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It's Easy Being Green

Legally speaking, that is. 

Eco-friendly fashion has escaped the confines of shapeless, formless, colorless sack dresses and ugly earth sandals to become a major fashion trend, with cutting-edge retailers like Barney's New York shouting, "Don't Panic!  It's Organic!" and celebrities adding their names to labels that promise sustainable, recycled, natural, biodegradable, cruelty-free, fair trade fashion fixes.  With the text on some hang tags longer than an editorial in an alternative weekly and the British Advertising Standards Authority cracking down on unsustainable claims regarding "sustainable" cotton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Lori Price asked your favorite law prof whether U.S. law offers any specific regulations regarding green clothing claims.

The short answer is no.  While agricultural products like cotton must meet federal standards in order to make specific claims, the law hasn't yet caught up with exactly what it means to be "green."  And while other industries like architecture and cosmetics are working to establish uniform standards, the fashion industry hasn't yet launched a similar effort.  As long as statements about clothing aren't actually false or misleading, a green label can refer to anything from raw materials to manufacturing to labor standards to, well, the color of the garment. 

If the eco-fashion trend lasts longer than the average trip down the runway, however -- something that would benefit manufacturers under pressure from cheap and allegedly eco-unfriendly overseas production -- the law is likely to have something to say about it.  After all, Kermit the Frog is always right in the end.

Thanks for the article, Lori!