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Are chain stores really going green?


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I have been passionate about sewing and fashion design since I was 12. Two years ago, I designed and made a set of outfits from recyclable materials for a charity fashion show. Through this highly meaningful and profound experience, I became sensitized to the importance of protecting and preserving our environment when designing and making fashion items, resulting in my founding an organization to promote eco-friendly design and fashion.

My interest has led me to research areas of fashion that have environmental implications. For example, some popular clothing stores have announced merchandizing policies designed to improve the environment. For those of us who are eco-conscious, it is incumbent upon us to evaluate whether such policies are just a marketing ploy, or represent genuine efforts to protect our environment.

Three chain-stores, H&M, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, have been promoting 'green' items. After I examined their products, I have concluded that H&M and Urban Outfitters are truly helping the environment with their efforts, while Forever 21 seems to be using the 'go green' trend as a way to sell more products, rather than genuinely help the environment.

Of these three stores, H&M has the most extensive eco-fashion plans. It is already well on its way to implementing its plans by increasingly blending organic cotton into their garments, as well as putting fully organic cotton items on the market. The store also belongs to the Organic Exchange Organization, which endorses growth of organic cotton. To reduce the substantial harm from non-organic cotton production, H&M is involved with the Better Cotton Initiative. Mindful of the adverse effects of climate change, the store aims to minimize transportation and energy usage. H&M labels their eco-friendly products with an official symbol, the Flower, to represent a production system that is less harmful than most traditional processes. Because of these actions and policies, H&M is already well on its way to making a difference on the environment.

With its Urban Renewal brand, Urban Outfitter takes a different approach than H&M in promoting eco-friendly fashion. The brand features women's apparel made from strictly environmentally-friendly sources, such as vintage, deadstock, or surplus clothing. Urban Renewal produces fashionable garments, and embraces being eco-friendly through recycling.

Unlike the other two stores above, Forever 21's eco-fashion efforts fall short; a cynic would say their message is downright misleading. It promotes the 'green' image, and yet many of their supposed eco-friendly products do not help the environment. For example, it sells a 'Think Green Tote' that, according to the site, is meant to 'send an environmentally friendly message.' However it is made of 100% non-organic cotton which is one of the most damaging fabrics to the environment, mostly because it requires greater chemical intervention compared to organic cotton. Also, the 'I Love My Planet Tote' is supposed to 'make a positive statement,' but is also made of 100% cotton that is not organic. The only tote that is environmentally-friendly is the 'H81 Organic Cotton Tote' from Forever 21's Heritage brand, made from 100% organic cotton. Now that Forever 21 has portrayed itself as being 'green,' it should start 'walking the walk.'



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krazykathleen said...
May 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm
Hmm. This is interesting!! I like this article because it's a new topic I haven't read about before! (I mean obviously I know about going green but not the facts about specific stores) I have to admit I do like Forever 21, but I'm not a fan of what they're doing now! Great job- you got your point across, it was persuasive, and everything was well written and error-free!
 
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