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Natural Awakenings Boston

Bleep Cheap : Quality Clothes Are Planet-Friendly

Nov 30, 2016 09:37AM

Jacket made from hemp at Hempest, in Boston

The temptation to buy inexpensive clothes whispers, “It’s smart to trend with the latest fad,” or “Disposable wear can be tossed if it gets stained,” or “I can wear this outfit only once for a special event.” The lure to buy future throwaways seems especially prevalent during the holiday season of gifting and gatherings.

Consumers can fall into the cycle of buying from inexpensive chain stores, wearing items a few times and then discarding them during spring cleaning purges. According to The Atlantic magazine, Americans now buy five times as much clothing annually as they did in 1980, yet recycle or donate only 15 percent of it. They simply discard 10 million tons as waste, reports the Huffington Post.

Conscious consumers consider the extended consequences of their purchases. Production and transport of an average shirt, for example, can deliver about nine pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, reports Eve Andrews, culture editor for

She offers five tips: buy less; shop smarter and only for what’s truly needed; look for durability and design that won’t fall apart or look dated in a few months; decrease frequency of laundering to increase the life of the garment; and donate what no longer works.

Also consider the type of fabric the garment is made of and its environmental impact. According to, nylon and polyester, made from petrochemicals, are non-biodegradable so they are inherently unsustainable on two counts. Nylon manufacture creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Making polyester uses large amounts of water for cooling, along with lubricants which can become a source of contamination. Both processes are also very energy-hungry.

Rayon is another artificial fiber, made from wood pulp, often of old growth forest that is cleared. To make rayon, the wood pulp is treated with hazardous chemicals such as caustic soda and sulphuric acid. On the other hand, renewable, fast-growing hemp is a suitable substitute for many unsustainable products like non-organic cotton (which currently uses more than 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticides) and many plastic products. Not only can hemp be used for an astonishing number of products, its net environmental benefit is impressive. It grows in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced allowing it to outcompete most weeds. Hemp can also be pulped using fewer chemicals than wood because of its low lignin content.

Hemp cloth is strong, soft, breathable and mold-resistant, and it blocks UV rays. With hemp becoming legal again, consider supporting farmers growing this planet-saving crop by using hemp products. From fuel to food and plastics to paper, has a large selection of hemp gear and products.

Hempest storefronts are located at 207 Newbury St., # 1, Boston (closing December 31), and at 36 JFK St., Cambridge. For more information, call 617-868-9944 or visit

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