Dress for success: Eco-friendly fashion finds

by Beacon Staff • April 4, 2007

Whether you're already out saving the planet or if you're just an environmental amateur, it's easy to dress like a responsible citizen. By making a few modifications to your wardrobe and rethinking your laundry routine, you can help save the environment while still looking fashionable.

If you're willing to try new stores or brands that may be more eco-friendly, check out The Hempest, with convenient locations on Newbury Street near Exeter Street and in Harvard Square. The store features a full line of hemp products, from sweaters to shoes to accessories.

The Hempest aims to change misconceptions concerning hemp by offering informational books in the store about the plant and providing statistics and facts on its Web site.

"Everything they make is organic and sweatshop-free," said Lauren Robbins, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major and the president of Earth Emerson. "The fact that they are organic helps the land last longer and keeps pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers, and other awful chemicals out of the land and water."

Although the clothing may be a bit on the expensive side for most students (the average sweater costs about $100), it will last longer than a cotton t-shirt or fleece pullover. Hemp is the strongest vegetable fiber on Earth, and is soft, durable, and machine washable; it's also very thick and warm for those cold Boston winters. The accessories run cheaper, with wallets starting at $5 and shoulder bags starting at $20. The Hempest even sells all-natural socks, belts, and underwear to complete your eco-friendly wardrobe.

"I like shopping at the Hempest because everything is organic," freshman video and media arts major Eric Baker said. "It's much better for the environment than regular fabrics."

To expand your new environmentally conscious closet even further, check out Patagonia on Newbury Street near Massachusetts Avenue. They also sell hemp products, but are known for the 100 percent organic cotton goods for the eco-savvy outdoor enthusiast. Patagonia's website features information on the materials used in each product. Most wool products are chlorine-free and slow-rinsed for minimal shrinkage, and they also offer organic wool garments. All polyester products are recycled or recyclable, and you can also send the company old clothing to be used in new garments.

Patagonia's products range in price, with signature pullovers starting at $60 and most other garments are priced similarly. They also sell underwear, shoes, and various accessories including hats and gloves.

Freshman broadcast journalism major Anna Sheer proudly wears her Patagonia pullover on campus. "My sister influenced me to start wearing Patagonia because she's very eco-friendly," Sheer said. "Patagonia is one of the few brands that is truly environmentally friendly, and this sweater was made from recycled materials."

Another way to be environmentally conscious when shopping is to frequent secondhand stores. Be sure to check out Second Time Around on Newbury Street, Karma Designer Consignments on Prince Street in the North End, and Urban Renewals on Brighton Avenue in Allston for quality consignment pieces. The selections at most secondhand stores are updated daily, providing new options every time you shop.

"By buying clothes that have already been made, and even recycled, you are helping reduce waste, and it's also super cheap," Robbins said. "You can get awesome buys that would otherwise just be thrown away and filling up landfills."

If you don't want to change your current wardrobe but still want to make a difference, Robbins has plenty of suggestions.

"Wash everything in cold water, and when drying, use the lowest temperature available; it will help reduce energy waste," Robbins said. She also recommends getting a "green" laundry detergent from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Seventh Generation detergent is a great brand with all-natural products that don't harm the environment.

Avoid buying clothing that's dry-clean, only; if it's necessary, send your clothes to an eco-friendly dry cleaner.

"If you really need that piece of clothing, make sure you take it somewhere like Ecoluxe Organic Dry Cleaners," Robbins said. "They'll take care of your clothes and the Earth."

Even the little things count. On a small scale, try purchasing shoes that can be resoled easily so you don't need to constantly buy new pairs, or stop using bleach in your laundry and make sure to wash full loads.

"I would suggest taking one of these ideas and really utilizing it," Robbins said. "Make one real change at a time, and before you know it, you're having a big impact on the environment."