Are you having a hard time navigating through the numerous “eco” and “green” claims made by many clothing companies? Our definitive style glossary will help you find your way to fashionable but responsible clothes by pointing out the most important tags, sewn-in labels and eco-certifications to look for. From Fairtrade to recycled polyester and 100 percent organic cotton, this guide will help you find the real deal on your next eco-fashion shopping adventure.
Cotton and Natural Textiles
The Better Cotton Initiative label means that the farmers growing that cotton are minimizing harmful impacts of crop protection practices, using water efficiently, maintaining healthy soil, promoting decent working conditions and preserving natural habitats. Better Cotton Initiative farmers also commit to continuous improvement of cotton production practices through ongoing education.
Cotton Made in Africa labels indicate that the cotton is sustainably grown by African farmers in collaboration with the Aid by Trade Foundation. This initiative is meant to provide African cotton farmers with the knowledge and practices for sustainable cotton farming and improve their quality of life as farmers, and is supported by retailers demanding sustainably produced cotton.
Cradle-to-Cradle certified indicates a product that is either completely recyclable or biodegradable, and manufactured in ways that are not harmful to people or the environment in any way. The certification program applies to materials, production processes and finished products, and is a chance for companies to demonstrate eco-intelligent design. Textiles from Pendleton Woolen Mills, Greenweave Fabrics and Sunbury Textile Mills have received this prestigious certification.
The Fairtrade symbol indicates that the product has met specific social, environmental and economic criteria that support the sustainable development of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in third world countries. The Fairtrade organization gives consumers the opportunity to help reduce poverty and instigate positive change by purchasing Fairtrade cotton and other natural-fiber garments.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) indicates that the product remains organic through every stage of production from beginning to the labeling of the final product. This includes all aspects of manufacturing from use of biodegradable and toxin-free dyes, low-impact waste treatment and water supply systems in factories, fair labor practices and thus final products that are free of allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues. This officially and internationally recognized standard is currently one of the most trusted organic textile certifications.
OE-100 indicates that a product is made from 100 percent organic fiber that has been tracked and verified throughout the entire production chain. The certification is awarded by the Textile Exchange and has been awarded to labels like prAna, PUMA and the North Face.
USDA Certified Organic is often recognized for food labeling, but accounts for all agricultural crops. These include cotton, wool and other natural fibers requiring sourcing from plants that have not been grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or ionizing radiation and animals that have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones and receive organic feed. All products that are labeled as USDA Certified Organic have to meet the standards whether or not the raw material was grown in the U.S.
The Global Recycle Standard indicates that the product contains recycled content of some sort. This is often in the form of recycled polyester or rPET, which is often found in sportswear and cotton/rPET fabric blends. Members of the GRS include Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss, Volcom and many more large name brands.
Recycled pre-consumer fabrics consist of fabrics from the factory floor or from any part of the production process prior to reaching retail stores. The fibers in these fabrics are broken down and re-spun into soft, virgin quality fibers that are often blended with cotton or other natural materials.
Recycled post-consumer fabrics consist of fabrics that are recycled after a consumer no longer wants them or has a use for them. These textiles are often recycled into lower-grade fabric for industrial products and other uses. Several clothing-recycling programs have been set up by companies like H&M and PUMA.