What is the most sustainable fabrics?
Well, it turns out that there is a lot behind the scenes here and THERE IS NO PERFECT SOLUTION!
Types of Sustainable Fabrics (Plus What You Should Avoid)
Synthetics: Least Sustainable Fabrics
Nylon & Polyester
These two fabrics are made from petroleum and require a highly toxic chemical processing procedure to be made.
When you wash clothing made from these fabrics, they leach these chemicals and microplastics into the waterways.
Made from naturally derived sources
Rayon & Lyocell
These two fabrics are made from woodpulp.
Rayon still uses highly toxic chemical processing procedure to be made and the source of the wood used for this fabric isn’t always clear.
Lyocell is a much better option that’s sourced from Eucalyptus, grown without chemicals, and uses 100% rainwater.
Items made from Cotton are durable and generally more environmentally friendly than sythetics, but growing cotton can be problematic.
It takes 10,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton.
Organic cotton results in 91% lower water consumption, 46% lower CO2-emissions and 26% lower soil erosion than cotton grown with heavy use of pesticides.
Bamboo grows quickly and doesn’t require a ton of water. It can be processed using harmful chemicals though, so it’s not a perfect option.
Hemp is highly durable and high yielding, it is also great for soil health. It doesn’t grow well in every environment though, and processing this material does result in high CO2 emissions.
Linen is very high yielding and easy to grow, but producing the fabric takes a high volume of plant material, so it is more expensive to produce.
5 things to look for in Your Sustainable Fabric
1 – Choose natural fibers.
Manmade fabrics suck. They are just chemicals and/or plastic that you wear against your skin. They’re made from petroleum and/or have a highly toxic chemical processing procedures. When you wash them, they leach chemicals and microplastics into the waterways.
2 – Always choose organic.
Choosing organic growing techniques over conventional has a massive impact on CO2 emissions, water usage, energy demands, and soil erosion. Folks that focus on chemical-free growing, tend to use ancestral practices that improve the health of their environment, the soil, and the people they work with.
3 – Try to use recycled fabrics whenever possible.
Especially recycled natural fabrics. These have a MUCH lower footprint than anything other option.
Note: we would suggest rPET only because we have an abundance of PET in the world. The downside is that recycled polyester will always leach microplastics (because it IS plastic) so try to choose this material for durable, long lasting objects that you don’t have to wash very often.
4 – Ask about the processing.
Some fabrics – like bamboo or rayon – may have great growing practices, but when it comes to spinning it into fabric, it can carry a hefty CO2 or chemical load. Double check that the processing for your fabrics aren’t adding to the pollution problem. The best wood pulp fabric process is from Tencel.
5 – Look for certifications and brand values.
In the fabrics industry, marketers can use words like “all-natural” and “organic” freely, without fear of consequences. And they do! Look for certifications like the GOTS and OEKO-TEX. Also look for clear brand value statements. If you’re unsure – IT’S OKAY ASK FOR SOURCING INFO!
Three fantastic resource guides for you:
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