Do you know what fabric your clothing is made from? So many of us purchase clothes without even looking at what they are made of, and unfortunately in most cases the answer is plastic. Today more companies are opting for sustainable fabrics that can truly change the sustainability and environmental impact of the fashion industry for good.
The Lifecycle Of Our Clothes
The textile industry is complicated to say the least. While many of us may not think about the lifecycle of the clothing we choose to wear each day, our clothes have a complex lifespan, carbon footprint, and human impact before they even reach out homes.
The staggering impact that our clothing has on the environment and the lives of laborers involved in the garment industry make it essential that we take the lifecycle of our clothing into account, and become better educated in what makes an eco-friendly and sustainable garment — and what doesn’t.
While the lifecycle of every garment is going to be different, on average one can assume that most garments are grown (or possibly engineered), watered, harvested, mechanically processed, shipped, mechanically processed again, shipped again, dyed, sewn, and shipped some more.
From start to finish our clothes may have traveled around the world and back, come in contact with dozens of laborers, and used thousands of liters of water just to land in your closet — where most likely it will be disposed of without much thought.
5 Sustainable Fabrics And Textiles
Today there are many sustainable fabrics that are being used to reshape our global fashion industry. These sustainable fabrics and textiles are being engineered using state of the art technology that is eliminating the need for pesticides in our garment industry, while also reducing overall water waste, removing harmful dyes and processing chemicals, and up-cycling used materials that once were discarded.
While there are many sustainable fabrics that are reinventing the fashion industry as we know it, today I am going to go over five of the most impactful sustainable fabrics that are being used by sustainable clothing brands that you should be on the lookout for when choosing your next garment.
Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics available and has been gaining a lot of attention lately and for good reason. It is one of the few agricultural products that can feed us, clothe us, house us, and be used for medicinal purposes. It’s pretty incredible, and is one of the most sustainable natural textiles you can look for in your garments.
Hemp is a dense plant that requires no pesticides or herbicides to keep it healthy. It also is naturally resistant to pests, requires little land to grow, and uses 50% less water than cotton. From a growing standpoint hemp really checks all the boxes for a sustainably grown natural plant fiber.
But how does this plant turn into something you can wear? Hemp fabric is made from long fibrous strands that when spun together will create a thread that can be used to weave hemp fabric.
TENCEL™ is one of the most progressive fibers and sustainable fabrics that is being engineered today. The material for TENCEL™ comes from the eucalyptus tree, which require no harmful pesticides or insecticides to grow. Eucalypus trees also require significantly less land, when compared to something like cotton to make a similar amount of fabric.
Additionally, the process of actually manufacturing the TENCEL™ yarn is fueled with 100% renewable energy and uses 80% less water.
Cotton is one of the most popular textiles used in fashion and bedding products, and the USA is one of the worlds largest producers. While in many ways cotton is a wonderful, natural fiber that is capable of biodegrading quickly once it is discarded, conventionally grown cotton unfortunately has a significant carbon footprint.
Conventional cotton uses an abundance of harsh pesticides, and insecticides making it one of the most heavily sprayed crops. It also requires a significant amount of land and water to grow making it a resource demanding crop.
That is why choosing organic cotton is so important. When you choose to help reduce the negative impacts of our global cotton industry, you choose to positively impact soil quality, water quality, and public health. Organically grown cotton could be one of the best sustainable fabrics, but it’s up to consumers to demand it.
Linen is another natural plant based fiber that will biodegrade after it is discarded making it a more eco-friendly option. Linen is made using the entire flax plant and is often combined with cotton to create a fully biodegradable and soft textile. Because linen doesn’t require the use of pesticides, and can be made using the entire flax plant, linen is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly textiles that is used today in the making of clothing and bedding.
Last on our list is Modal, an innovative textile that is made from spinning cellulose from the beechwood tree. Because beechwood trees self-rejuvenate they are considered a sustainable raw material that can be used to create the innovative modal fabric. Modal is also 50% more water-absorbent than cotton, and is silky smooth making it a good choice for activewear and undergarment manufacturers.
Lenzing (the company that produces Modal) has also developed non-toxic and environmentally friendly processes that enable Lenzing to recover up to 95% of materials used in the production of modal yarn, which minimizing the overall carbon footprint of the textile making it an eco-friendly choice.
So the next time you are choosing a new garment (or are even purchasing one second hand) be on the lookout for these five eco-friendly textiles. Once you become more aware of what your clothing is being made from (just like your food) it will become second nature to choose, look for, and demand better quality.