“It’s a huge shift in consciousness,” says Rachel Sarnoff, founder of EcoStiletto, an online magazine for the environmentally concerned. “Even the fact that we have so many alternatives – two years ago, none of it was here. Now it’s in Nordstrom.”
Organic clothes hit the mainstream
One illustration of growth in ecofriendly clothes can be found in the fact that Wal-Mart purchased 10 million pounds of organic cotton last year. This has caused some concerns from environmentalists who say it may result in a diluting of what it means to be organic. But Todd Copeland of Patagonia, the Ventura, Calif., company that’s long been recognized as an industry leader in ecofriendly clothes, would ask the naysayers to hang on a moment.
“We’re pretty happy that Wal-Mart is now the biggest purchaser of organic cotton [in the US], because Patagonia was for years and years, and we’re not that big a company,” says Mr. Copeland.
Old material with a new name
This is not to say that “greenwashing” (making a misleading or unsubstantiated environmental claim about a product) isn’t rampant. In some cases, experts say, the garments should come with a pair of the emerald spectacles they used in Oz. Ms. Slaven points out that some of the “new” fabrics actually have old names: Chemically processed bamboo, for instance, is virtually identical to viscose rayon. And the process used to manufacture it – involving acid, disulfides (“pretty nasty stuff,” she says), and strong caustic – isn’t her idea of environmentally friendly. “It’s pretty outrageous at this point,” says Slaven, who recently testified before the Federal Trade Commission on “Bamboozled by Bamboo.”