it. There is recycled cotton and our stuff has such a nice handfeel, most people wouldn’t believe it when we tell them its 100% recycled fibres. They look at us like we’re the biggest greenwashers there is.

We could go on but we have another post just beggin to be written.So we’ll close it off with a big thank you to Peter Ormond, Green Party candidate for Hamilton Ontario, for going green with us!

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Hello world!

Welcome to ecoGear. The home for eco clothing.

If you’ve ever had the reason to google “ecogear” you might have found companies that sold bags or fishing tackle (yukk!no clue whats so eco about that ) or even car part and engine oil. Double yukk.

We’re about eco clothing. The most environmentally friendly clothing in the world and we know cos we’ve been in the trade 25 years and know what goes into the tee shirt from the time the cotton seed was sown in the ground or the day the oil came out of the ground.

Clothing ranks # 2 in our opinion right after the oil industry for the massive pollution created and the worst part is that its doesnt stop when its harvested.All the processes of turning cotton into the tee shirt you see involve lots of water and energy, two resources which are becoming scarce. We’ll get into their heavy use of chemicals and dyestuffs in other articles but we wanted to say a quick hello on WordPress today and hope the upcoming articles will be of interest to you all.

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