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When 100% Cotton Doesn’t Mean 100% Cotton

Posted By Beth Terry On October 20, 2009 @ 8:00 am In clothing and shoes | 50 Comments

TargetSo I found myself in Target [1] last night shopping for a jacket.  Don’t bother to ask how that happened.  It would require an in-depth analysis of my addled brain, which would probably bore you to sleep.  Suffice it to say, I was in Target (which as far as I’m concerned is on par with Wal-Mart [2]) in the Women’s Wear section, obsessively checking the label on every single top, sweater, and jacket to find something that was not made out of plastic.

Plastic clothing?  That’s right.  Labels like “40% wool, 60%  Acrylic,”  “90% cotton, 10% Spandex,”  “50% cotton, 50% polyester,” or “100% cotton shell with 100% polyester liner” all mean clothing partially made out of plastic.  Plastic that comes from oil.  Synthetic fibers produced by the petrochemical industry.

Okay, I realize that I was in Target and that even the cotton there is probably loaded with pesticides and flame retardants and all comes from Asia.  But still, I really just wanted to find something… anything… that wasn’t plastic.  Specifically something to complement my “perfect hourglass figure,” as Tim Gunn called it this summer [3].

And finally I did!  This cute 100% cotton jacket with a belt (Tim also told me I should wear belts) that will be perfect for me while I’m in L.A. this weekend.  I bought it, and even got a nickel discount from Target for bringing my own bag!

cotton jacket from Target

I was psyched, until riding home on BART, I realized that my 100% cotton jacket is not 100% cotton.


And that’s when it hit me that most of my clothing is full of some kind of plastic or another. Okay, I’m not really so worried about a few plastic buttons, although wooden ones would have been cuter and metal snaps would have worked too.  What I started realizing was that I own all these 100% cotton tops that are covered with plastic beads.  Beads that are just like any other broken down plastic particle that gets loose into the environment and eventually the food chain.  Oh, great.

beaded clothing

The labels says “100% cotton.”  But it’s not, is it?

beaded clothing

The plastic beads are fine as long as they stay attached to my shirt.  But some are missing already and a few more are loose.

beaded clothing

So I went a little nutty and spent a few hours removing plastic beads from 100% cotton tops by hand.  Me and my seam ripper, having a little freak-out anti-plastic party.  Is that extreme or what?

beaded clothing

And what am I going to do with these beads now that I’ve collected them?  I don’t know.  They are so minor in the bigger plastic picture.  I mean, after my antics in the clothing department, I spent some time last night wandering up and down the aisles of Target just mesmerized by all the plastic.  Plastic electronics.  Plastic toys.  Plastic food packaging.  Plastic personal care packaging.  Plastic purses and wallets and watch bands.  It’s overwhelming!  How can our small efforts make any difference at all?

Well, all I know is we just have to keep trying.  I’m recommitted to purchasing only clothing made from 100% natural fibers without any little plastic doo-dads that could fall off.   And I’m going to be less careless with loose buttons from now on and fix them before they get lost.

Have you thought about the plastic in the clothes you buy?  Does it make a difference if your clothes contain synthetic fibers?  Back when I was running regularly, I was convinced by magazines like Runners World that one simply couldn’t perform well without the special new technical fibers, aka plastic clothing.  But you know what?  Athletes were doing their thing long before Nike Dry Fit and all its 100% polyester cousins.  That’s a topic for more research and a future post, after I quit obsessing about minutia and get my butt out to start running again.

Article printed from My Plastic-free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com

URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/10/when-100-cotton-doesnt-mean-100-cotton/

URLs in this post:

[1] Target: http://www.target.com

[2] Wal-Mart: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/10/hey-wal-mart-i-see-glaring-omissions-in-your-new-sustainability-index/

[3] Tim Gunn called it this summer: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/07/break-from-blogher09-frenzy-my-lunch/

[4] Image: https://plus.google.com/+BethTerry

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