06/16/2015 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Detoxing the Catwalk

by guest blogger Julia Westbrook, assistant online editor at Rodale News

The clothing you wear has a larger price tag than what you see when it's hanging on the rack--it comes with costs to the environment, too. Unsustainable dyeing and processing practices in the fashion industry have had a major impact on water pollution. So, as part of the Detox Catwalk campaign, Greenpeace spent three years cataloging which major fashion brands deliver on their green promises and which are doing the bare minimum.

The main types of chemicals Greenpeace is calling for clothing companies to stop using are alkylphenol etheoxylates (APEOs), phthalates, and PFCs. Many companies have set "acceptable limits" on APEOs, but because these harmful chemicals accumulate in nature, limits don't fix the problem. Phthalates, used particularly in plastic printed images like those on printed T-shirts, have been linked to all sorts of health problems like asthma and lowered IQ. PFCs are used in stain-resistant clothing and have been tied to thyroid damage.

As a result of its analyses, Greenpeace assigned brands one of three rankings: Detox Leaders, Greenwashers, and Detox Losers:

Detox Leaders
Detox Leaders have made going green a priority, have credible timelines for dropping toxic chemicals, and have implemented real change.

• Adidas
• United Colors of Benetton
• Burberry
• C&A
• Esprit
• G-Star Raw
• H&M
• Inditex (includes Zara)
• Levi Strauss & Co.
• Limited Brands
• Mango
• Marks & Spencer
• Primark
• Puma
• Uniqlo (Fast Retailing)
• Valentino

Check out the Detox Catwalk website for the full list of Detox Leaders, Greenwashers (companies that talk the talk, but so far don't walk the walk), and Detox Losers (brands not taking responsibility for their toxic practices and/or making no commitment to change).

Greenpeace has just been looking at major players to make the largest impact, but there are plenty of smaller companies that have already established that their clothing is sustainable by going organic.

Essentially, the GOTS certification is to clothing what the USDA Organic certification is to food. For instance, it ensures that cotton is grown organically and dyed using sustainable practices.

Adapted from a story originally published on Rodale News.

Julia Westbrook is the assistant editor for Rodale News. Having spent some of her best childhood summers around campsites (and then working as a camp counselor because she loved it so much), she is psyched to contribute to a website that values living a healthy life in harmony with nature. She started her career at Rodale as an editorial assistant for Men's Health and Women's Health's books, broadening her knowledge of all things health ranging from cutting edge telomere science to the simple perfection of a burpee.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit