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Dare to Wear an Eco Warm Coat

Looking at 2008 green coat collections, I am amazed and yin-yang impressed. Those who dare to share their perspective on what constitutes a sustainably made garment for warmth are ahead of the game, yet it sure is tricky biz!

What is eco outerwear? Answers definitely differ, leaving most environmental consumers literally in the cold. The answer lies in one’s moral perspective on what constitutes a sustainably made garment.

Only a couple of years ago there was little competition for earth-friendly outerwear. We witnessed Fortrel and EcoSpun (registered trademarks of Wellman, Inc.), experimenting with fleece made from plastic bottles. Fake fur was also the trend, but controversy arose claiming natural was more earth friendly than synthetics.

During that period I was thrilled to discover designer Karen Knierim in Minnesota because eco outerwear was truly hard to find. Karen’s family-owned business, Wildrose Farm, employed talented artists and sewers, (still do). In 1999 they were awarded for their zero waste policy and organic cotton clothing production on their tree farm property.

Folks living in freezing temperature environments are the most challenged. I know a woman who considers herself an environmentalist and her job entails travel to places like Milwaukee, Fargo and Toronto in January and February. The sun disappears for most of the day in some of her visited countries. She is well aware that extreme weather can kill you in fifteen minutes without the protection of cold-weather clothing. She says fur is the only material that keeps her comfortable in freezing temperatures and she typically buys from vintage and second-hand shops. One step further than vintage is recycled and redesigned, – an ongoing rage in major cities across the globe, (with and without fur).

I laughed wondering if PETA handing out dozens of fur coats to some of New York’s neediest and homeless people will cease red paint throwing by their overzealous activists. For a while, it seemed dangerous to wear a fur in public because an activist would destroy it in a hate crime manner.

You can search directories of eco labels, but fur is rarely found even though UK’s Soil Association is one of the strictest certifiers on our planet that offers such. Then many animal rights activists frown on wool because they consider shearing cruel. Yet from Alpaca to Merino, sustainable and organic wool labels are abound today.

Pictured are lovely organic cotton coats from Wildrose Farm. They’re located in Minneapolis, so it ain’t fair weather there. Is cotton really warm enough? Discriminating comments from people in such cold-weathered locals are invited to share their perspective on the best eco-warm coats, or on what warm materials are considered greenwash.

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Written by Delia Montgomery

I am Delia, d/b/a Chic Eco on, and established myself as an eco fashion guru by learning "who makes what in the world of environmental fashion and design."

Enjoy reading some of my freelance writing about environmental design, fashion and art -- from both consumer and supplier perspectives. You may notice I focus most on individual eco designers, movers and shakers.

From sustainable fashion apparel to paint and flooring, discoveries are a rush. I get my kicks this way. I also offer sales representation of earth-friendly designed products for wholesale buyers. Retailers may take advantage of my services with factory-direct pricing. Spend less time sourcing and prevent green-washed purchases!

My other forte is connecting suppliers with business-to-business tools. Aspects of my business vary with consulting services while I'm proud to be the aide that embraces unique and innovative gigs.

I'm originally a Kentucky Blue Grass gal who relocated to Maui early 2006 and the tropical Puna District of Big Island, Hawaii late 2007. Walk the talk is my motto here.

Early 2009 I constructed a yurt home office in a semi-urban setting on a tiny lot. My water comes from the sky, contained in a catchment that's not likely to dry in this rain forest. The electric is designed for solar conversion. I grow about 30% of my food organically, compost, and recycle to the hilt. Permaculture with a full eco system is my gardening style.

In fact, gardening is my ultimate joy. I seek gigs like design, weeding and planting between other jobs. My love is Hawai'i which has more climate zones than any state. There are frequent earthquakes here, typically under a 3.0 magnitude, and I happen to dig the vibrations. It's a wonderful simple life in paradise. As I grow older and wiser, I become more and more grateful.

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