Editors' Blog

Green Living editors dish on the latest trends and happenings in sustainability.

Last week’s “Sustainable Fashion 101” was a special event put together by sustainable clothing advocate organization Fashion Takes Action (FTA). FTA brought in top-notch speakers like Ellen Karp of anerca.ca, Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant Lorraine Smith, as well as reps from Ebay Canada and EcoCert (an Organics certifying body) to discuss issues surrounding eco textiles in Canada.

Ellen Karp described the identity of the new consumer as one who believes there is a direct correlation between the health of the planet and the health of people, an idea commonly triggered by a new awareness (or more likely, fear) about pollutants and harms existing in our local environment. She explained that this uncertainty is destabilizing to society but creates room for new thinking about the things we buy–hence the surge in interest in organics and fair-trade. Karp said that consumers want more than the commodity in their purchasing experience; that products must communicate values like business ethics and superior quality to create a story that people want to participate in. “Recession behaviors are sustainable behaviours” says Karp, and once we dig ourselves out of this nasty economic mess, people won’t retrench those values focused on sustainability, reusing and quality. An interesting notion. It's everyone's fear that it will take an environmental crisis/calamity before society truly favours green. What do you think? Ellen goes into detail about the new consumer here.

Lorraine Smith drew attention to how the processing of raw materials hardly enters into the conversation of sustainability. She’d know, because when she isn’t consulting for businesses to implement life-cycle thinking or developing measurement and evaluation tools for businesses to gauge the environmental merit of their product and practices, she’s spinning. Eco-fabrics seem more misunderstood than perhaps they should be, and it was amazing to hear about all the differences between the plants which yield a spinnable fibre (like flax, cotton, hemp or jute) versus ones we still deem as eco-friendly yet require chemical processing to harvest. Hmm, looks like  "natural" doesn't cover all our bases.  More from Lorraine is found here.

For me, I thought it was a healthy exercise to try and wrap my head around just how complex the supply chain has become and how it has mystified the ways social and environmental concerns are both communicated and handled. I came away thinking that transparency is critical-that we deserve to know all the details before purchasing. Do you see the importance of labels? We welcome your comments and suggestions: what do you do to make sure you know your clothing is made from a truly sustainable source?

-- Amanda Rappak

image credit: istockphoto.com/ginaellen