I know the frustration of trying to find a gift for somebody who seems to have everything. What finally helped me take the angst out of gift buying was starting to think outside the box. Since then, it seems to be easier to find something that my loved one will like, whatever the occasion. These days, I look in unusual places for gift ideas. Instead of retail shops, I see what is happening at local auction houses. I may look into getting my loved one something they've expressed an interest in recently, like taking guitar lessons. I may even surprise my friend with a visit from a chef who prepares a special meal just for him or her. If you have the gift buying blues, let me help. I'll provide some tips on how to get clues for wonderful presents that will delight and amaze your loved ones.
Eco-friendly fabrics use materials that are harvested from sustainably grown crops or that are recycled. The five following fabrics are used to create a variety of comfortable, fashionable clothing options.
Organic Cotton Fabrics
Cotton is one of the most widely used clothing fibers, but grown in the traditional way the crop uses a considerable amount of pesticides. Since cotton hulls, the green bits left over after harvesting, are sometimes added to cattle feed, this means the meat you eat can be infused with these harmful chemicals. Cotton is also bleached to create that white color that much of the clothing industry prefers.
Organic cotton is grown without the pesticides. Instead, farmers rely on insects and the growing of trap or decoy crops to control weeds and pests. No GMOs, such as genetically modified seeds, are allowed. Genetically modified seeds are treated so they, theoretically, require fewer pesticides, but they are far from natural.
If the organic cotton needs whitening, hydrogen peroxide is used instead of bleach. Natural colored cotton is catching on. The raw fibers come in different shades of beige, yellow, orange and red. If any printing is done, water-based inks are used instead of oil-based inks.
After you process soy beans, you are left with empty fibrous hulls. The hulls are pounded to extract the fibers which are then turned into biodegradable fabric. Since this is a manufacturing byproduct, it has little impact on the environment. Soy fabric also breaks down easily so it won't take up space in landfills. The fabric has a soft, silky texture which gives it the nickname "vegetable cashmere." Used for shirts, tops, skirts and pants, soy fabrics absorb moisture and are naturally resistant to bacteria and UV damage.
Hemp plants grow with little water and are resistant to most diseases and insects. The plant has broad leaves that when mature, provides shade cover that deters weeds and plant competitors from growing around it. The seeds are often made into oils, but it is the fibers that you might be more familiar with. Hemp ropes have been made for centuries and used on land and sea. But when the fibers are broken down they become more pliable. Hemp fabric is not as soft as the soy and feels more like linen. It is used for clothing, canvas sacks and even in footwear. Hemp also "breathes," making it suitable for hot climates.
Bamboo fabrics originated in China. The plants are actually fast-growing grasses that need no pesticides or chemicals. The harvest is just like cutting your lawn, only on a grander scale. Once a year the bamboo is cut down to ground level. Just like your lawn, it regenerates, ready for "mowing" the following year. The bamboo fibers are made by pulling the cellulose out of the pulped, or mashed, bamboo and then spinning it. The fibers are then used to create bamboo rayon, a silky, breathable fabric used in various types of clothing. Bamboo rayon is hypoallergenic, antibacterial and naturally wicks moisture from the skin.
PET Plastic Fabrics
Clothing can also be made from recycled plastics, specifically polyethylene terephthalate, or PET for short. This is what most plastic beverage bottles are made of. The bottles are shredded and the flakes melted into tiny pellets. The pellets are then spun into a yarn-like fiber, which is a type of polyester. This type of fabric is used for both indoor and outdoor clothing as well as for upholstering furniture. Polyester is often combined with natural, plant based fibers to create polyester blends. The resulting fabrics are wrinkle resistant, hold dyes well, are durable and, depending on the weave, water resistant. From an environmentalist point of view, the biggest benefit is keeping all those plastic, non-biodegradable bottles out of the landfill.
If you would like to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable environment, then look for clothing stores in your area that sell clothes made from recycled materials or environmentally -friendly harvested crops.