Go on, green your drawers.
Photo: jamelah e.

Change your undies, change the world!

OK, maybe that’s stretching things a bit — which can’t be good for those elastic waistbands. But think about all the times in recent history that underwear has shaped the culture: the 1960s bra-trashing by women’s libbers, the infamous 1994 “boxers or briefs” question, the Friends episode where Joey and Rachel “go commando,” the 2000 debut of the “Thong Song” — if nothing else, skivvies grab our attention.

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But they can also help save the planet. The simple act of buying organic cotton intimates is one of the best ways to protect both the earth and your private parts — no lie. (Those toxic pesticides sprayed on conventional cotton aren’t exactly crotch-friendly.)

And there are plenty of other smooth moves to safeguard your health and green up the eco-sphere, one undergarment at a time. Here’s how to start.

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Woody briefs, we pine for you.

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Level One: The Baby Step

Avoid criminal negligee-ance. The cotton in those BVDs and millions of other clothing items isn’t merely grown with pesticides: it’s doused with herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and more insecticides than any crop on earth. So leave the stuff behind and buy organic cotton, hemp, and other natural fabrics instead.

Companies like Gaiam Intimates use low-impact dyes, biodegradable packaging, and carbon-neutral shipping programs; Patagonia offers recycling for used Capilene base layers; Victoria’s Secret has launched some earth-friendly items; and then there are those woody briefs and other small-company offerings. Take your pick!

Level Two: The Next Steps

Go commando. Plenty of people grin and bare it these days, and not just Britney-Lindsay-Paris. We don’t recommend the buff stuff for gals wearing nanoskirts. And guys might find it vaguely weird to be boxer-or-brief free, since most are used to a bit of confinement in that neck of the woods. But for females, occasional knickerlessness is smarter than, say, wearing nylon panties every day. Nylon manufacturing creates tons of greenhouse gases, and wearing the stuff creates that pesky breathability issue. Depending on your bust size, fashion needs, and comfort level, going braless can simplify life and reduce the laundry load, too.

Wash with care.

Photo: iStockphoto

Wash what you’re doing. When it comes time to wash delicates, clean them the green way: use cold water and eco-friendly detergents that are free of chlorine, phosphates, dyes, and other bad actors. Then hang ’em to dry. Your bum will thank you.

Use uncommon scents. If you’re among those who like to keep their underwear drawer smelling purty, buy sachets that are grown and packaged organically, like the organic lavender and rose petals from Hood River Lavender or High Country Gardens. Or save the fuel and shipping costs and bundle up the sweet smelling blooms in your own garden.

Isabella gets all googly-eyed.

Photo: Sundance Channel

Get X-treme. For those of you who … not that you would … stash porn in your underwear drawer, we looked everywhere for eco-skin flicks to help you green up your acts. The best we could come by is the beloved Green Porno series, starring a sex-crazed Isabella Rossellini. The bad news: it’s about the boinking habits of bugs, snails, and worms, and designed for playing on mobile phones or other small screens. We’ll keep looking for a better drawer stash (in the interests of journalism only, of course).

Level Three: The Big Step

Dresser for success. If you’re in need of new drawers, eco-furniture might fit the bill. But it’ll cost a bill, too. Top-of-the-line items, priced at $2,000 and up, are handcrafted, made of sustainably harvested wood, and created with no veneers, plywood, or off-gassing formaldehyde-laden fiberboard. If you’re handy, of course, you could make your own dresser with reclaimed wood and green materials, eschewing toxic glues, paints, stains, solvents, and the rest. A cheaper, simpler, greener alternative? Buy local used furniture that’s sturdily made and old enough to have finished most of its off-gassing. You’ll slash the fuel costs involved in shipping and delivering new stuff. And you’ll avoid the waste involved in creating new objects for an already cluttered world.


Eco-underwear info and shopping for men and women:
Sprig, Green L.A. Girl, Blue Canoe, C&C California, American Apparel, Red Dog, Patagonia, Rawganique, Cottonfield USA, Altahemp

Groups promoting organic, fair-trade cotton:
Sustainable Cotton Project, Organic Consumers Association

Laundry detergent reviews and links:
Grist’s review of six eco-detergents
Planet, Ecover, Seventh Generation

Herbs, sachets, and DIY info:
Garden of Cures, Hood River Lavender, High Country Gardens, Eco-Artware guide to making your own

Green furniture:
Woodshanti, Pacific Rim Woodworking, Fernwalla, Bluehouse, A Natural Home