The first step to buying eco-friendly clothing is knowing what the fabric is made out of. If you want to start buying eco-friendly or sustainable clothes, it might help to know more about which fabrics are considered good for the environment and which ones are not.
For example, synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon are non-biodegradable and produces a ton of greenhouse gas emissions.
I know I had to educate myself on these things because I made a lot of assumptions as to what could be considered eco-friendly, but they ended up not being so great. Now that I’m aware of these things, I can make more informed choices the next time I go shopping.
Here are some eco-friendly fabrics to consider if you want to shop sustainably.
Linen is made from cellulose fibres taken from flax plants. It is durable and can take about 20 years of wear and tear. The great thing about linen is that the flax plant doesn’t need too much energy or water. It uses less water than cotton. It also doesn’t need pesticides or chemicals, and is naturally biodegradable and recyclable.
When buying clothes made out of linen, try to go with natural colours like tan, grey and ivory as pure white linen has to go through an intense bleaching process. Also, look for companies that use natural or low-impact dyes. Here are some sustainable brands that use linen: Eileen Fisher, Sotela, Whimsy & Row, and Linenfox.
Hemp is a natural fibre that is derived from the cannabis sativa plant. It is stronger than cotton and needs less pesticides and herbicides. It’s also breathable, warm, and has antibacterial properties. Hemp is biodegradable, and the plant replenishes the soil that it grows on, making it super sustainable.
Some brands that have clothes made out of hemp are: Jungmaven, Nomads Hemp Wear, and Recreator.
Most fabrics are made out of cotton. Whether it’s your jeans, t-shirt, or jacket, there’s a good chance you own at least one item of clothing that’s composed of cotton. But the thing with cotton is, although it’s natural, it’s not so good for the environment. It takes about 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt. The pesticides used on cotton is also polluting the rivers and ground water.
Full disclosure here: I bought a pair of jeans a couple of months ago. And after doing research for this post and finding out the negative impacts of cotton on the environment, especially how much water it would take to make one pair of jeans, I felt so guilty. But now that I know all this information, I can make better choices in the future.
So what’s the solution? Going organic. Organic cotton does not use harmful pesticides and uses less water than conventional cotton. If you can and are willing to, buy clothes in the shades that the cotton is grown in, such as cream or light brown, as dyes can undo the eco-friendliness of organic cotton.
Here are some brands that use organic cotton: Patagonia, Pact, Kowtow, Organic Basics, and People Tree.
Tencel is the brand name for a lyocell and modal fabric that’s produced by Lenzing AG. It’s made from sustainable wood pulp and is 50 per cent more absorbent that cotton. It also needs less energy and water than cotton.
It is similar to rayon in that it uses chemicals to turn the pulp into fibre. But the main difference is that Tencel production manages the use of the chemicals through a closed-loop system. This process ends up recycling the solvent and reducing harmful waste.
Tencel is a great alternative to activewear. Here are some brands that use Tencel: Allbirds, Patagonia, Tentree, and Mara Hoffman.
I hope this blog post has been informative! I know it has definitely made me more aware of the materials used in clothes.