Is That Bamboo In Your Pants?

Why, yes, and there’s corn in our socks, too.

It has been more than a decade since Patagonia gave us fleece jackets made from recycled soda bottles. Since then, the greening of outdoor gear has gone both high tech and haute cuisine. Timberland, the $1.6 billion apparel company, will introduce the equivalent of nutritional labels for some shoes next spring, detailing everything from the recycled rubber to the sort of energy used in production. Other clothing makers’ new planet-saving ingredients are even more esoteric:


1. Kavu

Seattle, Washington
What’s new: Pants, pullovers, and shirts made of bamboo, soy, and hemp ($40 to $60).
Eco-cred: The plants all grow quickly and without chemicals. Plus, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial.
Prospects: A fabric more breathable than cotton–and pesticide free? Bring it on!


2. GoLite

Boulder, Colorado
What’s new: Recycled polyester shirts ($30 and $35) reinforced with odor-absorbing carbon from coconut shells.
Eco-cred: A chemical-free process uses shells that would have been thrown out.
Prospects: A phenomenon in the making. Dozens of other brands are buying the same yarn from TrapTek LLC.



3. Teko

Boulder, Colorado
What’s new: Hiking and running socks ($10.95 and $13.95) made from Ingeo, a corn-based fiber that stays drier than cotton.
Eco-cred: Corn is a renewable resource, of course. Teko uses nontoxic dyes, recycled boxes, and wind energy.
Prospects: Teko has won distribution at REI, L.L. Bean, and 248 other U.S. retailers.


4. Keen Footwear

Portland, Oregon
What’s new: A $60 sneaker, the “Ventura,” made with organic cotton canvas and water-based glues.
Eco-cred: Keen’s trail-running shoes come in biodegradable boxes, which it suggests using for compost.
Prospects: We prefer our garden cardboard-free. But water-based glues are hot.


There seems to be a political and corporate ‘Who’s the greenest?’ competition under way. Let’s not complain. The more trendy environmental concerns become, the better.Andy Polaine