A guide to the most and least sustainable fabrics
Sustainable and ethical fashion starts with fabric. Fabric choice in fashion industry directly affects the raw material sourcing (farming and petroleum drilling impact), material processing (chemicals needed to turn it into fiber), and end-of-life prospects (ways a garment can be disposed) like can it be recycled or composted? This is why we should ask ourselves ‘what are my clothes made of”?
Cluster LATIA Export Development is asking that question and aiming to tackle COVID-19 and fast fashion trend. Cluster is developing an apparel and textile product line to represent itself in foreign countries. The uniting factor of the products will be keywords: sustainable, functional and ergonomic.
There is no such thing as a 100% sustainable fabric, but some are much better than others. The major determining factor when labelling sustainable materials is the amount of resources used to produce the material.
The least sustainable fabrics
This fabric is widely used in the fast fashion industry. However, it is considered to be one of the most noxious fabrics for the environment. Most polyesters are non-biodegradable, it may take from 20 and 200 years to break down if it is put into the landfill. It’s partially derived from oil, which is a major source of pollution. Moreover, polyester also releases microplastics through use and especially during washing.
Probably every one of us has at least one soft acrylic sweater in our closet. Unfortunately, its production involves highly toxic chemicals. Moreover, the main ingredient, acrylonitrile, can be harmful to the health of wearers entering the body through skin contact or inhalation.
Garments of cotton are one of the most commonly found in our wardrobes. Nevertheless, while cotton is a natural fibre that can biodegrade at the end of its life, it is also one of the most environmentally demanding crops. It takes between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans.
The most sustainable fabrics
Organic or Recycled Cotton
Not all cotton is dangerous to the environment! There are means to make it more sustainable. Organic cotton is grown without all the harmful pesticides and produced without the dangerous chemicals that conventional cotton uses. Recycled cotton is the friendliest way of wearing clothes.
Linen is a plant-based fabric made from flax which can be grown on rough terrain that’s unsuitable for food production; it can be cultivated and processed without chemicals and requires little water and little-to-no pesticides. Because of the high availability of the flax plant, it’s an excellent option for local production.
Hemp grows organically almost anywhere, which means no harmful pesticides or fertilisers are used in the growing process. Plants need just a fifth of the water that cotton requires to grow and they leave the soil in a better condition, enriching the ground. Organic Hemp clothing get softer through washing, which adds to its level of comfort.
The list of the least and the most sustainable fabrics is almost endless, not to mention future green fabrics, such as Pinatex, made of pineapples leaves or bamboo fabric; Our responsibility is to read the labels carefully and to make a conscious choice.