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10 Sustainable Fabrics For The Eco Friendly Fashion

Jul 09, 2021
10 Sustainable Fabrics For The Eco Friendly Fashion

WHY ECO FRIENDLY FABRICS?

Sustainable and ethical fashion starts with fabric. 

What do we look for when we’re choosing sustainable fabrics? Whether  a clothes maker, or a fashion lover who doesn’t love fashion’s impact on the planet, choosing sustainable fabrics is one of the first things we can do to make our wardrobes more eco-friendly.

But there is a lot of debate about which fabrics are truly sustainable. Does natural always equal good and synthetic equal bad? 

1.ORGANIC COTTON is one of the most natural fabrics out there.

It’s grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and processed with no chemicals.

From an ecological standpoint, organic cotton farming uses 62% less energy and 88% less water than conventional cotton (which is, to the surprise of many, one of the single dirtiest crops around). 

There are several certifications used with sustainable and ethical cotton to tell us that the cotton was a. grown without any chemicals or machine harvesting, and b. processed without any chemicals leaving the final garment chemical-free.

Other pertinent certifications ensure fair pay and safe conditions for farmers (though not being exposed to chemicals in the field is already a huge component in that regard).

Organic clothing brands use this fabric in just about every type of garment: organic bras, organic mattress protectors, organic maternity clothes, organic baby clothes and much more.

Certifications: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Better Cotton Standard, Fair Trade, Bluesign, and Oeko-Tex 100

2.RECYCLED COTTON

Recycled cotton is produced using either post-industrial or post-consumer waste.

Many slow fashion brands use this and for good reason. This means that your favorite ethical cotton tshirt or sustainable denim bottom could be made from industry fabric scrap or other recycled cotton garments. 

Recycled cotton helps to prevent fashion waste from ending up in landfill.

However, certifications and regulation is difficult because it’s hard to know where the recycled cotton comes from. 

It also becomes difficult to know whether recycled cotton is pure cotton because a garment can be recycled into recycled cotton even if it bears some synthetic blend (so long as that blend is 4% or less).

Certifications & Standards: Global Recycle Standard (GRS), Recycled Content Standard (RCS), Oeko-Tex 100

3.ORGANIC HEMP

Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly natural fabrics around.

It’s high-yielding, its growth is healthy for the soil and it requires much less water than cotton. 

It’s considered a carbon negative raw material. It actually absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Because it has so many benefits (like being naturally sun protective and antimicrobial) and is harder to grow, hemp tends to be slightly more expensive than other sustainable organic fabrics.

Certifications & Standards: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign

4.ORGANIC LINEN

Linen is almost identical to hemp in terms of sustainability.

The fabrics are also both super light and breathable. The only difference? Linen is derived from the flax plant. 

Its growth requires very little fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation. However, unlike hemp, linen isn’t as high-yielding.

Linen’s general popularity and reliability means it is a favorite fabric in everything from linen sheets to shirts.

Certifications & Standards: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign

5.ORGANIC BAMBOO (AKA BAMBOO LINEN)

When bamboo is harvested, it can be done without killing the plant itself. That means that bamboo can renew  quickly.

Like hemp, bamboo consumes more CO2 than some trees. It doesn’t require a lot of inputs and can survive on rainfall alone. 

Organic bamboo can be turned into one of the one of the most sustainable fabrics — but that doesn’t mean it always is. Depending on how it’s processed, it could involve chemically intensive processes — and all the harmful impacts that come with it. 

Mechanically processed bamboo is a better-for-Earth way to wear bamboo.

Certifications & Standards: Forest Stewardship Council, USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Fair Trade,  Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign

6.CORK

Cork is sustainably harvested from a cork oak  by simply shaving away the bark. In fact, Quercus suber can be harvested—and should be harvested—to extend its life. 

While the tree is regrowing the bark, it consumes more carbon dioxide than most types of trees. Thus cork plantations can actually act as a carbon sink.

Once it’s been harvested, the cork can be laid out in the sun to dry, and then just requires water to transform it into something suitable for fashion. 

Cork is a valuable member of a unique ecosystem. It supports a range of plant and animal species and our use of cork is an essential component of keeping that ecosystem thriving. 

SUSTAINABLE SYNTHETIC FABRICS (VEGAN)

7.ECONYL

To cover our recycled material basics, Econyl is simply recycled nylon.

But is nylon eco friendly?

Well, it uses synthetic waste from ocean plastic, abandoned fishing nets, waste fabric and forms them into new nylon fabric.

While it feels exactly the same as nylon, this fabric is made using a closed-loop system, and doesn’t require as much water.

However this fabric has still been associated with some of those annoying microplastics that end up in our waterways.

Certifications & Standards: Global Recycle Standard, Recycled Content Standard (RCS), and Oeko-Tex 100

8.RECYCLED POLYESTER

When it comes to sustainable fabrics, it’s easy to get buried in options  

We should talk about recycled polyester, or rPET.

Single-use plastics are obviously wreaking havoc on our environment, and many brands have worked out ways to give landfill-bound plastic bags, bottles, and textiles a second life.

Recycled polyester is super versatile and can take the form of many different feels and functions. Recycled polyester can be used to make everything from thin and light stretchy ethical activewear to thick and fluffy sustainable fleece.

Sustainable fashion brands have been using them for years. 

While this does prevent plastic from ending up in landfills (or oceans), even rPET will lead to the release of microplastics upon washing without the use of a microplastic filter bag.  

Plus, PET can only be recycled so much before it degrades in quality to the point of needing to be discarded. There are also concerns about some of the toxic substances in PET bottles and the effects upon the wearer. 

Certifications & Standards: Global Recycle Standard, Recycled Content Standard (RCS), and Oeko-Tex 100

SUSTAINABLE SEMI-SYNTHETIC FABRICS

9.LYOCELL

Lyocell (sometimes just known as TENCEL™, the trademark name of the fabric given to it by Austrian manufacturer Lenzing, the world’s most reputable lyocell and modal producer) is a semi-synthetic, or cellulosic, fabric that has become very popular in the sustainable fashion world. 

It’s produced from the pulp of eucalyptus trees, which don’t  require a lot of water and pesticides. In the case of the TENCEL™ brand, only sustainably managed forests are used. 

The manufacturing of lyocell is also sustainable, because it requires less water than other fabrics, and occurs in a “closed loop system” where up to 99.5% of dissolving agents can be reused. 

It’s recommended to look for brands who only use TENCEL™ lyocell, or are very transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing practices.

Certifications & Standards: Oeko-Tex 100, Forest Stewardship Council

10.MODAL

Modal is another semi-synthetic fabric that’s known for its top-notch comfort and breathability.

Just as lyocell is made of the pulp of eucalyptus, modal is made from beech trees.

While it uses similar production processes of unsustainable viscose rayon fabric, it does so with far less waste and chemicals involved using the same closed-loop production process of recycling water and solvents that’s also used for lyocell.

When it comes to brand name TENCEL™ modal, up to 99% of the solvent is reused.

There  is also carbon-neutral and made only from wood harvested from certified sources – all reasons to prioritize brands that stick to Lenzing’s TENCEL™ modal.

Certifications & Standards: Oeko-Tex 100, Forest Stewardship Council

 

Posted by Abiteks

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