As I mentioned on Instagram, I had the pleasure of interviewing Greta Eagan, author of a new book called Wear No Evil, at Amour Vert’s beautiful new boutique in SF’s Hayes Valley on Saturday. She was lovely, and knowledgeable on a topic I’ve always been interested in but often been lazy about: ecologically-responsible fashion. I sat down with her book when I got home and was shocked into caring again by these four facts:
1. Most clothing dyes are so poisonous that the scraps leftover are considered toxic waste.
2. Nylon, rayon, polyester, acetate, acrylic and spandex contain large amounts of perflourinated chemicals, aka PFCs, which are cancer-causing when they leach into groundwater or are inhaled or absorbed through skin. According to the EPA, you should wash them at least three times before wearing clothes made from these fabrics—even though no amount of washing can really remove the chemicals.
3. About 14 million people IN THE UNITED STATES across 16 states are drinking water contaminated with carcinogenic waste from pesticide runoff, much of which is used to grow conventional cotton.
4. The average pair of jeans uses 11 gallons of water in the finishing process—with California’s current severe drought, this one is particularly jaw-dropping.
There are plenty more troublesome facts laid out in the book, but it’s not all bad news! Read on for some easy ways to stay fashionable and be kind to the environment. Here are quick fixes for each of the items above:
1. Buy organic cotton. It might cost more, so buy fewer t-shirts. I mean how many t-shirts do you really need.
2. Buy natural fibers. Done.
3. Again, buy organic. Or, go for a more environmentally-friendly fabric like bamboo, silk or hemp.
Eagan offers many easy ways around poisonous fashion. She lays out a straightforward integrity index to help you sort out options that will allow you to sleep soundly at night. Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty flexible and way easier than you think.
Second, she offers a simple baseball-inspired “Diamond Diagram” to help you balance style with various levels of eco-living, from eco-citizen to warrior to guru.
Because Eagan doesn’t stop with the environmental facts and figures, her book is especially suited to fashion addicts like you and me. She has a whole chapter on how to clean out and organize your closet, and references tons of eco-conscious brands, including San Francisco’s Amour Vert and The Podolls, that are incredibly stylish as well as made locally using environmentally-responsible methods.
The most important takeaway from my chat with Eagan was that it’s easy to get started on a path towards stylish environmentalism. The lowest hanging fruit? Natural fibers. Even if it’s not organic, if you’re buying cotton instead of polyester it’s a step in the right direction—one that after meeting Eagan and reading her book I intend to continue in.