This week the Sundance Channel’s eco friendly series Big Ideas For A Small Planet takes a look at the fashion industry, and what some innovative companies are doing to protect our planet.

Del Forte Denim is a company that uses only organically grown cotton. It transpires that regular cotton has become a crop that relies heavily on the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical additives, your 100% pure cotton shirt is hardly an environmental good guy. It is claimed that cotton is likely the most chemically reliant crop grown, and is responsible for 25% of the worlds pesticide use. It does not have to be that way, however the overwhelming majority of farmers want the enhanced crop yield that additives provide.

Del Forte Denim though has taken the high road, and only uses cotton that is grown naturally.

Founder of the company and chief designer Tierra Del Forte kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Why did Del Forte get into the ‘green’ side of fashion?

Del Forte Denim has always been made from only certified organic cotton. When I founded the company it was very important to me that the company values matched my personal values. Prior to launching Del Forte, I did a lot of research to see how I could improve the way jeans were made from an environmental standpoint. I discovered that the single the most impactful thing I could do was to use organic cotton and I have been committed to organic ever since.

From a manufacturing standpoint are the raw materials significantly more expensive using ‘green’?

Absolutely, organic cotton is a least 20% more expensive than non-organic. However, when you look at the long term benefits, such as nutrient rich soil, health farmers and clear air and water in surrounding communities, organic cotton is a much better value.

The clothing industry is a tough one, much of the clothes we wear are manufactured in the far east where labor costs are minimal. How do you stay competitive in the market?

We are competitive because first and foremost we are a fashion brand- we don’t compete on price, we compete on style, quality and fit. Although our customers appreciate the fact that Del Forte Denim is made from certified organic cotton, they would not by our jeans if they didn’t look and feel great.

Segment two of Fashion looks at Nau Collective, a manufacturer of outdoor wear that focuses on sustainability. And they do this in some very unique ways. They ‘invent’ fabrics from industrial by products, instead of this waste going into landfills, they create garments, and very nice ones at that! In an attempt to minimize transportation pollution their storefronts offer a 10% discount if you allow them to deliver direct from their plant to your home. This saves on inventory and therefore transportation pollution.

The storefronts themselves are creative, and tightly tied to the internet. A customer can see samples of the actual products, and also explore the various size and color combinations online through touch screens.

This weeks final segment explores the world of Dry Cleaning. An industry that relies heavily on the use of a very unfriendly chemical called Perc. Dry Cleaning may be healthy for our clothes but it is anything but healthy for the environment. Denver based Revolution Cleaners are one company that is exploring alternative solutions to the Dry Cleaning dilemma. “There are alternatives to Perc” co-founder Rusty Perry explains, and Revolution is using one such method. CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is a perfectly good replacement, the technique used by Revolution Cleaners ensures that the vast majority of the liquid CO2 used is re-captured cleaned and then reused.

I managed to track down co-owner Noel Bennett and he explained the process and the driving force behind Revolution Cleaners. His interview was way more than the ‘sound bite’ I was planning on using, and have published the interview here.

Fashion premiers on Tuesday May/6 at 8pm on The Sundance Channel.

Simon Barrett

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