Wednesday 27 April 2011

What does it all MEAN?

There are so many words that are tossed around in the eco-organic, nu-hippie world.  As I dive deeper into the exciting vernacular of this community, I realize that perhaps I don't know the definitions of some of these words like I thought I did.  My solution?  My glossary.

My glossary

Organic:   [awr-gan-ik
A natural way of producing foods using environmentally friendly methods.  These methods exclude the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and in the case of livestock, exclude the use of growth hormones and antibiotics.

Natural fiber:
[nach-er-uh l    fahy-ber]There are 3 classes of natural fibers: Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral.  Animal fibers include Yak, Wool, Silk, Spider silk (ew!), Alpaca etc.  Some examples of vegetable fibers are: Bamboo, Hemp, Jute, Flax and Cotton.  The one Mineral Fiber?  Asbestos.  (Ah!).  The natural fibers people talk about in the green community are generally those of vegetable origin, like Hemp, Bamboo, or Cotton.  Fibers themselves are described by Wikipedia as hair-like materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to a piece of thread.  Hemp:[hemp]Hemp is a durable yet soft fiber that is made from plants in the Cannabis genus.  It is one of the fastest growing biomasses which is a reason why it is a popular choice for natural fiber use.  Pure hemp fabric has a similar texture to linen, and can be grown well organically without the use of pesticides.  This page is an excellent resource for information on hemp.    Bamboo:[bam-boo]Bamboo is a perennial evergreen that grows very quickly, depending on climate and soil conditions.  This makes it an eco-friendly crop because it is sustainable and can be harvested and replanted more often than other types of natural fibre crops.  Bamboo as a textile is very absorbent with natural antibiotic and antifungal properties because of a naturally occurring substance within called "kun".  Because of this substance, when not chemically processed, bamboo does not hold odour like other fabrics, making it a popular choice for clothing (especially yoga and workout gear).   Something many people may not know (as I didn't) is that bamboo is a very short fibre that is hard to process.  Bamboo can be processed in two ways.  It can be heavily pulped in a more natural process involving an enzyme soak, and the seemingly more popular route of processing, which uses chemicals like Sodium Hydroxide and Carbon Disulphide to break down the fibre to eventually turn it into a fabric.  In Canada and the United States, government organizations are cracking down on chemically processed bamboo being sold as "natural bamboo" and instead, are insisting that it be labelled as "Rayon" or "Rayon from Bamboo".   Bio-degradable:[bahy-oh-di-grey-duh-buhl]These are goods that are broken down with the use of microorganisms.  However, just because a label says that a product is bio-degradable doesn't mean its environmentally friendly.  Some things take centuries to break down, or break down into toxic chemicals , so be careful when buying bio-degradable items!

Volatile Organic CompoundsVolatile organic compounds are compounds contained in many household products like paint, lacquers, cleaning supplies, degreasers, etc.  These compounds emit gases which can cause a variety of health problems, and greatly decrease inner air quality when used and stored in your home.  The US EPA  states that levels of VOCs are often 2-5 times greater in your home than in the outside air.  Some VOCs are known human carcinogens (Benzene, Toluene), and some can cause toxicity to the liver, central nervous system, kidneys, etc.  So the long and short of it is, avoid VOCs!

[frey-gruh ns free]Fragrance free items are easy enough to define.  They lack fragrance.  The reason this is important is because of what "fragrance" really is.  Fragrances in the things we buy are (unless made from natural oils etc.) made of chemicals.  These chemicals are not regulated by any sort of governing body like the FDA and because of this, can be made out of petrochemicals, VOCs etc.  These fake and fruity smells in our cosmetics, air fresheners, candles, etc. can be causing us harm.  So we should really cut them out!

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