Clothing is fraught with plastic. From the synthetic fibers the majority of clothing is made from nowadays to the hidden plastic packaging most of us never see, the world of fashion is a plastic-free gal’s nightmare. But I do what I can. And now some companies are listening.
Organic Cotton Clothing
A couple of years ago, I was thrilled to find prAna brand 100% organic cotton clothing (with zero synthetic fibers) at a local Oakland woman’s clothing shop (See Jane Run). (I’m not a high fashionista. I’d live all day in a cotton hoodie and pajama bottoms if I didn’t have a real job.)
The prAna clothes had zero plastic. The zipper was metal. Even the tags were made of fabric and attached with twine instead of plastic.
Avoiding the plastic wrappers
What I didn’t know was that most of prAna’s clothing (like almost all brands of clothing these days) was delivered to the store and to mail-order customers individually wrapped in plastic baggies. When you buy off the rack, you don’t see the plastic that has been removed by store staff. But after pressure from prAna staff and customers, the company has now begun to phase out the polybags and sell some of their clothes simply rolled up and tied with raffia. Check out this video explaining why and how prAna made the switch:
Of course, after watching a video like that, I had questions. How can we as customers know which prAna clothing comes in polybags and what doesn’t? Can we request no plastic when placing an order? If we do request no plastic, what happens to plastic that is removed before shipping? And what kind of mailer does the company use to ship clothing ordered online? So I posed my questions to Nicole Bassett, prAna’s Director of Sustainability, who told me the following:
- Right now, there is no indication on the web site of which clothing comes in polybags and which doesn’t, but the company is setting up a “polybag task force” next year and Nicole will share that idea with them. I would love to know in advance which clothes come packaged in plastic and which ones don’t. Wouldn’t you?
- Right now, there is no way to indicate when placing an online order that you want your clothing delivered without plastic, so the best way to ensure there is no plastic in your package is to either CALL to place your order and let the customer service person know you don’t want any plastic OR place your order online and then immediately CALL and give customer service your order number and let them know you don’t want plastic.
- If the clothing you ordered is something that still comes pre-packaged in a polybag, and if you have called and requested no plastic in advance, the company will remove the plastic and take it to a local recycler located near prAna’s warehouse. While avoiding the plastic in the first place is better than recycling, I’m glad to know that prAna makes an attempt to recycle what waste they do generate rather than throwing it away.
Personally, I would call and ask which clothes are plastic-free to begin with and only order those clothes.
Demanding organic clothing
Unfortunately, scanning prAna’s web site, I don’t see as many organic offerings as they once had. Much of the active wear is synthetic, albeit more and more made from recycled bottles. Nicole said that they have just not seen the demand for organic cotton, which is more expensive. So that means it is up to us as consumers to ask for it. Conventional cotton is disastrous for the environment. Personally, I’d like to see hemp added to prAna’s offerings. And recently, I’ve started asking at every clothing store I visit for organic clothing. Nicole said that prAna is working on adding back more organic clothing to the line. We need to let them know we want it and will support it if they do bring it back.
Aventura has more organic clothing and will skip the plastic IF YOU ASK
Recently, I discovered another clothing company called Aventura that sells lots of organic cotton clothing, and it’s the kind I like: comfy hoodies, pants, etc. So before placing my order, I emailed the company and asked about the packaging and how I could make sure my order came plastic-free. The customer service rep was very accomodating and made sure my order was shipped out in a plain paper mailer with only a little tissue paper around the clothes.
I don’t know what Aventura does with the original plastic they may have had to remove. But after seeing prAna’s efforts, I will ask. I will encourage Aventura to follow prAna’s example and do away with unnecessary polybags. And I’ll ask prAna to follow the example of Aventura and add back more organic clothing.
Then, we can all have a little karaoke party in our non-toxic plastic-free hoodies. (This one, in black, is my new favorite thing to wear, by the way.)
The Bottom Line: ASK ASK ASK
Before placing an online order EVER, I avoid the plastic packaging up front by sending a message directly to customer service and requesting no plastic packaging or plastic tape. Even if they can’t comply completely (the tape seems to be the thing that hangs up a lot of companies) the more they hear from us, the more they will get the message. Let’s SPEAK UP!