From: Coral Rose
Published April 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Green Trailblazers: Turning the Sustainable Apparel World on Its Ear

According to Consumer Reports, "Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers bought organic foods and beverages in 2005." It's easy to see what's driving that statistic: Interest in a healthier approach to living is at an all time-high.


With approximately one-third of a pound of harmful chemicals used in the farming processing of the average cotton tee shirt, it's hardly surprising that organic cotton is quickly becoming the fastest-growing slice of the non-foods organic pie.


Together, infant and women's clothing represents more than 60 percent of the total sales of organic cotton. A market that at the start of the decade was a $100-million-dollar business is now expected to top $3 billion by 2010.


More evidence of a growing trend: The Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, California recently attracted more than 3,000 exhibitors and drew approximately 47,000 attendees.


UNDER THE CANOPY


"ECOfashion® is revolutionizing the fashion world, taking it from hippie to hip," said Marci Zaroff, an industry pioneer and founder in 1996 of Under the Canopy®, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company. "It's also giving consumers more, style, color, price and making them feel good about making a difference to their health, the health of our planet and their children's future."


Innovative and upscale, Under the Canopy has a firm grasp on the "cool factor," specializing in clothes for babies, women, and men, as well as home textiles. Stylish designs feature all organic and/or sustainable fibers from organic cotton, soy, bamboo, ingeo (corn), seaweed, organic linen, Tencel®, and organic denim.


Zaroff's newest innovation, organic cotton fiber-dyed infant wear, has not only a soft feel, but a fresh consistency of color.


Under the Canopy uses only natural dyes from vegetable and mineral sources, clay-dyes, organic plant dyes such as oregano and bilberry. The company's primary dye factory does not burn fossil fuels. Instead, it's powered by rice husks.


Recently awarded the Certified Fair Trade designation for its India-based factory, Under the Canopy donates proceeds from its sales to support Fair Trade programs. On the web at www.underthecanopy.com.


KEE-KA


Originally an eco-friendly handmade greeting card company, New York-based, Kee-Ka found new life in 2003. With more than 2,000 little "peanuts and cupcakes" born each day in the U.S., the firm found that placing its fun and expressive designs on organic cotton infant tees and bodysuits was not only good for the environment but good for business, too.


Kee-Ka provides a memorable, sustainable, and socially responsible gift option, complete with a 100% recycled ready-to-mail gift box. The company's innovative packaging has earned it several awards including the "Excellence Award" in 2004 from the Packaging Association, and the "Best New Packaging" designation, awarded by Natural Products East in 2006.


Kee-Ka, recently launched a limited edition organic line, with artful designs including "Honey Bee" a drawing by three-year-old Maya who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor at St. Judes Children's Research Hospital. The line features additional creative designs all made by children at St. Judes. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this line will be donated to the hospital. Shop here!


UNDER THE NILE


Thanks to Janice Masoud, your baby's first organic vegetables may not come in a jar, but in a crate.


When her children began experiencing allergic reactions to their clothes, Masoud, a seasoned clothing designer, decided to produce safer clothing alternatives. With that, Under the Nile was born.


The Silicon Valley, California based company, offers a "crate of veggies" infant teething toys. Babies can sink their teeth safely into these "veggies," which are made of the highest quality 100% organic Egyptian cotton, naturally dyed and stuffed with (yes, you guessed it) organic cotton. Eliminating toxic materials of traditional PVC plastic, petroleum-based, man-made fibers or conventionally farmed fibers, these toys are safe for your baby to chew on or inhale.


Committed to Fair Trade and to being socially responsible, Under the Nile realizes that children are our future. The company provides full education -- kindergarten through high school -- for its workers' children as well as for all children in the communities in Egypt where the company operates. Find out more at www.underthenile.com


SIMPLY FIDO


Even our beloved companions man's furry best friends -- considered by many of us to be important family members -- can be found chewing on everything from shoes to miscellaneous plastics discovered lying around the house or yard. Have you ever wondered about the safety (or toxicity) of what your pet puts into its mouth? It's that very question that provided the motivation for Simply Fido™ a Brooklyn, New York-based company.


Simply Fido sells healthier alternatives to conventional dog toys. Designs include furry animals as well as bones of different sizes. Organic fabrics that are unbleached, untreated and unprocessed in colors the way Mother Nature intended. The company's Pure Water Wash™ based dyes make their products perfect for those who that truly care about the health of our animals and the environment. Fetch Simply Fido at www.simplyfido.com


With their innovation, passion, drive and commitment, these companies prove that doing good for the environment -- and therefore for the people and animals that depend upon it -- is good for the bottom line, too.


Coral Rose has more than two decades of experience in the apparel and retail industry as a merchandise buyer and in product development. Rose is founder of Eco-Innovations, a consulting firm focused on supporting businesses with the integration of "sustainable value" into their core strategies, product design, and development.


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