Eco Conscious Glossary
We love AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). Why? Because scientific research has discovered that AHA, a natural type of acid found in fruits, plants and milk, is effective at reducing the signs of aging by lessening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Added to various skin care creams and serums, it’s also an excellent exfoliator and promotes moisture restoration and retention.
This funny looking animal (picture a llama with an afro) produces a thick, full coat that makes incredibly warm jackets, sweaters, hats and blankets. Alpaca fiber is stronger, lighter and more resilient than wool. It’s also finer than cashmere and equal to the warmth of Gortex.
Did you know that the smell of lavender increases alpha waves in the back of your head to promote relaxation? How about the smell of jasmine increasing your beta waves in the front of the head to foster alertness? Essentially, we’ve just described the purpose of Aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine which uses volatile plant materials (essential oils) to affect a person’s mood or health. Aromatherapy is based on the influence of aroma on the brain and the direct medicinal effect of essential oils. While precise knowledge of the synergy between the body and essential oils are claimed by aromatherapists, the efficiency remains to be proven. But, they smell soooo good!
Bamboo is no slouch. In fact, it is nature's most sustainable resource, grown without pesticides or chemicals, 100% biodegradable and naturally regenerative. Bamboo is actually a tropical grass with an extensive root system that sends out an average of four to six new shoots per year, naturally replenishing itself and growing to heights of 60 feet or more. Some bamboo species grow up to four feet per day and can be harvested every three to four years. There are over 1,000 documented uses of bamboo, from furniture to ply boards that match the properties of conventional wood to a replacement for disposable plates and utensils. Bamboo is also being spun into luxurious fabrics and is leading the charge for eco fashion.
Biodegradable is a term applied to products that have the ability to break down safely and relatively quickly by biological means into raw materials, which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. For example wood and bamboo are biodegradable, while plastics are definitely not.
You might call it extreme organics. Like organic farming, biodynamic farming is free of pesticides, etc. What distinguishes it is that the farm is managed as a self-sustaining living organism. Huh? Think of biodynamic farmers as holistic doctors and the land as the patient. They diagnose what is out of balance in the environment and then prescribe natural remedies, including the right plants, animals and insects to restore balance and turn the land into a self-regulating habitat. It emphasizes manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on either the soil or plants. It uses herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays along with the astronomical calendar to determine planning and harvesting times.
Carbon Footprint is the measurement of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green houses gasses produced. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide.
A way to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by balancing or canceling out the amount of these gases through investments made in environmentally friendly projects. In other words, reduce electricity and stop driving so much, etc. You know the drill!
Conflict-free diamonds are high quality natural diamonds guaranteed not to be obtained through the use of violence, human rights abuses, child labor, or environmental destruction. These beauties are individually tracked through their full chain of custody to ensure that ethical practices are used in mining, cutting, and polishing. For now, most conflict free diamonds are Canadian in origin. How will you know it’s truly conflict free? Check for certification, any well established, reputable jeweler should be able to tell you the diamonds history. Also get validation from an independent auditing system like the Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct, Canadamark, or the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Cork isn’t just for wine bottles anymore. Probably the most popular use of cork now is flooring because it provides natural thermal insulation, thus helping to lower energy consumption, and it also has the natural ability to absorb sound and shock. It is a type of flooring that suits most allergy sufferers and is very durable despite its rubbery feel. Did you know there is actually a Cork Oak tree? Well, there is and it’s a pretty cool tree that is responsible for all those wine corks and cork flooring. Cork is harvested by peeling away the bark from the trunk and branches every 9-12 years and does not necessitate the felling of the tree. And, Cork Oak trees do not die when their bark is removed like most trees.
Cruelty Free/Not Tested on Animals
Consumers should be aware of labels which read “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” as that is not always what they mean. There is actually no government agency that defines these terms, nor are there standards set for their usage or any kind of regulation for that matter. Makes you angry, doesn’t it?! Instead, it is left up to each company to determine what its label means. So when you see these phrases on the packaging of a product you might want to try, don’t buy it at face value. Make sure you’re choosing products from companies you feel are acting the most responsible in their entire approach to safety testing.
Learn to love Eco-Spun! It is a high-quality polyester fiber which is made from 100% certified recycled PET (soda/pop) bottles, that is capable of keeping about three billion plastic PET bottles out of the world’s landfills each year, saving over half a million barrels of oil and eliminating 400,000 tons of harmful emissions which contribute to global warming, acid rain, smog, etc.. In fact, the amount of petroleum saved annually by using post-consumer bottles instead of virgin materials is enough to supply power to a city the size of Atlanta! Eco-Spun can be found is many textile products, including eco friendly clothing, blankets, wall coverings, carpets, auto interiors and various home furnishings. It takes 6-20 bottles to make a sweatshirt, depending upon the weight, size and blend of the garment.
Fair Trade pretty much means exactly what it says. It is all about making sure that products exported internationally from “developing” countries to “developed” countries are produced under fair conditions. That means promoting the payment of fair prices, safe and healthy working conditions and responsible environmental practices.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be one with nature?” Well, Feng Shui (literally “wind water”) is kind of like that. It is based on the ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with the environment. Proponents claim that Feng Shui has an effect on health, wealth and personal relationships.
Okay, get over the Hemp stigma and come out of the 70’s into modern times. Hemp is a great material fororganic clothing. It requires no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides to grow and replenishes the soil with nutrients such as nitrogen. It is also very adept at converting CO2 into oxygen. Hemp also yields about three times more fiber then cotton per acre. The hemp plant has many uses in such things as textiles, beauty and nutritional products. You can even find it in a Mercedes-Benz where it is added to various interior panels. And did you know that the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper? Yet, for some reason, it’s grown everywhere but the US (wonder why…).
LOHAS stands for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” Pretty self-explanatory…
Ingeo, which is pronounced “in-gee-o” is a relatively new fiber on the market that has begun to catch on. It can be found in such things as pillow, duvets and carpeting to dresses, socks and other clothing items. The name literally means “ingredients from the earth.” It is the first commercially viable man-made fiber which comes from corn and it’s the first natural-based synthetic fiber to meet the performance requirements of traditional petroleum-based fibers; it’s like a natural version of polyester. The environmental benefits include a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses and use of fossil fuels. It’s also biodegradable meaning that the complete life cycle of production, consumption, disposal and reuse if neatly closed.
“Marmoleum” is the new “Linoleum.” It is produced from renewable materials, including linseed oil, rosins, wood flour, jute, limestone and ecologically responsible pigments. The harvesting/extracting of the materials consumes relatively little energy. It is easy to clean, has no adverse health issues, helps to prevent household mites from multiplying (a real plus for allergy sufferers) and has anti-static and anti-bacterial properties.
There is no legal definition as to what constitutes a “natural” food. The USDA defines it as “A product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and only minimally processed” (i.e., does not fundamentally alter the raw product). Be sure to check the label because it must explain what the company means by the use of the term natural (such as no added colorings or artificial ingredients).
An alternative farming method for crops, dairy foods and livestock which removes toxins, manufactured chemicals, synthetic additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and provides products which are biodegradable.
Just because a company says it’s organic, doesn’t mean that it’s really organic, unless, of course, it’s organically certified. Then you know it’s good stuff! Requirements vary from country to country and generally involve a set of production, storage, packaging and shipping standards. These include avoidance of synthetic inputs (i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), use of farmland that has been free from chemicals for a number of years, usually three or more, maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products and periodic on-site inspections overseen by a government official.
First, a word about traditional cotton. Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world. Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin) are known cancer-causing chemicals. And, it takes approximately 1/3 of a pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one t-shirt. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown in certified pesticide-free and herbicide-free soil, using organic farming methods, which produce healthier fabrics, preserve the quality of our water and prevent toxins from entering the human food chain in the form of cottonseed and other byproducts.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. Under the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards, organic food is defined by how it cannot be made, rather than by how it can be made. Foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, biotechnology (genetic engineering), irradiation and antibiotics. Put down the Twinkie…
Let’s just say the jury is still out on this group of synthetic chemicals, which are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foods. They help to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds. Much research is being done because Parabens have been shown to have estrogenic activity in animal and tissue cultures. Currently, there is not a conclusive link between the exposure to Parabens and breast cancer so the research into their safety continues.
Renewable materials are substances derived from a living tree, plant, animal or ecosystem which have the ability to regenerate themselves. A renewable material can be produced again and again. For example, when we use wood to make paper, we can plant more trees to replace it. Renewable materials won’t be depleted if managed properly, may have reduced net emissions of CO2 across their life cycle compared to materials from fossil fuels and result in biodegradable waste.
Sasawashi is a fabric made of Japanese paper and the kumazasa herb. Just know that it’s eco-friendly, looks like linen and is starting to be used by clothing designers.
SeaCell is a fabric made out of Lyocell (a 100% wood pulp fiber) and seaweed. Here’s the fun part. Supposedly, the nutrients from the seaweed are absorbed by your body when you wear it, creating a sense of well-being. It is available in two versions “Pure” and “Active,” the latter of which has been enriched with silver. Silver has been known to have antibacterial properties which help to neutralize odors and provide the fabric with a clean feel.
Come on…we all know what silk is…that soft elegant cloth that feels cool in the heat and warm in the cold. It also absorbs moisture without feeling damp. Here are some things you may not know. Silk is a natural sustainable fiber. China still produces the finest silk. It takes a silk worm 3-4 days to spin a cocoon around itself, which is made out of a single continuous thread between 2000 and 3000 feet long (equal to 10 football field lengths). It takes about 110 cocoons to make a tie, about 630 cocoons to make a blouse and about 12,000 cocoons to make a silk-filled comforter.
Soy fiber is made from tofu manufacturing waste. The soy protein is liquefied and then extruded as filaments (long continuous fibers) that are cut and processed. It is incredibly soft and feels similar to cashmere.
Literally, sustainable is kind of like the Energizer bunny. It means that things must keep going and going and going… In our world, it’s more about products being capable of being continually produced with minimal long-term impact on the environment.
Tencel is a natural man-made fiber. Sounds kind of like a non-sequitur, doesn’t it? It’s natural because it’s made from the cellulose in wood pulp which is harvested from tree-farmed trees. The tree farms are established on land unsuitable for food crops or grazing. The fiber is produced via an advanced ‘closed loop’ solvent spinning process with minimal impact on the environment and an economical use of energy and waste.
Wool is a great fiber because no animals are killed in the process…just given a shave. The fiber derived from the fur of animals, such as sheep, goats, llamas and even camels, has protected mankind for over 25,000 years. Wool has an abundance of natural attributes, like inhibiting bacterial growth (body odor) and its built-in UV protection. It is soft, yet strong and durable, and is wrinkle, dirt and fire resistant (it will smolder rather then burn or melt), making it a good textile for carpeting, home furnishings, bedding and, of course, sweaters!