The lowdown on ethical labelling.
Green clothing tags and certification labels can be hard to navigate through when every other company claims to be coming out with this or that collection that gives back to the Earth.
However, certain labels found on our clothing tags and sewn-in labels actually do indicate positive production methods, laudable practices and better fabric choices. So use our textile certification guide to learn about the most ubiquitous and scrutinized eco clothing tag labels to look out for on your next green clothing shopping spree.
1. bluesign standard® indicates all the input streams from raw materials to chemical components and resources used are assessed on their ecological impact. It is essentially a label that helps identify fabric and apparel producers that have analyzed their manufacturing chain and are constantly investing in research and development in an active effort to reduce their ecological footprint. Labels that meet the standards of the sign include Nike, prAna, and Lululemon Athletica.
2. Cotton Made in Africa indicates that the cotton is sustainably grown by African farmers in collaboration with the Aid by Trade Foundation. This initiative is meant to provide African cotton farmers with the knowledge and practices for sustainable cotton farming, and to improve their quality of life as farmers. The initiative works with retailers that are demanding sustainably produced cotton.
3. Cradle-to-Cradle certified indicates a product that is either completely recyclable or biodegradable, and made with the lowest impact manufacturing processes that are not harmful to people or the environment in any way. The certification program applies to materials, sub-assemblies and finished product and is a chance for companies to demonstrate eco-intelligent design. Textiles from Pendleton Woolen Mills, Greenweave Fabrics and Sunbury Textile Mills have received this prominent certification.
4. Fair Trade symbol indicates that the product has met certain social, environmental and economic criteria that support the sustainable development of small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world. The Fair Trade organization essentially gives consumers the opportunity to help reduce poverty and instigate change by purchasing Fair Trade cotton and several certified food items.
5. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) indicates that the product is definitely organic through every stage or production from ginning to the labeling of the final product. This includes all aspects of manufacturing from use of biodegradable and toxin-free dyes, to low impact waste treatment and water supply systems in factories, fair labor practices and final products that are free of allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues. This officially and internationally recognized standard is currently one of the most trusted organic textile certifications.
6. Global Recycle Standard indicates that the product contains recycled content of some sort. This is often in the form of recycled polyester or rPET, which is often found in sportswear and cotton/rPET fabric blends. Members of the GRS include Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss, Volcom and many more large name brands.
7. MADE-BY‘s blue button sign is a label that indicates a fashion company’s environmental responsibility and fair labor practices throughout the entire supply chain. The Made-By organization works with brands that use organic cotton and work with sewing factories with enforced social codes of conduct. Partner brands include G-Star Raw, Jackpot and Komodo.
8. OE-100 indicates that a product is made from 100 percent organic fiber that has been tracked and verified throughout the entire production chain. The certification is awarded by the Textile Exchange and has been awarded to labels like prAna, PUMA and the North Face.
9. Oeko-Tex Standards indicate that the textile product is free of certain groups of harmful substances, ensuring that all certified products are harmless to health. The certification standards fall into three levels: 100, 1000 and 1000 plus as the highest and indicates that everything from fabric, threads, interlinings, hook-and-loop closures, hooks etc. have met the criteria.
10. SCS Certification measures the amount of recycled content that has been diverted from the waste stream in a certain product. The SCS organization also grants certification to companies the meet certain criteria for in-house recycling schemes.
11. USDA Certified Organic is often recognized for food labeling, but accounts for all agricultural crops. These include cotton, wool and other natural fibers that come from animals who have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones and receive organic feed, and plants that have not been grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or ionizing radiation. All products that are labeled as USDA certified organic have to meet the standards whether or not the raw material was grown in the U.S. or somewhere else.
12. Zque certification indicates responsibly manufactured and environmentally safe wool. Wool with this accreditation has been produced in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner, to high animal welfare standards, and is traceable back to its source. Most Zque wool is merino wool raised and produced in New Zealand.