When people hear the terms ‘bohemian’ or ‘boho’, the first thing that often comes to mind is a fashion style. But being genuinely bohemian has deeper roots than just a trendy aesthetic. Rather, it’s a lifestyle with roots embedded deep into core values such as consciousness, minimalism, and connection to nature and each other. This is a way of living carried on day to day and so it definitely extends to adventures into the outdoors, such as camping or road trips.
Without any real reflection, camping might seem like an eco-friendly and harmless excursion without any environmental or societal repercussions. That’s not generally a bad assumption, but only if you’re conscientious about your treatment of the environment while you’re away, and, more difficult to measure, if you’re mindful of your clothing picks and gear choices before you go away in the first place.
Here we’ll quickly talk about three different fabrics - rayon, organic cotton and recycled polyester, and how they stack up environmentally and ethically - and why it really, really pays to be mindful when it comes to your own product selection.
In a world filled with “fast fashion”, where items are produced for cheapsies in sweatshops overseas, it can be hard to distinguish between what is environmentally sustainable and what is actually slowly but steadily killing the planet.
As harmless as clothes may seem - as it turns out, they are not. Clothing production is actually a close second to oil when it comes to detriments to the Earth’s health. This is because so many materials require a heap of water usage, energy (mainly coal powered), and toxic chemicals. And that goes without mentioning the societal impacts.
Fast fashion is often essentially a modern day take on indentured servitude but concealed behind the semblance of a friendly name. People that are employed to produce much of mainstream clothing are often working under unethical conditions with meagre pay, restrictions on education, and even suffer lasting health repercussions from being in unsafe contact with the chemicals used during the production process.
The environmental and societal implications are enough to make one’s head spin, or at the least, compel one to be more careful about picking ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable products.
We're really conscious of where and how our products are made. But we need to go further and consider what they are made from. Hence this dive into three fabrics and their environmental impact.
Definitely Not Rayon, Even Though It’s Everywhere in Boho Dresses and Clothing!
Rayon looks really nice and is extremely versatile due to its fall, texture and properties. It is also made from trees, which sounds like a good thing on the surface. We see this material in many boho dresses and skirts, looking summery and great, and it’s apparently quite cooling and comfortable to wear. The ranges offered also vary across huge disparities in price, depending on the shop selling it.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that the trees have to be grown somewhere and have been linked to rainforest destruction, and the chemicals used are extremely toxic, including sulfuric acid, the main acid in car batteries, causing issues to workers and everyone else indirectly through leaching into the ecosystem. Health issues relating to the production of rayon include cancer, brain and nervous system disorders, as well as skin, eye, respiratory and reproductive damage.
The massive factories that produce it require huge amounts of chemicals and machinery and are normally located in cheap and non-transparent labour countries like China, where many of the workers are not adequately protected from the chemical effects. Further, the chemicals inextricably make their way into the air and ecosystems, having an extremely negative environmental impact. This process is so chemically toxic that many countries have now discontinued its production, but contract it to be made elsewhere...
You can read more about this in Paul David Blanc's book, "Fake Silk - The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon".
So, despite the fact that rayon looks and feels good, and is very common for the styles of clothing that we bohos wear, rayon is basically horrible, and that’s why we have made the decision to forgo the huge product ranges available and sales it delivers and never offer it to our customers.
Typically, synthetic materials are a big no to us. These include materials such as acrylic, polyester, rayon, as above, etc. However, there is an environmentally sustainable loophole with polyester. You may be shaking your head like, “wait, you just said to steer clear of synthetic materials.” Well, yes, but for polyester lovers, there is a process where recycled plastic bottles are being used to manufacture polyester items - be it clothing, backpacks, and even tents! This material is called rPET. We suggest the rPET process is the one to look for when buying your gear.
Polyester is typically water resistant and is often blended with cotton in things like swags and canvas tents for just that reason – so it’s a lot better if you can find rPET blended options of these camping essentials, which unfortunately at this point are still rare.
Speaking of waterproofing, the majority of current waterproof materials are made using toxic chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals. This process also means materials have stain reduction qualities which is great, however, the chemicals end up contributing to pollution in the air we breathe, our waterways, and more. You can read more about the nastiness of perfluorinated chemicals here.
We’d argue that rPet is better if used for gear rather than clothing because, at the end of the day, it’s still plastic which sheds microplastics when washed - and gear doesn’t get washed anywhere near as often as clothing. But ultimately, the recycled water bottle polyester hack is a perfect blend of multitasking: recycling already existing plastic water bottles - decreasing any virgin material required; decreasing waste instead of building on it; and, also producing something really useful in the process.
We do stock some rPET towels and blankets and encourage users to add a microfiber filter on a washing machine to capture any nasty shedding microplastics.
Another more environmentally friendly fabric is one that you are most likely already familiar with: cotton. Cotton is not exactly a revolutionary material, but it’s obviously very common throughout all of our clothing, and there’s a good range of boho clothing also comprised of it, despite rayon’s popularity. However, we are not talking about any ordinary cotton here. The difference and magical twist lies in the field of organic cotton.
As it turns out, organic cotton cultivation utilises a huge ninety-one percent less water than regular cotton cultivation. Organic cotton is also free of pesticides and chemicals that are typically responsible for leaching into, and polluting, waterways - degrading the quality of the water, as well as harming ecosystems in the process. The lack of chemical pesticides also means that this cultivation process reduces its impact on global warming.
All of these benefits make organic cotton a far more environmentally sustainable and responsible option.
So when you’re next shopping for your road trip or festival clothing, consider organic first. It will likely cost more than the regular cotton version, but quietly knowing that you’re rewarding the right businesses is very nice 😊
We believe that prevention is better than a cure in so many things in life. So why do we reward ideas and companies that are continually creating, and making worse, problems that we are already seeing and feeling?
In a world where it can be a maze to distinguish between what is environmentally sustainable and what’s not, it is reassuring that there are people trying to make things better, and to know which products people are just continuing because they’re making a tonne of money.
We’ve obviously only just scratched the surface in this post, but we can already see that there are options to make your camping or road trip enjoyable, stylish and simultaneously environmentally and ethically sustainable. Adding that dash of the bohemian culture of standing for something is hard when there are no alternatives, but we can see that there are. Now just add your personal boho touches to your trip and you’re set!