Anyone who has ever looked at a garment label will quickly recognize that the fabric itself is not a straightforward idea. Countless materials are used in the fashion industry, including synthetics, organic, vegan, and natural fibers, as well as textile mixes and synthetics.
Nevertheless, when it comes to a sustainable approach, what are the most sustainable fabrics?
In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the sustainable fashion industry. Online searches for “sustainable fashion” tripled between 2016 and 2019, driven by an environmentally concerned millennial generation and the growing Gen Z consumer market.
Although customer demand for sustainable products has grown, sustainability in the industry hasn’t improved.
Since 2000, the amount of clothing produced annually has doubled, and between 2014 and 2030, textile waste is projected to increase by an astounding 60%. Using sustainable materials can reduce the industry’s impact on the environment in the fashion sector, where manufacturing is on the rise.
Which material is the most sustainable? cannot be answered simply. However, to create a responsible future for fashion, it is essential to comprehend the materials used to make textiles and the effects that our fabric selections have.
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What Exactly is ‘Sustainable Fabric’?
So, what exactly do we mean when we talk about sustainable fabrics?
It can be difficult to define sustainable fashion, particularly when the fashion industry has complete control over the term.
Sustainability in the fashion business is generally understood to mean that no fashion item, whether it is a shoe or a piece of clothing, during its production process violates the rights of workers, animals, or the environment.
Low water and energy usage is required to make sustainable fashion items. Additionally, they are made from recyclable materials, decompose naturally, and do not erode soil.
20 Most Sustainable Fabrics You Should Always Use
A person who is concerned about sustainability can choose from a variety of sustainable textiles while purchasing clothing. Let’s look at some of the most environmentally friendly textiles used today:
- Organic Cotton
- Organic hemp & linen
- Sustainable Wool
- Sustainable Cashmere
- Sustainable Leather
- Reclaimed Fabric
- Recycled polyester
- Recycled Nylon
- Recycled Cotton
- Recycled Wool
- Orange Fiber
A natural fiber made by the flax plant is linen. In comparison to cotton or polyester, linen uses far less water, energy, pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers.
Flax wonders that it can grow on unsuitable soil that is not used for growing food. In some circumstances, it can even restore contaminated soil. Flax also absorbs a lot of carbon, which helps to purify the air rather than pollute it.
One of the eco-fabrics most frequently connected to the hippie movement that predominated in the late 1960s and early 1970s is hemp. But the cloth is now once more fashionable. Its high sustainability makes it a good choice as a crop.
Hemp is a crop that grows quickly and doesn’t deplete the soil or need pesticides. Unlike most man-made materials that are common in fast fashion stores, hemp cloth is sturdy, long-lasting, and does not irritate your skin.
3. Organic Cotton
The production of traditional cotton uses a colossal quantity of water and chemicals. Organic cotton is a superior substitute for conventional cotton.
Without the use of harmful pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or genetically manipulated seeds, organic cotton is gathered. A sustainable fashion company will probably use organic cotton that has received the GOTS certification to create its clothing. Such cotton is strictly monitored and can be tracked from beginning to end.
Check the label for organic cotton if you wish to purchase items made of organic cotton. Additionally, because less harm is done by chemicals throughout the production process, organic cotton will feel a little nicer than ordinary cotton.
4. Organic hemp & linen
Although hemp and linen were already addressed in the section above on plant-based eco-fabrics, they are still important to note. These two fabrics are made from extremely adaptable crops, use minimal water and no pesticides, and even thrive on subpar soil.
In contrast, linen absorbs carbon and replenishes the soil, making it particularly beneficial to the environment.
The fleece of alpacas raised mostly in the Peruvian Andes is used to make alpaca fiber. Because of how they consume grass, alpacas are viewed as being more environmentally friendly. They don’t pull the grass they consume; they cut it. As a result, the grass can continue to grow.
Alpacas also have cushioned underfoot coverings. In comparison to goat or sheep hooves, the padding is kinder to the earth. Alpacas require extremely little food and water to survive and can produce enough wool each year for four to five sweaters. A goat, in contrast, requires 4 years to make just one cashmere jumper.
A biodegradable protein fiber called silk is created by silkworms. Additionally, it is a biodegradable and renewable resource.
Nevertheless, some producers employ chemicals to make silk. The silkworm is killed by these substances. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose organic silk, such as “Peace Silk”, “Tussah,” and “Ahimsa” silks, which let the moth leave the cocoon before it’s boiled to generate silk.
7. Sustainable Wool
Normal wool is not an environmentally friendly fabric. However, there are some possibilities for eco-friendly wool, such as the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), which is produced using eco-friendly methods that protect the environment. Pesticides and parasiticides are not needed during the manufacture of wool that has been certified organic.
8. Sustainable Cashmere
The environment is greatly impacted by conventional cashmere. However, it tackles these environmental issues with its substitute, sustainable cashmere.
9. Sustainable Leather
From the skin of deceased animals, leather is made. Although it is a byproduct of animals grown for their flesh, the tanning process nevertheless has a detrimental effect on the environment. Thankfully, environmentally friendly leather is available that is chrome-free and is produced by tanneries that recycle and purify wastewater.
10. Reclaimed Fabric
Reclaimed fabric is any unwanted fabric that has been purchased secondhand, including cloth that has been left over from manufacturers. The majority of producers and major brands are left holding fabric that is no longer useful.
The remaining materials can then be purchased by eco-friendly companies that will repurpose them rather than have them thrown away and end up in landfills. Combating textile waste is made much easier by using recycled fabric.
11. Recycled polyester
An ethical fabric manufactured from recycled plastic bottles is recycled polyester. This is a fantastic method for lowering the volume of plastic waste that is dumped in landfills. Recycled polyester also has the advantage of requiring fewer resources to create and emitting less CO2.
Recycled polyester is not biodegradable, though, and it takes a very long time to break down after being thrown away.
12. Recycled Nylon
Like recycled polyester, recycled nylon helps keep waste out of landfills and uses a lot fewer resources to produce than virgin nylon.
Old nylon carpets, tights, and other nylon products make up the majority of recycled nylon manufactured today. New nylon is frequently more expensive than recycled nylon. It does, however, provide a lot of environmental benefits.
13. Recycled Cotton
One of the best-recycled fabrics that conserves a lot of water during production is recycled cotton. Recycled cotton can save 765,000 liters of water for every ton that is produced. Additionally, it uses a lot fewer resources than traditional or organic cotton. It is therefore a fantastic, sustainable choice.
14. Recycled Wool
Another extremely ecological fabric is recycled wool. Recycled wool reduces air, water, and soil pollution by saving a significant amount of water during manufacture and by not using chemical dyes.
Tencel is a thin cellulose fabric made from wood pulp that has been dissolved. The popularity of Tencel has been rising recently. It uses less water and energy to produce than cotton and is thought to be 50% more absorbent. A closed-loop method is employed to handle the chemicals needed to make Tencel, minimizing hazardous waste.
Piatex is a fantastic vegan leather substitute. Fiber from pineapple leaves is used to make it. This material is a sustainable, natural alternative to leather that is free of cruelty. Piatex reduces waste and supports the pineapple agricultural community because it is created from a food byproduct.
Another excellent sustainable fabric is econyl. This fiber is created from recycled synthetic waste, including fishing nets, scrap fabric, and industrial plastic. The trash is recycled to create fresh nylon yarn that is of comparable quality to nylon.
Compared to conventional nylon production techniques, the regeneration process consumes less water and produces less waste. Since Econyl can still shed plastic microparticles during conventional washing, it is best for making products like trainers and bags that are rarely washed.
Synthetic spider silk, known as Qmonos, was created by combining microorganisms with spider silk genes. The fiber is thought to be five times stronger than steel while being considerably lighter, more flexible, and completely biodegradable.
Qmonos is a more ethical and environmentally friendly substitute for silk and nylon because spiders are neither bred nor killed in the production process.
Refibra is an organic fiber made from leftover cotton and wood. Additionally to being environmentally friendly, the production procedure makes use of cotton waste that has been repurposed from the textiles sector.
20. Orange Fiber
An innovative fabric called Orange fiber is created from orange skins. This fiber can mix and match with various substances. The orange fiber has a smooth and silky hand when used in its most basic form. It is thin and can be glossy or opaque, depending on the production requirements.
Switching to Sustainable and Ethical Fabrics
Given the prevalence of non-sustainable fabrics, making the switch to sustainable and ethical fibers may seem challenging. But if you’re committed to the change and you know what to watch out for, it is feasible.
When looking for eco-friendly solutions, you should always check the care label of a garment for a GOTS certification. A GOTS certification signifies that a cloth has checked all (or the majority of the boxes) necessary to qualify as sustainable.
Be mindful that not all natural fibers are necessarily sustainable, too. For instance, cotton is natural but not always sustainable due to the harm it causes to the environment when it is harvested.
Third, choose ethical apparel labels. The majority of clothing companies will keep their use of sustainable textiles a secret. However, a lot of ethical fashion companies are open and honest about every aspect of their products, and they frequently have a page or section on their websites devoted to the textiles they employ.
Simply asking oneself, “What is my garment made from?” is the quickest way to get started. You’ll become more careful about what you wear as a result of this.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot about sustainable materials and are now prepared to shop more sustainably in the real world. If you’re attempting to be sustainable, the textiles you select can make all the difference, whether you’re a designer, seamstress, or just a fashion enthusiast.
When it comes to purchasing sustainable apparel, research is one of the most crucial steps to take; therefore, we hope that this post will both save you time and encourage you to locate some eco-friendly brands and fabrics you love.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.