Green Fashion 101

Posted on January 9, 2013

by Guest Blogger Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Founder of

You’ve heard about the impact new clothing has on the environment—that you can tell next season’s hot color by looking at the rivers in Mexico and China, where global fashion brands use hazardous chemicals and dyes to make clothes.

We need to change the way we think about buying clothes. Just say no to disposable fashion made from cheap and unsustainable fabrics, and think about creating a long-term relationship with your closet! Avoid hook-ups and one-night-stands—Think about clothing purchases as things that you want to live with for a long, long time. That doesn’t mean wearing things that are out of style. It simply means being more conscious of what we buy—and working with what we’ve got.

When it comes to your closet, consciousness can mean different things to different people:

  • Fair trade is the sustainable business practice of manufacturing goods in economically disadvantaged areas in order to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and provide opportunities for farmers and artisans.
  • Vegan products contain no animal materials, but they aren’t organic unless they say so.
  • USDA Certified Organic and EcoCert products contain at least 95 percent organically grown materials; the latter is certified by an independent European agency, not the USDA.
  • The word organic simply means it comes from formerly living—i.e. plant or animal—material; it certainly doesn’t mean “good for you.” If you want to get technical, “organic” is defined by the Random House Dictionary as “noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.” Think oil. Organic, yes. USDA certified organic, no.
  • Finally, recycled means using something again—as in the case of thrift shopping or swapping, my two favorite ways to upgrade a closet!

But everyone has to shop once in a while, right? Here’s a quick tip to remember, the next time you go shopping:

Add another question to those that we women usually ask ourselves before purchasing, i.e. “Do I like it?” “Can I afford it?” and “Does it look good on me?” (Or, the converse, “Does this make me look fat?”)

The fourth question is, “Is it sustainable?”

If you can say yes to all four, then buy away! If not, give yourself some time to think about whether you really need something—or just want it. Because you wouldn’t want to cheat on your closet, right?

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Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World and was editor-in-chief of Children magazine—before she had kids. Prior to her work in non-profit, Rachel owned her own public relations and marketing firm and built a career promoting sustainability as it relates to women and families: She founded, blogs as Mommy Greenest, and has appeared on the “TODAY” show and “CNN Headline News,” among others. Today, Rachel works as a non-profit and green home consultant, sharing sustainable living and parenting advice @rachellsarnoff, as well as on, Huffington Post Parents and at the Pump Station Santa Monica, where she teaches greener parenting and prenatal yoga classes. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.