Tags typically indicate where a product is made, how to launder it and what materials are used. Read on for four ways care tags can help you purchase more sustainable products.
Among the most toxic are brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Studies indicate that PBDEs are endocrine disruptors, interrupting the hormone processes in the body. They may also cause liver and thyroid toxicity. Even minimal exposure at critical points in development can cause difficulties in learning, motor skills, memory and hearing, as well as damage to reproductive systems.
Pajamas are frequently treated with flame retardants, but this information is often stated on the label. Look for "flame resistant" on care tags and avoid purchasing such garments. Many tags will state that they are not treated, stating "wear snug fitting, not flame resistant." To reduce exposure, avoid products made of synthetic fibers, which are more commonly treated with flame retardants, and select naturally less-flammable alternatives such as wool.
Whenever possible avoid leather and seek alternatives, such as barkcloth, glazed cotton and cork.
Although most dry cleaners use PERC, there is an alternative. Wet cleaning is considered a safe, effective alternative that uses less energy than traditional dry cleaning. This method uses water as a solvent instead of concerning chemicals. Ask your dry cleaner if they use PERC, or search the Internet for PERC-free dry cleaners in your neighborhood.
Johanna Bjork of EcoSalon says that many clothes with labels stating "dry clean only" are indiscriminately placed by clothing manufacturers. "Some synthetic textiles like rayon and acetate, as well as knits like wool and cashmere, should never be washed, but otherwise it’s almost always safe to run them on the cold, delicate cycle in the washing machine," she says.
Another alternative is to not purchasing clothes that require dry cleaning. If you must dry clean clothes with PERC, allow them to air out for a few days in the garage before bringing them into your home to reduce off-gasing indoors.
In fact, Procter & Gamble even created a detergent, Tide Coldwater Clean, to encourage consumers to switch from warm or hot to cold water and save energy in the process. During Earth Week, it launched the #TurnToCold campaign.
Levi Strauss launched special care tags to shape consumer behavior stating, “Wash less, wash in cold, line dry, and donate when no longer needed.”
Image credit: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski
Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Green Building & Design, Triple Pundit, Urban Farm, and Solar Today. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in net zero home in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.
<a href="http://www.sarahlozanova.com">Sarah Lozanova</a> is a green copywriter and communications professional specializing in renewable energy and clean technology. She is a consultant for Sustainable Solutions Group and a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Home Power, Earth911, and Green Builder. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine.