Ethical Undergarments

In an effort to avoid participating in the sweat factory culture that provides products for our generic department stores, I’m looking for ‘ethical clothing’. I already buy most of my own clothing from Etsy, which are all handmade or made in very small factories, and so I feel ok about buying them. Also, the fabric is usually made from organic cotton or hemp, and so is very soft and comfortable, and holds its fit very well. My remaining challenges are to find family clothing that won’t cost more than I’m comfortable spending, plus I need to find underwear and socks. Finding ethically made shirts and pants is not all that difficult, but the undergarments are fairly elusive, because of price and availability.

Bamboo has become, in recent years, a star in the paper and fabric markets. I occasionally watch Shark Tank and  during 1 episode there was a team of 2 entrepreneurs who had developed bamboo toilet paper and paper towel products (Silk ‘n Soft). Unfortunately their products haven’t reached my local market but I’m hopeful they soon will. The ‘sharks’ were very excited about the bamboo products and clamoured to be chosen as an investor. I can see why. Bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than is cotton (http://www.bamboocentral.org/whybamboo.html), and bamboo is incredibly versatile. This raw material can be used to create paper products AND cloth fabric. Paper products made from bamboo are undeniably less harmful to the environment than is The fabric creation being environmentally friendly is debatable. Rayon is not good for the environment because the chemicals required to change the bamboo’s structure are subsequently released into the soil and waterways. Tencel, on the other hand, is bamboo fabric that is manufactured in a closed-loop process that prevents any harmful chemicals from escaping into the environment. I haven’t yet figured out what happens to said chemicals, but many eco-fashionistas seem excited about this product. One Canadian company, http://www.miik.ca/, has made great strides in providing fashionable clothing. HOWEVER, I still cannot find reasonably priced socks and underwear for the whole family. Besides that, under what conditions are these clothes manufactured? There’s environmentally responsible, and then there is ethically conscious.

I have found one site (so far) that manufactures bamboo clothing and creates underwear and socks (http://www.ettitude.com/categories/underwear-socks.html). Unfortunately, the prices are ridiculous when buying clothing for a family. And again, I don’t know where the clothing is manufactured. There is also a great company (from an environmental standpoint), http://lurapparel.com/, that uses 100% recycled fabrics to create new fashions for consumers. But where are the clothes cut and sewn?

Where can I hit the trifecta? I need: clothing to be environmentally friendly, ethical, and cheap(ish). Plus I need socks and underwear. I can’t imagine my Maidenform bra was created in a profit-sharing/fair trade environment, but I could be wrong. I’m not going to look it up, I don’t feel like feeling extra-sad and impossibly-guilty today.

The best alternative may be to buy used clothing. This practice would reduce the number of clothing products that need to be produced, since the clothing that already exists would be used by more people. But again, it comes down to a socks and underwear problem. And trust me, it’s a problem.

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