As a broader term, sustainability in textiles encompasses both naturally produced eco-friendly fibers and synthetic materials that, on their own, aren’t great for nature, yet become greener when recycled.
Here are some stats- globally, the fashion industry makes up 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and over 20% of wastewater! Even worse is that this trend is set to see a staggering 50% jump by 2030, according to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
We are producing and buying more clothes than ever. It’s time to slow down and make conscious choices to reverse this trend. Instead of buying a lot of low-quality fast fashion, how about going for fewer but much higher quality, eco-friendly sustainable clothing?
It’s a great idea to choose fabrics made with sustainable materials! In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a few popular eco-friendly fabrics.Here are the top sustainable Fabrics to choose from for an Eco-Conscious Lifestyle
Organic Cotton fabric is the most widely used textile, which takes up disproportionate amounts of water, energy, and heavy pesticides to thrive and grow. On the other hand, organically grown cotton uses about 62% less energy and 88% less water, making it kinder to the environment.
No pesticides, harmful chemicals, or genetically modified seeds (GMOs) are used in organic cotton cultivation. This type of cotton is natural, skin-friendly, and perfect for any fabric-based product.
Over the past few years, organic cotton’s popularity as an eco-friendly alternative has surged. Several well-known apparel brands have embraced it, and there are a host of up-and-coming labels devoted to selling only this fabric.
When buying something made from organically grown cotton, it’s always good to check if it’s certified. USDA certification, GOTS, OCS, Bluesign, Fair Trade, and Oeko-Tex 100 are some certifications to look out for.
Bamboo fiber is taking over the fashion industry as a renewable, energy-efficient fabric. It’s a high-yield crop that uses less water and can be grown without synthetic substances. Plus, being a carbon-neutral plant, bamboo absorbs enormous amounts of CO2 and releases more oxygen compared to other woody plants.
As a plant, bamboo is a rockstar! But is the fabric derived from it just as awesome? Yes! Organic and raw bamboo fiber is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics. It’s buttery soft, hypoallergenic, and incredibly versatile.
Word of caution, though, a lot of clothing labeled “bamboo” is usually made from mechanically processed bamboo, known as viscose rayon. Production of this rayon is packed with chemicals, is harsh, and removes any natural properties of bamboo from the fabric.
Polyester on its own is pretty terrible for the environment, but it becomes one of the most versatile sustainable fabrics after getting recycled.
Using recycled PET saves it from landfills and puts it in a consumer cycle that could become closed-looped sooner than you think. Companies are now using post-consumer milk jugs and PET bottles and turning them into high-quality material fit to make clothes, stretch athleisure, and fuzzy fleece winterwear.
Compared to other conventionally grown fabrics, wool has always been an eco-friendly option for its natural, biodegradable, and compostable qualities. The only thing we need to watch out for is whether it’s sourced ethically without harming animals.
There are many certifications that vet whether a brand has met ethical and cruelty-free standards for wool. Some of the most coveted ones are: Woolmark, Certified Organic Wool, Responsible Wool Standard, Certified Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, Good Cashmere Standard, Kering Standard on Cashmere, ZQ, GOTS, and Sustainable Fiber Alliance (SFA).
Endorsed by the likes of Stella McCartney, Kelly Slater, and Levi’s, among many others, Econyl is going places in the world of fashion, and how! Developed by an Italian textile company Aquafil, Econyl is regenerated nylon created by upcycling the ocean and landfill trash such as plastics, leftover scraps, and fishing nets.
To produce Econyl, the company uses a cleverly designed closed-loop process using barely any water, no chemicals and powered only through renewable energy. This recycled nylon is fully recyclable after use.
This semi-synthetic fiber is made from wood pulp. Where it differs from viscose rayon is the production process which is entirely closed-looped and highly resource-efficient like Econyl’s.
TENCEL is a brand of fabric by an Australian company Lenzing that makes the finest quality lyocell and modal fabric through sustainable manufacturing. This skin-friendly and versatile material can be used on its own or blended with other textiles to make jeans, dresses, intimates, and bed & bath fabrics.
Qmonos: synthetic spider silk
Spiders provided the inspiration for Qmonos, a synthetic spider silk based on synthetic proteins that fuse spider silk genes and certain microbes. Like many fabric innovations, science comes first, and Qmonos took a while to develop.
No animals are involved in the production of Qmonos fibers, which are entirely biodegradable, lightweight – and stronger than steel!
Made from mycelium, the underground root-like system of fungi, Mylo™ is a bio-based leather alternative that is soft, supple, and less harmful to the environment.
While other so-called vegan leather alternatives do exist, many rely on plastic—which obviously poses a whole different problem for eco-enthusiasts. In contrast, Mylo is ‘certified bio-based, which means it’s made predominantly from renewable ingredients found in nature.’
Believe it or not, there’s a German company that’s making clothes from milk, and they’re calling it “the material of the future.” QMILK is a patented fiber made by processing milk protein from non-consumable sour milk and other related raw materials.
QMILK fibers are 100% natural, soft, and smooth as silk and skin-friendly. They meet the requirement of innovative material developments. With a natural antibacterial effect and high hydrophilicity, they provide added value to fiber products in the growth market.QMILK is the only natural fiber which has thermo-bonding properties. Thus, other natural fibers can also be combined without conventional plastics or phenolic resins. So, of course, lightweight constructions remain 100% and can be composted.
Linen is one of our personal favorites for being naturally breathable, long-lasting, and gentle on the skin. It is also one of the reasons why so many baby clothing. Even after washing it hundreds of times, linen still looks as good as new. But is it sustainable? Yes, in fact, it is one of the most sustainable natural fabrics to introduce to your home and wardrobe.
Linen comes from a flax plant that doesn’t require fertilizers or harsh chemicals to grow. The entire plant is woven to create the fabric, leaving zero waste behind. The only downside to linen is that it is steeply-priced compared to other materials nevertheless, an excellent investment considering its exceptional wearability and durability.