Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day - Be Green and Groovy

Earth day is TOMORROW!!~~ Celebrate it and show off your love for EARTH by choosing to wear sustainable apparel and accessories! Other than recycled metal jewelry, there are a number of great brands coming out with awesome eco-friendly clothing made from everything from recycled plastic, milk, bamboo and organic cotton, and other recycled material (silk, etc.). The green movement is gaining momentum and we hope you are a part of it!!! Even my friend is coming out with a new eco-friendly clothing line called Jujube soon...

Today, I feature two beautiful dresses that happens to be eco-friendly by using sustainable material and cruelty-free processing:

Sublet Clothing Alison Dress

Sublet Clothing Alison Dress

SALE: $150.00 (REG: $242.00)

Made out of 30% organic cotton, 67% bamboo, 3% spandex.
Sublet Clothing contributes to minimize our carbon footprint by using only sustainable material and ethical labor in the production of their modern chic fashion.

EcoSkin Elm Dress

EcoSkin Elm Dress

SALE: $178.50 (REG: $238.00)

Made from knit bamboo tencel spandex.
All EcoSkin pieces are eco-friendly and made from sustainable materials.

I will let the dresses' aesthetic speak for themselves, and instead talk about the eco-friendly apparel industry in general. First of all, buying dresses does not help the earth. However, choosing companies and clothing that are ecologically aware and employing the best green materials/manufacturing processes available at the moment is much better than buying clothes made in sweatshops or made by cruel means. That is, if you have to wear clothes anyway, why not wear something that was made carefully to reduce the impact on our mother earth instead of something made carelessly simply to maximize profits? For example, if you buy a comb, it's better to buy one made out of bamboo than one made out of wood. Why? Because bamboo trees grow much faster and are replenished every year, while trees take 15 years to grow out.

As it is right now, most of the eco-friendly apparel on the market are more expensive than "normal" clothing. And a lot of consumers have doubts about whether the whole "green" label is merely a marketing tactic in order to charge more for the product. To dissect this claim, let's take a look at why eco-friendly products tend to cost more.

Most of the difference in price comes from various added costs of eco-friendly companies. For example, these companies face a higher fixed cost for planning and R&D (research and development) to either search for suppliers with similar ideals and practices, or to innovate by themselves. Naturally, all eco-friendly companies are in the business to maximize their profits, and they have also made the commitment to their customers to provide a certain quality in their products, and thus, this should weigh as much in the survival of their company (as their profit margin). Yet, raising the bar on quality control also increases costs for "green" companies. Moreover, suppliers (of materials and manufacturing technology) incur higher costs when they provide cutting edge technology to the eco-friendly companies, which translates into a higher price for end-product. To preserve the profit margin with added fixed and variable costs, companies have no choice but to charge a higher price on their apparel.

An important point is that sales volume of eco-friendly apparel have not reach the optimum quantity where average cost of producing an eco-friendly product can be reduced to the lowest price possible. All technology goes through cycles in order to reduce the costs of creating and using that technology. Phones went through many cycles and are now in the smart-phone phase, while computers have evolved into tablets and notebooks from the original bulky PC. Eco-friendly technology too, needs to undergo a series of evolution to become increasingly affordable.

Despite the higher quality and compelling reasons to switch to eco-friendly products, there are a number of reasons why eco-friendly apparel are not more widely used (and available) in our society.

First of all, old habits die hard. People are now used to goods made in China with such a low price tag that one meal at a restaurant can buy you 2 pretty dresses. This is actually quite an irony considering how recent it is (~ 15 years ago according to kwepy-pedia) that goods from China became ubiquitous around the world. But in human psychology, 15 years is more than enough in our capitalistic society to form the habits of buying cheap, without consideration of what goes on behind the scenes. Other habits are also difficult to cultivate in our busy lives, such as remembering to use a reusable shopping bag when shopping for groceries, recycling household things, bringing your mug to Starbucks, and so on. Why? Because we are used to our quick industrialized pace with no time to mull about what really needs to be done.

Secondly, eco-awareness may be gaining momentum, but it's just not there yet. Yes, Al Gore came out with "An Inconvenient Truth", Obama is insistent on making America more energy efficient, but the percentage of people who consistently make "green efforts" a part of their lives are still incredible low (less than 30%, a very generous account). The fact is, eco-friendly stuff still costs too much, and continue to be less available to the public than the alternative (for the reasons stated above), and surely that doesn't help people to conveniently weave these "green efforts" into their lives. Moreover, there is no vehicle in place to bring eco-information to the public easily and regularly (aside from the internet where the user controls the information he/she gets). Therefore, people forget what they can do for the environment and this viscuous cycle perpetrate itself.

Thirdly, as mentioned above, consumers think that the "green" label is just a marketing gimmick. This is probably caused by some unethical companies making "green claims" despite not really commiting themselves to the cause. For example, companies can slap an eco-friendly message on a shopping bag and claim that it's good for the environment when in fact, the bags were made in China with no recylced material and possibly more plastic than the usual plastic bag. They then charge $$ for the bags and sell them to people who may think they are doing their part for the earth, and who eventually feel deceived when someone points out the truth to them. Again, trying to maximize profit isn't a wrong thing. But because of black sheeps in the market, consumer confidence is low and quantity produced is less than optimal, thus driving prices up. To solve this problem, consumers need to care about the environment AND become smart, discerning customers. Learning to read labels and to ask questions is the basic requirement for becoming eco-friendly. And learning to trust the general intentions of the industry despite one or two black sheep is also essential.

Many people will consider making green efforts and buying eco-friendly products if they don't have to go out of their way to do it. However, eco-friendly products are still too expensive and less-than-fully-accessible for most. Everyone wonders, "who has the time and money to do good?"...well, you do... coz it's worth it. Think about it. We all need to be a part of the green movement to counteract the damage we have been doing and continue to be doing to our home, earth. Every industry arises out of need and prospers if consumers can drive the market to its tipping point. Will you run at the forefront of the movement by consuming intelligently or do you need to be regulated by the government every step of the way (thus adding to the nation's deficit)? I would much rather take the responsibility to chose the wiser option right now instead of being apathetic and needing expensive governing later.

While you are at Shopflick, check out their Hall of Style, Episode 4: The Green and The Gorgeous. They feature Ecoskin, Mr. Larkin, Smart Glass, and Linda Loudermilk, and show you how fashion can be truly green.

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