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Nov 11th 2007

The Eco-Connection between Fashion, Trees and CO2
By Jeannette Bon Durant

What is the “CO2 Tipping Point?”
The atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) level is at 383 ppm today and rising at about 2 ppm per year. When it exceeds 450 ppm, identified as a major “tipping point,” implications from extensive temperature research are that there will be disastrous effects, including increasingly rapid sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones.

Tipping points can occur during climate change when the climate reaches a state such that strong amplifying feedbacks are activated by only moderate additional warming. NASA research finds Earth’s climate close to critical tipping points, with potentially dangerous consequences for the planet. (credit/reference: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2007/danger_point.html

Eco-Connection: Trees, Fashion and CO2

You can improve the health of the planet, lower levels of CO2 gas, help climate change, reduce your exposure to allergens, irritants and carcinogens, and create new trends in fashion simply by making thoughtful and smart purchases – one at a time.

Live trees and forested areas are integral to a balanced, natural eco-system. They are essential to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

Trees filter many pollutants from the air, in addition to reducing storm water run-off and increasing underground water storage. Their leaves remove CO2 through photosynthesis, and the CO2 is stored throughout the live tree. Approximately one-half of a tree’s weight is carbon. By planting many regionally-appropriate trees around the globe, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gases, which are known to trap heat and effect global climate changes.

In the U.S., it takes approximately four trees to offset a person’s average monthly carbon use. This includes the use of electricity, gas, driving, and air transportation, among others.

That offset equals about 1.5 billion trees per year for everyone in the U.S. It takes time for a very young tree to be effective at reducing greenhouse gases. As forests mature, they become very efficient at carbon storage. They are referred to as “carbon sinks.”  (reference: http://www.albany.edu/natweb/fscarbon.html)

The clothes you choose affect global deforestation (loss of carbon sinks), erosion, and toxicity of soil and air - a result of your financial support and approval of particular fabrics and manufacturing practices.

Will your next purchase be from standard, mainstream labels and designer clothes that are available in various price ranges – very familiar, in-fashion, and fairly eco-deceptive, or will you specifically buy eco-friendly, organic clothing and sustainable fibers?

Natural Fibers, such as cotton, silk, bamboo, and linen can be top choices, but a “natural” label does not mean it is chemical or pesticide free, or that the fabric processing and clothing manufacturing are gentle on the environment. Clothing tags generally do not reveal the entire environmental picture, and ad campaigns sell images, not transparency of corporate practices.

Globally, forests are clear cut or burned to grow textile and agricultural crops. The enormous destruction of trees impacts carbon dioxide (CO2) three ways: (1) release of stored CO2 into the atmosphere; (2) reduction of the means to pull increased CO2 from the atmosphere; and (3) the resulting destruction of watersheds necessary to maintain forests will inhibit or prevent natural reforesting if the land is returned to nature. When there is a substantial loss of trees, formerly forested land usually experiences erosion with some loss of valuable topsoil, and it primarily returns with shrubs and grasses, unless a tree-planting initiative is implemented.

Many fabrics from naturals to synthetics can create additional problems by leaving a trail of toxins from processes that bleach and alter natural textures. They also can use enormous quantities of water and energy (releasing more CO2 gas) for growing and processing, and they can emit chemicals, such as formaldehyde, into the air and onto your skin after certain dyes and wrinkle-resistant finishes are added. Infant clothing often uses the same fabrics and processing as adult clothing. Because there are so many chemicals used in standard textile and clothing production, varying regulations have been established throughout the world in attempts to measure and limit the levels of chemicals they release.

The ABC’s and Simple Math of your Fashion Decisions
Awareness of these practices will help you “be the change” through fashion, whether you choose environment-friendly organic clothing for (a) its positive and protective impact on the environment and your personal health; (b) for its message to corporations that green customers wield power and can change culture; (c) or because you are a savvy trend-setter on the cutting edge of eco-luxury fashion.

Now, multiply the pieces in your own organic wardrobe by our 6 Billion roommates. Their sum = amazing. The positive effect of clothing choices on CO2 levels and global warming is astonishingly clear!

Your choices can make organic, eco-focused ready-to-wear and couture fashion the next “hot thing” and the industry standard. Market pressures will increase availability in all price levels with a wide range of new styles, adaptations of old favorites, and innovative green fabrics. Watch and smile as brands compete for dominance with ever-improving green practices.

Go plant some trees in celebration of your Power.  
Be Cool and Green.

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