My sister suggested a long time ago that I write something about fabrics. She asked: When it comes to shopping planet-friendly, which fabrics should I go for?
Here’s what I’ve come up with, based on internet research, articles I’ve read and some personal eco ideas that make sense to me :)
Step 1: Go for natural fibers
Why? Because in thousands of years when we’re no longer here, the fabric will have degraded, posing little or no harm to the planet. A fabric made from a plant or tree is CO2 neutral, if done right. It absorbs carbon it as it grows, releases it as it is cut down and when a new tree grows up in its place, carbon is absorbed again.
Which? Linen (flax), modal (beechwood), hemp, tencel (eucalyptus), bamboo and cotton.
Where? Well, cotton is everywhere you shop, while the Internet will most likely be your best bet for materials like hemp and modal. I see these fabrics more and more when I browse, often on eco-conscious shopping websites.
Whoa! Rayon is a common natural fiber used in all types of stretchy materials. It is made from wood pulp, but unfortunately due to the heavy chemical processing it takes to make the fabric, it is considered semi-syntethic (see step 2). Rayon is also worrisome as it is often linked to deforestation! There is no need to cut down our rainforests when we’ve got so many other natural choices.
Step 2: Poly-blends are the enemy
Why? Well, they’re made from oil (yuck!) and wearing plastic is not cool when you think about it. These fabrics do not biodegrade – ever. Recent studies have shown that polybased fabrics release up to 4,500 microscopic plastic fibers each time they’re washed, polluting our waterways and oceans. As fish ingest them, the fibers accumulate and act as a “sponge” for toxic material. (Eat that fish later, and you just ate plastic microfibers seasoned with toxins.)
Which? Polyesters, elastane, nylon and fleece. (Fleece being the worst microfiber polluter!)
Where? These fabrics are everywhere! Watch out!
Whoa! Recycled polyester has become popular lately, and although it has a lower initial environmental footprint, it still releases microfibers when washed, making it a bad eco-fabric. If you already own poly-blend/synthetic fiber clothing (which we all do) air out instead of washing as often as possible.
Step 3: Always look for sustainably-made fabrics
Why? Because the more eco-friendly – the better!
Which? Organic cotton is a great choice. Grown without pesticides and fertilizers, it’s safer than regular cotton for the farmers, the lands and the consumers. Modal is generally sourced from sustainably harvested beechwood trees. Hemp and bamboo are fast growing plants, and generally labeled very sustainable. All these fabrics are (95%+) recyclable.
How? Look for stamps (like Oeko-tex or GOTS) and descriptions of how the fabric’s material was grown and harvested. If the store includes a sustainability statement – that’s a good sign. And look for locally grown, domestic fabrics!
Where? Most likely you’ll find the most sustainable fabrics and clothes online, hopefully with details on where the fabric was sourced and how it was prepared (dyes, labor practices, etc.) too.
Step 4: Shop second hand
Why? Second hand shopping has a negligible environmental footprint compared to buying something new!
Which? Go for natural fibers again so washing is a weekly task not a weekly ocean polluter. If you are into wool or leather goods, second hand is the way to shop them! Both are materials with a heavy environmental footprint, especially leather with the toxic tanning practices, heavy chemical use and the questionable treatment of animals. If it’s already worn, your impact becomes minimal. Isn’t that awesome?
Where? At your local resale store, in your mom’s closet, or using online services like Thread Up. Vintage stores and markets are always fun too.
That’s it! Quite easy, right?!
Remember, clothes are “want to haves” not “need to haves” (most of the time) and any new garment you buy impacts the planet negatively even when it is made from, by definition, an eco-friendly fabric. Shop wisely my friends.
Post shared on eco-gites.blogspot.com and skipthebag.blogspot.com/