Choosing a sustainable fabric is crucial for the planet. The fashion industry produces tons of waste yearly, and some synthetic materials take hundreds of years to break down.
Natural fabrics like cotton, hemp, and linen are eco-friendly and can biodegrade at the end of their life cycle. Other great options include TENCEL(TM) a sustainable semi-synthetic fabric and organic linen.
Nylon is one of the most eco-friendly artificial fabrics, with a high sustainability score on fabric ratings. It’s also highly durable and robust, making it an excellent material for rucksacks and outdoor gear. It’s usually sourced from pre-consumer and post-consumer nylon waste products, such as fishing nets or discarded nylon textiles, rather than Nylon, which requires vast amounts of fossil fuels to be produced.
Nylon can also be recycled, although it’s more challenging than cotton or wool. Recycling involves either chemical or mechanical processes, both energy-intensive. However, brands are looking into new alternatives that don’t use virgin Nylon at all, such as cupro or Ramie. These are both made from natural fibers, but. In contrast, cotton uses up to 3,000 liters of fresh water and can be problematic due to pesticides and pollution; these alternative fabrics only use up to a third of that amount.
Alternatively, brands can use deadstock – the leftover material from other fabric manufacturers that would otherwise be thrown away. This can be an excellent way to save money and the environment; brands and sisters often use it. However, these materials still require many chemicals and energy to produce.
Animal fibers such as wool and silk have been used for centuries for fabric and clothing. These natural fabrics require less energy than synthetic materials but must also be ethically and sustainably sourced. This includes being sheared in a humane way and the use of minimal chemicals for processing. Sheep, Alpacas, Goats, Karakul Lambs, Angora Rabbits, and other animals are sheared for their soft fibers that can be knitted or woven into different fabrics and garments.
Some animal-based fabrics are durable, and some, such as wool, have a natural elasticity, making them a good choice for sweaters and other knitwear. Another great feature is that many animal-based fabrics are flame-retardant.
But while these are positive aspects of animal-based fabrics, the reality is that animal agriculture for fashion has a disastrous impact on our planet. Along with deforestation and using fossil fuels to create energy, animal agriculture for clothing is one of the most significant contributors to climate change and global warming.
To address this issue, brands are creating new sustainable, cruelty-free, eco-friendly fabrics. For example, some have created a soy-based cashmere alternative called Vegetable Cashmere that mimics the feel of natural animal cashmere. Another company has also developed a new sustainable fabric called ECOVERO that uses wood pulp from various renewable sources and meets the highest environmental standards. Look for certifications such as OEKO-TEX or Bluesign that show the textile was not produced using toxic chemicals and dyes.
Despite their eco-friendly origins, synthetic fabrics like polyester, acrylic, or Nylon do not readily decompose. They clog landfills and contribute to microplastic pollution in the oceans. Similarly, animal-based materials (wool, fur, and leather) may sound environmentally friendly but are often so heavily treated with harsh chemicals that they can no longer be considered eco-friendly.
As a result, fashion-meets-science brands are working overtime to develop modern fabrics that can be thrown away without causing harm. Some have developed a cellulose fiber called Tencel, which is biodegradable, soft, and airy. It is an environmentally friendly fabric for designers who make sundresses and activewear.
In addition to making a garment biodegradable, these new materials also minimize the amount of water used for production. For instance, the eucalyptus seaweed blend requires only 10 liters of water to produce a single shirt, whereas it takes up to 3,000 liters of cotton alone.
Fortunately, the desire for greener living has prompted many consumers to demand that companies switch to sustainable fabrics. And if the industry wants to survive, it must adapt.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, causing 10% of global carbon emissions and 85% of textile waste. With new materials that reduce the impact on Mother Nature on the rise, it is clear that sustainable fashion will be the future of clothing.
The new sustainable fabrics are made from recycled materials, have a circular manufacturing process, and have sustainable prospects for end-of-life disposal. Some emerging eco-friendly fabrics include hemp, cotton, soy silk, and bamboo fiber. Some brands also use cupro, a material produced from cellulose and cotton linter, using a closed-loop process. Cupro is an excellent alternative to wool and biodegradable, so you can feel good about wearing it.
Other eco-friendly fabrics include abaca, coir, and pineapple leather (Pinatex). Pineapple leather is made from the pineapple plant’s fibers, an agricultural byproduct. The long fibers are extracted with specialized machinery and distilled to eliminate impurities. The resulting eco-friendly fabric is soft and durable, making it an excellent choice for casual and formal clothing.
When caring for your sustainable clothes, you can wash them in a washing machine or by hand with cold water. Most of them will not shrink and are sturdy, so you can keep your wardrobe looking fresh for years to come!