The definition of ‘eco’

The word  ‘eco’ is short for ecology. Ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment.


Therefore ‘eco’ friendly (or ‘ecology friendly’) is a term to refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal or no harm to the environment.

There is really no such thing as a 100% eco-friendly piece of clothing. This is because all clothing takes water (to grow the fibre which makes the fabric) and energy (to make the fabric and the garment).When we talk about eco-friendly clothing, we are talking about those companies which make it a point to minimise this damage by using fibres not grown or produced with damaging chemicals, and fabrics not coloured with harsh dyes and paints.In summary, ‘Eco’ friendly clothing might mean:

  • Clothing made of fibres such as organic cotton and hemp
  • Clothing that has been organically dyed with vegetables
  • Fabrics that use small amounts of precious water to grow, such as hemp and bamboo.
‘Ethical’ clothing to me refers to something very different. The term “ethical” by definition means: conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behaviour, motivation based on ideas of right and wrong.


Ethical clothing production involves many social behaviours which we should consider. These can include:

  • Treating makers of the fabric or garment with respect
  • Fair pay, safe working conditions, a right to choose working hours
  • A ban on child labour
  • Considering the ethics behind the origin of a product or fibre. eg. leather, animal skins, ivory. These fibres have been taken from another living animal to be used for a human keepsake, so do cause debate among many of their ethics.
  • Clothing that has a fair trade registration (they might show this on their swing tag) which means the people who sewed it have been paid fairly.

Paradoxically, the 2 topics above can also cancel each-other out. In the case of fur, many fashionistas are now choosing a more ethical alternative of faux fur made of synthetic fibres. Unfortunately, these fibres originate from oil, coal, and chemical concoctions, which are non-renewable and un-environmentally friendly fabric sources…. the same can be said for synthetic shoes vs leather….a very tricky debate!!

eco ˈiːkəʊ/ adjective

informal : not harming the environment; eco-friendly.

An example of “eco” clothing by StudyNY. Made from organic cotton with a square shaped pattern so there are no offcuts equaling no waste.

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