Green Fashion Glossary

The fashion industry is going green – but what does this exactly mean? What is ethical fashion? Which materials and methods are eco-friendly alternatives? Many words and terms are used commonly but are not commonly understood.

MSLK recently created a little “Green Fashion Glossary” featuring helpful terms and definitions, which are significant for the fashion industry. This glossary explains many terms that you might encounter in business discussions, articles or when purchasing eco-friendly clothing.

The glossary features three sections:

1. Green Design Terminology
Basic terms and processes emerging in every area of sustainable design, not just fashion.

2. Green Fashion Terminology
A list of fashion specific terminology, including eco-friendly fibers.

3. Alarming Facts and Alternatives
Facts about the fashion industry’s responsibility, hazardous chemicals and eco-friendly alternatives.

Click “read more” to see the entire “MSLK Green Fashion Glossary”.

1. Green Design Terminology

The repurposing of a material into a product of higher quality. An example would be a purse made out of woven candy wrappers.

The recycling of a material into a material of lesser quality. The obvious example is the recycling of plastics, which turns them into lower grade plastics.

A characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a consistent level indefinitely. A sustainable process meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed.

Fair Trade
An organized social movement and market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. The movement promotes the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in all areas related to the production of goods.

Carbon Footprint
A measure in units of carbon dioxide of the amount of greenhouse gases we emit directly and indirectly through our daily actions.

Carbon Neutral
One who has no carbon footprint through the process of increased efficiency, reduced consumption, and use of Cradle-to-Cradle processes.

Carbon Offsetting
The act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. An example is purchasing carbon credits or planting trees to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel.

Carbon Credits
A way to reduce one’s carbon footprint by funding projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases globally.

2. Green Fashion Terminology

Ethical Fashion
An approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which is both socially and environmentally conscious. Sustainable fashion – using more environmentally-friendly materials and methods in clothing production – is part of this larger trend.

Natural Fibers
A fiber obtained from a plant, animal, or mineral. The natural fibers may be classified by their origin as cellulosic (from plants), protein (from animals), and mineral.

Eco Wool
Sheared from free range roaming sheep that have not been subjected to toxic flea dipping, and have not been treated with chemicals, dyes, or bleaches. Eco wool comes in natural tones of white, grey and black.

Organic Cotton
Cotton that is grown without pesticides from plants, which are not genetically modified.

Organic Clothing
Clothing that is made from materials that are raised or grown without the use of chemicals in the form of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.

Bamboo’s natural growth habits allow it to reproduce in abundance without the use of fertilizers and without the need for pesticides. Bamboo fabric is biodegradable.

Soybean fiber has the advantage of being a renewable natural resource and a by-product of food manufacturing. Soybean fabric (often referred to as vegetable cashmere) is biodegradable.

Hemp crop is naturally resistant to insects and pests and therefore can be grown free of chemical pesticides. Its ability to regenerate the soil makes it one of the most environmentally beneficial crops. Hemp fabric is long lasting and biodegradable.

Please note: New pros and cons for these eco-friendly fabrics are emerging every day.

3. Alarming Facts and Alternatives

The Fashion Industry’s Responsibility
The clothing, shoe and textile industry is one of the largest in the world. It is responsible for enormous CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions and must be considered a significant contributor to climate change. The industry uses more water than any other – apart from agriculture – and discharges massive quantities of toxic chemicals into the environment. It uses huge amounts of energy in the form of oil and electricity – in manufacturing, the production of synthetics, and in shipping and air travel.

Hazardous chemicals
Some of the most hazardous chemicals commonly used in the textile sector are: lead, nickel, chromium IV, phthalates and formaldehyde. Some chemicals come off on the skin even after washing. Some of them are carcinogenic and others can cause skin allergies and irritation in human beings.

Pesticides & Herbicides
Conventional cotton (grown with the aid of pesticides and herbicides) occupies only 3% of the world’s farmland yet demands fully 25% of the world’s chemical pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals not only destroy the earth, they affect the farmers who work with them as well as chemically sensitive people who wear the fiber.

Chromium & Chlorine
Fabric dyeing and bleaching procedures typically use toxic chemicals like chromium in some wool dyes. Chromium, a heavy metal, threatens our drinking supply when it is not properly disposed of duringthe dyeing process. Chlorine bleaching can be harmful as well; it is been linked to dioxin pollution, which causes birth defects. The leather tanning industry generates 800,000 tons of chrome shavings annually, and much of this chromium waste ends up in landfills.

Eco-friendly Dyes
Natural dyes such as indigo, pomegranate rind, myrobalan, lac and manjistha as well as benign chemicals like aluminium and iron are eco-friendly alternatives to the synthetic dyes and hazardous chemicals used in conventional fabric dyeing. Natural dyes are made from plants, earth clays and even insects, which translates to less harm to the ecosystem. Another eco-friendly alternative is the use of vegetable dyes on leather garments.