A young man recently explained his plight: due to marry soon, he was looking for a suit both appropriate for the occasion and eco-friendly so as to reflect his dedication to environmental concerns.
We did some research and found that hemp produces the most eco-friendly fabric widely available because no pesticides are needed to grow it. Unfortunately, hemp is too soft to tailor well, so experienced tailors won't use it for suits.
Cotton, if certified organic, would work, but we haven't been able to find it anywhere yet in a suiting weight. And uncertified cotton is an environmental nightmare because so much pesticide has to be used to grow it. Here in the South everyone knows about the boll weevil.
Wool could be a good choice since no pesticides are involved and shearing the sheep doesn't harm them, but if chemical dyes are used to color the fabric, we are in trouble there.
And, of course, no matter how carefully we monitor the origins and processes used in making the fabric, wearing a garment produced in a sweatshop on the other side of the globe introduces another set of environmental and humanitarian issues.
Finally, we said ,"Uncle". In today's world it's nearly impossible to be absolutely guaranteed that your clothing is 100% eco-friendly. Your best bet is to stay informed, ask questions, and buy from reputable sources.
But if you are intrigued by yesterday's world where local production was the rule, we have another possibility for you. Breanish Tweed (http://www.breanishtweed.co.uk), woven on the Isle of Lewis in the UK's Outer Hebrides, is a beautiful, nearly indestructible fabric made from the wool of Shetland sheep, dyed with natural dyes and woven on handlooms powered by foot rather than electricity.
It's a long trip from there to here if you are measuring the carbon footprint, but if these tweeds pique your imagination as they do ours, let us use one to make you a wonderful garment that you'll never want to throw away. Now that's eco-friendly.