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How Green Is Your Fashion Sense?

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Fashion week is fleeting, it will be gone before you know it. And though snow blanketed New York for much of the week, the tiniest shoots marking the greening of this high style world are beginning to burst through. As model and environmental correspondent, Summer Rayne Oakes, points out in a recent OnEarth interview, more designers are taking a serious look at what goes on behind the scenes, long before their collection appears on the runway.

This is welcome news for the environment and for health, since textile-making is one of the most resource-intensive, polluting industries in the world. Even organic cotton and Tencel, considered to be more responsibly produced than most, can draw heavily on energy, land, and water resources, according to a side-by-side comparison published on NRDC Simple Steps .

And though we might like to imagine that organic cotton is never treated with anything but natural dyes and benign chemical finishes, there is no rule that says they can't be. Which makes most welcome a new organic standard for textiles, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which will ensure that an environmental ethic continues throughout the supply chain, from the field to fabric treatment and other manufacturing processes.

Conventional companies will be able to use the GOTS standards as well, asking their suppliers to use only GOTS-certified dyes and chemicals on their clothing lines. And as reported here, whether to meet GOTS standards or simply to become more environmentally responsible and save money, some mills are modernizing, putting in place new systems for monitoring and minimizing waste and pollution. They've been aided by Clean by Design, an initiative led by NRDC and the Council of Fashion Designers which encourages major brands and retailers to consider environmental criteria when they make purchasing decisions.

Consumers can help as well by making more conscious clothing choices of their own. This spring, look for the GOTS label to appear on clothing sold by leading retailers. Curious to learn more about the greening of the textile industry and just how green your fashion sense is? Start with this fun quiz from Simple Steps.

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