Chimps in the Wild

Fashion Week just started in New York--the Mercedes Benz-sponsored high holy days for many, when it is impossible to get a cab or a table at hip eateries (ironic since so many at the forefront of fashion are known for eating so little). In addition to the swirling, whirling, paparazzi flashing chaos of couture celebrations, there is, as with most industries, an underbelly that is less appealing.

Clothing today, its manufacture and materials, is, in many instances, decimating our environment. To make the popular fabrics that drape beautifully and flow effortlessly, including rayon and viscose, is a pretty rough-on-the-world process. Rainforests in Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, and more, are clear cut to make way for "monocrop" plantations. The new monocrop trees are then cut down and their material put through a labor-intensive and highly toxic chemical bath process to create "dissolving pulp" that can then be spun out and woven into cloth. The chemicals used are brutal and high impact, and the destruction of the rainforest ecosphere adds to the loss of endangered species, like threatened orangutans, rhinoceros, and others.

The fabric created is used by global brands like Gap, Forever 21, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and legions of others. Of course there are plenty of responsible, sustainable replacement options.

The Rainforest Action Network is calling upon the fashion industry, especially now during high profile fashion celebrations and showcases for designers, to find environment-sparing alternatives. They've got a petition going to bring attention to the cause and state that "there's nothing fashionable about rainforest destruction." Sign here and leaner more about awareness events happening this month with which you may want to participate. Sources report that an average of 137 species of rainforest life form go extinct EVERY DAY! Help curb those numbers with how you spend your clothing dollars, and volunteer to spread the word.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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