Let's go green. 7 Environmental-friendly fabrics you should know about

The world is moving toward Slow Fashion.  

We can no longer ignore the effect that fast fashion has on the environment. Our ‘Make, Use, Dispose’ fabric processes are consuming hundreds of tonnes of non-renewable resources. Where is it going to end? 

Luckily, the fashion industry has, over the last few years, started to change how it looks at production.  

Innovative alternatives to traditional materials are being released as the fashion industry is shifting to accommodate new trends.  

This blog highlights eco-friendly fabrics that you should know about if you’re serious about Slow Fashion.    

 

Hemp

The hemp plant is not marijuana, but rather its ‘sober’ nephew.  Industrial hemp contains almost none of the psychoactive components of cannabis.  

Not only is hemp one of the oldest fibers known to humanity, but it is one of the most sustainable fabric options on the planet.  

The plant grows superfast without fertilizer, requires almost no pesticides or water (it is, after all, part of the ‘weed' family), and is easy to harvest.  It even puts about 60% of the nutrients it uses back into the soil.  

Fibers used comes from the stem of the plant.   Hemp will keep you warm in winter, but cool in summer.  It also has UV-resistant properties, making it the ideal fabric for beachwear.

 

Linen

Comparing to other fabrics, linen must be the queen of environmentally friendly fashion. 

It is very biodegradable, durable, and can naturally withstand moths.   Linen absorbs dampness without trapping bacteria.  

Flax, the linen-plant, doesn't need fertile soil and much water.  It is hardier than cotton and comes in natural ivory, tan, ecru or grey colors. Linen can be worn year-round as it cools you in summer but warms you in winter.

Why else is linen environmentally friendly?

The production of linen uses 5-20 times less energy than the production of cotton and other fabrics.

The Flax plant can grow without the use of pesticides.

Almost nothing from the plant is wasted. Lino, cattle feed, soap, and paper are all made of flax by-products.

Bamboo

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world and is capable of growing more than 120 cm in one day.  The plant matures within seven years but continuously renews itself with new spouts. It is hardy and can be produced with few chemical inputs.

Fabric made from bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial, can breathe and is biodegradable.   It is a soft silk-like fabric that drapes gently, making it quite popular in the fashion world.

Clothes made from bamboo dry quickly, and it is fashionable to use for towels and bedding.

Organic Cotton

Take note! There are two types of cotton:   Conventional cotton and organic cotton.  

Organic cotton is grown without any chemical inputs, and usually, the fabric colors come from natural dyes.  Conventional cotton, on the other hand, is very chemical-intensive to grow and slurps water.  

Conventional cotton pesticides poison farmers and give them cancer.   It unintentionally kills millions of birds in the US each year. It pollutes water and ends up in our food.   Non-organic kinds of cotton and fabrics can even irritate the skin, and cause rashes and headaches.

To really go green, you must have a look at the label of a product made of cotton.  It must be certified as organic. But you'll have to look hard! Only about 1% of all cotton grown today is organic.  Hopefully, it will change quickly.

Patagonia been using organically grown cotton in all of their cotton products since 1996 and is championing the cause together with dozens of smaller brands.  It is up to us to consider organic, along with fit and style. It may be a bit more expensive to buy, but you’re investing in more than just fashion.

Benefits of organic cotton

 It is 80% rain-fed, reducing pressure on local water sources. 

 It reduces the total environmental footprint by using less toxics

Cotton by-product cottonseed oil can be used in cookies, chips or vegetable oil.  It can also feed animals.

 

Lyocell

In 1972, lyocell, a human-made material made from wood pulp, was the brainchild of Enka, an American fibers facility. The brand (commonly called Tencel) changed hands a few times and ended up sold to the Austrian textile giant, Lenzing AG.

The fabric is light and versatile, and it is 50% more absorbent than cotton.  The material has a smooth surface, and it looks beautiful. It is soft, comfortable, and durable. It makes it ideal for the making of sportswear, but also shirts, trousers and bed linen.

Other companies are now also increasingly making use of lyocell in activewear.

Why buy lyocell? 

It is the perfect choice for people with sensitive skins or sweat problems. Tencel absorbs moisture far better than any other fabric.

The fine fibrils on the outer surface of the fabric can be manipulated to either be soft and silky or suede-like.   It gives more options to designers and buyers alike.  

Lyocell’s main ingredient, cellulose, comes from well-maintained and managed forests.  It is therefore much more environmentally friendly than other fabrics, such as conventional cotton.

No irrigation or pesticides is needed to farm the trees.

Lyocell fabric has a short production cycle, using less water and energy.  

 

Recycled polyester

Standard polyester is human-made from petrochemical products. It is toxic, pollutes water and can cause severe health issues. It has an artificial look and feel.  

The qualities of recycled polyester are much the same as virgin polyester.   The difference, however, lies in the lower environmental impact of the production process.

Is recycled polyester better? 

We think so. It doesn't require new petroleum to create the fabric.   The fiber is made from cast-off soda bottles and ‘old' polyester fabrics, reducing the total carbon footprint with almost 75%.

Fewer PET-bottles end up in landfills and soil, air and water pollution decrease.

Polyester can be recycled, again and again, creating a closed-loop system. Over the long haul, it can actually be a good thing that polyester is not biodegradable!

 

Repreve

Repreve is a particular type of polyester fiber made in the US.  Unlike others, it is certified to come 100% from recycled water bottles. 

The whole production process is transparent, and raw products can be traced.  Should you buy something with the ‘Repreve' brand name, you can have the assurance that it is made from certifiably recycled materials.  As a result, the yarn is BPA-free.  

Interestingly, the Repreve plant in North Carolina is a zero-landfill facility.   It means that nothing from the factory (not even food leftovers) go into a landfill. Everything is reused or recycled.

 

Pinatex

It’s quirky and new!  Pineapple leaves is now a leather alternative in an innovative new fabric. Thought up by Ananas Anum, it is natural and biodegradable and reduces waste.  Ethical fashion brands love it!  

The material is made from pineapple leave fiber and is used to make products like wallets and shoes, traditionally made from leather.

‘Green’ fabrics are the future! 

Still, you must remember that all textile manufacturing, eco-friendly or not, has some impact on the environment. We would never get to the point where we are totally green.  

Toxic chemicals and pesticides are still used on natural fibers such as bamboo.   Natural fibers often need large areas for production, and all need water, although, in different quantities.

How we use clothes can, therefore, make the most impact on the environment.   Yes, buy natural fabrics, but wear them longer.

Buy used clothes, recycle what doesn't fit anymore or repair your favorite jean – that’s how we are going to change the world.  

 

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