In our blog post titled “Why It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Fast Fashion” we talked about fast fashion and some of the environmental implications associated with this type of clothing production, including wastewater pollution, water consumption, increased amounts of waste, and significant greenhouse gas emissions. We also outlined some simple actions you can take on an individual level to help combat this global issue. Today, we are going to focus granularly on the materials that are used to create our outfits. 

Fabric is required in order to make clothing, and in order to make fabric, you need yarn, and that, in order to make yarn, you need fibers. As such, the raw material choice has a big impact on the footprint of a garment, and some fibers are inherently more sustainable than others.

63% of textile fibers currently used in the world are petroleum-derived fibers such as spandex, polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Petroleum-derived fibers are not biodegradable and are therefore problematic when the garment reaches the end of its life cycle. Not to mention that microplastics make their way into our world’s oceans, land, and air each time that you wash an article of clothing that’s made from one of these materials. Another 25% of textile fibers being used today are GMO cotton, a fiber that requires copious amounts of pesticides, insecticides, and water. All other fibers, or eco-friendly fibers, comprise of just 10% of fibers used worldwide. That’s not much at all, and we should all work to change these proportions so that the majority of fibers being used worldwide ARE, in fact, eco-friendly alternatives.

Here are some of our favorite eco-friendly fibers: 

1. Hemp 

Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics currently available and isn’t just known for its qualities and local potential, but also for its various applications that could transform multiple industries. Hemp is much more resistant than cotton. In fact, the plant is naturally resistant to pests and growth requires little water. Hemp fabric is also known for lasting longer and aging very well, so the more you wear it, the softer it becomes. Hemp is also biodegradable and growing it is a carbon-negative process.

2. Linen (flax) 

Linen is an all-natural (and biodegradable) fiber that requires no chemicals for growth or for transformation. It is one of the most resistant fabrics, so linen clothing doesn’t pill or lose its shape, and (similar to hemp clothing), it gets softer with every wash.

3. TENCEL™ Lyosell 

TENCEL™ Lyocell fabric is a man-made cellulosic fiber extracted from wood grown in sustainable plantations (often eucalyptus). The lyocell fiber production process is environmentally friendly at all levels as no hazardous chemicals are used. The solvent (NMMO) and water used for its transformation are up to 99% recycled subsequently in a closed-loop process.

4. Silk 

Silk is a protein fiber spun by silkworms and is a renewable resource (and also biodegradable. Please keep in mind that, since chemicals are utilized to produce conventional silk, organic silk is a more sustainable option.

5. Organic Cotton 

The end-product fabric has the same quality as conventional cotton without a negative impact on the environment. Organic cotton addresses some of the most detrimental environmental challenges faced by conventional cotton production. Organic cotton is grown from non-GMO seeds without the use of pesticides, insecticides, or fertilizers, so organic cotton farmers are not exposed to harmful substances. Additionally, unlike conventional cotton, organic farmers use ancestral farming methods, i.e. crop-rotation, mixed farming, or no-till farming tin order o preserve the soil. According to several sources, organic cotton also requires up to 71% less water than conventional cotton

As you learned in our previous post, the fast fashion industry has many negative implications for the environment and should be avoided. And as you’ve hopefully learned about today, the first stages of a garment’s life cycle requires a very important choice – the fiber used in order to create the fabric. The above are some of the most earth-conscious fibers being used in our modern world. Remember to stay tuned on our blog to learn about other ways you can play your part for the environment.