Q&A.; Green Business Suits

Q. "Hello. Love the site, check it a little obsessively. I'm 21, and a senior in college. Obviously, I anticipate several job interviews in the near future, but my wardrobe is not properly equipped. Can you provide any information on "green" business suits, shirts, ties, shoes, etc? (A suit is my primary concern.)" Matthew K."

A. Great question, Matthew, will probably bring out lots of leads we haven't reviewed before. Should you need a suit mostly just for occasional interviews or similar formal events then consider borrowing one from family or friends. Or hire one for the day. This gets maximum use of minimal resources. A suit that spends 95% of its life gathering dust in a wardrobe, even if made of hemp, is still a poor use of materials. (see our related post on Product Service Systems). However, if you figure your chosen career dictates wearing a suit, then read on.The first port of call would still be a pre-loved suit. If one matching your needs already exists, there is no need to create a new product. 'Opportunity' and 'Thrift' shops can often have high quality suits available. Or ask a suit rental business or 'formal hire' business if they have any ex-rentals for sale.

Failing this approach, you do have several options in new product. Hempworld offer a suit jacket, (shown at top) with matching pair of dress pants in 100% hemp. Although available in either natural or black, you'd most likely already have that job, because this combo is about $700 USD. Fortunately their hemp ties in 6 block colours, including purple (yeh!) are just $13 USD. But when I first spied your enquiry my immediate thought was of the 100% certified organic hemp jacket that Rawganique offer. It even has Tagua nut buttons and is a more modest $116 USD. Plus they have plenty of pants that will match in style and colour (natural or black). For a bit more colour choice we found another Canadian firm, Sandstone Designs (via a Co-op America link), They have jackets in Ivory, Royal Blue, Hunter Green, across two weights of 55% hemp/ 45% cotton for $150 CDN. Matching slacks are $95 to S100 CDN.


(Hemp suit from Sandstone Designs)

At the more upmarket end you could go the Giorgio Armani route. A 'Made in Italy', 100% hemp, single breasted suit in navy or cream (seen here). Overstock have limited quantities (one size only) reduced from $650 to $300. From memory Woody Harrelson wore one of these to the Oscars or somesuch event. Apparently, according to some reports British eco-apparel pioneer Katharine Hamnett is bringing a line of suits to market that will be from pesticide-free Tasmanian merino wool, with coordinating organic cotton shirts. but we can't find the product itself online just yet.

Of course, we could look at this from another angle. Research has shown it's not the construction of apparel that causes it's greatest environmental impact, but the care and feeding thereof. So, if you feel you'd need to be regularly dry cleaning one of the above suits, then maybe something like the Rohan Globetrotter II jacket (£180) and matching pants (seen at left) might be the ticket. A blend of 44% wool, 52% polyester and 4% Lycra the jacket and pants are machine washable, negating those nasty chemicals and odours. Pants (£75) in stone or ink, as per the jacket.

Were you a woman, Matthew, we'd have much more to say, but the eco-office options for guys are more limited. We've focussed mainly on suits here, but don't forget to try Boll for your white organic cotton business shirts. Maybe you could team the shirt with some recycled content cufflinks. But personally I'd pass on the tie. A silly accessory, in my very humble opinion. If you must, then try Rawganique again. They, like Hempworld, noted above, offer ties in a wide selection of colours in 100% hemp ($16 USD). But better yet get back to your favourite Op Shop. They have the biggest range of pre-loved ties under the sun.

Shoes? Well, that's more than we have time for now but might want take a peek at Terra Plana (shown here, but alas many models currently sold out), Footprints or ShoeswithSoul.

Hope this helps a little, Matthew. All the best with the interviews. In whatever bag-of-fruit you wear, may you wow them.

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