Do you know what you are wearing? In an earlier blog post, I mentioned H&M, M&S, and Zara’s factory polluting practices while making viscose. Viscose has earned a reputation as a more eco-friendly alternative to fabrics like polyester, but is it that eco-friendly and is it the best alternative? I’ve made a rundown of some awesome and commonly used sustainable fabrics so you can make your own judgment.
Cotton is one of the dirtiest crops, accounting for 24% of the world’s insecticides but using only 2.4% of the world’s cropland. But organic cotton is GMO-free and grown using harvesting techniques that are low on the environment. It is grown without the use of toxic chemicals and synthetic fibers, and typically requires less water and lead to dye. Some bodies that accredit organic cotton are Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), Organic Trade Association (OTA), and Green America.
Lyocell is like Viscose, just a lot better. Lyocell is a man-made fiber using wood pulp from sustainable tree farms, sometimes referred to as Tencel. It’s a closed loop process that recovers all emissions and recycles chemicals used in the process, plus it’s biodegradable! Lyocell is ridiculously soft, antibacterial and like viscose easy to print on, so there are really no excuses, I am looking at you, Stella McCartney!
Bamboo is less labor intensive than cotton, it uses less water, fewer pesticides and doesn’t need to be replanted. It is also super fast growing so easy to grow and easy to harvest. Clothes made from bamboo are supposed to be antibacterial and UV resistant. But before we jump for joy at the miracles of bamboo we also need to consider that a lot of bamboo fabrics is more of a bamboo rayon, made using a viscose process. Dissolving and washing the fibers with chemicals to break down into a pulp and eventually spun into fabric. Looking for bamboo fabric made using lyocell (or Tencel) process crosses all your t’s and dots the i’s as a sustainable and eco-friendly fabric.
Australia is known for it’s awesome Merino wool, as comfortable as the fabric is, it is also sustainable! Sheared from Merino sheep once a year, Merino wool is like human hair it is a compound of natural protein and is renewable and biodegradable! Wool shearing has been highlighted for animal cruelty, however nicking sheep during the shearing process substantially lowers the value of wool. Merino farmers regulate high standards regarding sheep shearing and sustainable farming practices to develop some of the softest and sustainable wool. Yay for comfortable winter wear!
Other alternatives are fabrics like hemp and linen are environmentally friendly and easy to produce. Using recycled polyester has become is a great way to reuse and recycle. There are other fabrics and materials that are becoming more readily available and are fantastic alternatives to synthetic and toxic fabrics, just remember to do your homework first!
Written by Elsa Johnson