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Pete Springer
Warbler dress by Passenger Pigeon
By
TODAY contributor
updated 3/10/2008 5:45:51 PM ET 2008-03-10T21:45:51

Having trouble keeping up with our increasingly organic, eco-friendly world? Let me be your guide! From all-natural makeup to the best in eco-conscious jeans, I will test and review the products and treatments that are best for you and the planet.

Deep into 2008 it’s pretty clear that it’s not easy being green. Sure, you can recycle your water bottles (or even better, invest in a water filtering system and free yourself from bottled water forever); switch your energy-hogging lightbulbs for the energy-efficient version, and save precious water by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth.

But what if you want to take things further? If you’re anything like me, you’ve found the eco-options to be endless — and overwhelming. You may have heard that you can offset your carbon footprint from air travel through companies like TerraPass; burn less energy with a hybrid car and save the forests with furniture made from sustainable resources.

You can also make a decision to purchase clothing that is manufactured from materials that are earth-friendly (grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and manufactured without toxic glues, dyes or other harmful synthetic materials). From socks to scarves, considering the origin of the fabric that makes your clothes, who (or what) assembled said clothes, and how those clothes ended up on the racks of your local store may be the easiest — and most stylish — method of giving back to the environment.

But seeking out eco-friendly attire may seem embarrassingly inconsequential as your hard-core environmentalist friends install solar panels onto their roofs and fill their vehicles with bio fuel. Yet, happily, it is possible to make a difference through what you wear.

Just ask Aysia Wright. As owner of Greenloop, a popular sustainable clothing retailer in Portland, Ore. — with an even more popular online destination (www.thegreenloop.com) — Wright has been witness to the growing eco-fashion industry since 2004, when she first set up shop. Greenloop is the result of a passion for environmental and social issues and a belief that the T-shirt or jeans that we wear can inspire broader awareness about the long-term effects of clothing manufacturing on the earth or, as the Web site so eloquently states: “We at Greenloop believe that what you wear and where you shop is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for.”

I fantasize about an all-you-can-spend shopping spree at Greenloop not only because Wright has gathered the most innovative and exciting eco-conscious designers (Stewart + Brown, Peligrosa, Edun, Loomstate and Del Forte are just the beginning), but also because she does it with an honesty that is rarely seen in any industry — one that reminds me that any effort to live a more environmentally aware life is a step in positive direction (it can be easy to be green).

Greenloop clearly tells consumers: “We are not perfect and do not claim to be so. Our product mix is a solid step in the right direction toward a more sustainable way of life. Some products are made using a portion of ‘conventional’ materials in addition to more eco-friendly textiles, however on balance, the finished product is ‘greener’ than its conventional counterpart, doing more good than harm.”

Want to know more? Wright kindly answered a few of my questions about the rapidly expanding world of sustainable fashion.

How has eco-fashion evolved?
I’ve been doing this since 2004 and between now and when I first started it’s like night and day in terms of the quantity and quality. When I first opened, it was like pulling teeth to find product. Today people are getting more innovative with textiles. It’s not just organic cotton anymore. There’s soy, sea cell and recycled content — the epitome of what’s most environmentally responsible. And when shopping for women’s apparel you can pretty much buy from casual to cocktail and find something that’s comparable in price and design [to conventional clothing]. Also, the level of support between companies, designers and retailers is helping the marketplace to grow.

What new materials and/or innovative designers should we look for this year?
Linda Loudermilk is using sea cell, a mineral-rich type of sea grass that’s woven into fabric. And we’re going to see a larger variety in the patterns and graphics available. There have been lots of solids, now there will be innovative blends of hemp, silk, soy and Tencel.

Pete Springer
Peligrosa cashmere cowl turtleneck

And Edun is increasing its use of sustainable textiles; Passenger Pigeon has wonderful print dresses; Peligrosa is using natural dyes — dyeing is a process that has a lot of room to grow.

What articles of clothing are you particularly excited by right now?
A few solid pairs of organic denim jeans. They are so constant, and impact-wise they’re a great place to start. Check out Linda Loudermilk, Of The Earth, Good Society and You Jeans (they’re custom-made to fit).

What does the future hold for sustainable fashion?
Solid growth will continue. There will be a lot more sustainable fashion in department stores and conventional retail stores. There is now room for sustainable fashion to move out of the luxury market. But people have to realize that progress is a continuum and that changes in consumer spending habits are also essential. It’s worthwhile for people to stop and think with each purchase.

Fashion serves as a powerful vehicle for change. When someone says, “Great top” it’s easy to say, “Thanks, it’s organic cotton and did you know this?” Eco-fashion is still consumerism, but I feel strongly that changing our ways is also the responsibility of the market.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.

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