When it comes to sustainable clothing materials, there is a wide range of fabrics to choose from. In fact, there are so many options available on the market, that searching for eco-friendly materials can feel a little overwhelming at first.
Whether you are a fashion enthusiast or a fashion designer, choosing eco-friendly materials is the best way to make your wardrobe “greener.”
That being said, there is much debate as to which fabrics are the most sustainable. Organic products are not all created equal, and in this article, we will shed light on the most eco-friendly materials around.
So, what are the most sustainable materials?
- Recycled Cotton
Let’s know the features of each one…
In recent years, the hemp industry has taken off, following the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized industrial hemp production. Although hemp is a member of the cannabis family, the plant contains less than 0.3 percent THC (the psychoactive compound found in marijuana).
Yes, you got that right. Marijuana and hemp are two different plants from the same cannabis family. Hemp has been cultivated for centuries and used as food, building material, cosmetics and of course fabric itself.
One of the best things about hemp is that it is grown globally and doesn’t need a lot of water or pesticides. What’s more is that hemp is a natural fertilizer, meaning that it gives back nutrients to the soil that it grows in.
As a result, hemp is significantly better for the eco-system than many other plants or crops. As one of the earliest fibres to have been used by mankind, hemp keeps you cool during summer and warm during winter. Interestingly, the fabric is known to soften with washing, making hemp one of the most comfortable materials around.
Like hemp, linen has been grown for hundreds of years, from the versatile flax plant. One of the most remarkable facts about linen is that it will grow in soil of lower quality. In a similar manner to hemp, the flax plant requires minimal pesticides and water.
To make matters even better, every single part of the linen plant is used, meaning that nothing goes to waste. Linen is a strong fabric that is naturally resistant to moths and fully biodegradable when left untreated. Over and above being environmentally-friendly, linen is lightweight and anti-bacterial.
Linen is an organic and sustainable fabric that is fully biodegradable, and made without the use of fossil fuel resources. That being said, not all organic materials can be classified as eco-friendly, with wool, leather and bamboo bringing their own set of complications.
From energy and water expenditure during the production processes to carbon emissions from the transportation of these goods, the materials mentioned are far less sustainable than linen. Linen is among the most eco-friendly fibres in the world, and you can safely purchase it guilt-free.
Read: Go Green Action Plan
While cotton is one of the most commonly used and least sustainable fabrics around, recycled cotton is another story. Although the breathability and lightweight nature of cotton has made it a popular wardrobe addition, the cotton industry is responsible for a number of environmental issues.
For starters, cotton is among the most chemically-intensive plants to grow. It also uses up to 10 000 liters of water to create a single kilogram of cotton, as opposed to hemp which only uses a quarter of that amount.
Cotton requires many pesticides in order to be grown successfully, and as such, it is known to negatively impact the environment. Although organic cotton is more sustainable than traditional cotton, the most environmentally-friendly option is recycled cotton.
Recycled cotton is produced with post-consumer or post-industrial cotton waste. This form of cotton provides a more sustainable option, in that it requires less water and energy to produce. It also reuses cotton clothes, helping to keep our landfills waste-free.
Tencel is an innovative and futuristic fabric, made from synthetic fibres and high-tech production methods. The fabric is lightweight and cellulose (meaning that it is created with dissolved wood pulp).
The man-made fibre is manufactured by an Austrian company known as Lenzing AG. The material has been steadily growing in popularity and is thought to be twice as absorbent as cotton.
The fibre also requires less water and energy to produce than non-sustainable clothing or fashion. What’s more is that the chemicals used in production are recycled, thereby reducing hazardous waste.
As an added bonus, the fabric has anti-bacterial, moisture-absorbing properties, making it the go-to choice for active-wear. A number of designers have embraced the new fabric as part of their sustainable ranges, as have numerous retail outlets.
The fibre is said to be incredibly soft and comfortable, making it one of the more luxurious eco-friendly fabrics on the market. Tencel is fully compostable and biodegradable, meaning that it can eventually be returned to the earth. If you’re looking to make your wardrobe more sustainable, Tencel is a great choice.
Econyl is a recycled fabric manufactured by an Italian company, Aquafil. The material is created using synthetic waste – like fabric, fishing nets and even industrial plastic. These are then recycled and regenerated into a nylon-like yarn that is of the exact same quality as nylon.
The regenerative system reduces water consumption and results in less waste than conventional nylon manufacturing methods. The closed-loop system sees waste collected, cleaned and shredded, before being depolymerised.
The depolymerisation process extracts the nylon with is then polymerised and made into yarn. After this it is commercialized for the second time and turned into textile products. As far as sustainability is concerned, Econyl is far more eco-friendly than nylon.
It should be noted however, that washing Econyl products can still cause plastic microparticles to shed, which results in them ending up in the environment. To avoid this, when choosing Econyl opt for items that don’t need to be washed regularly – such as sneakers or a bag.
The Bottom Line
This was our anwer to the popular question ‘What are the Most Sustainable Materials’, and the features of each one and how we can use them in our eco-friendly living.
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