There are many variables that make a fabric truly sustainable. Find out what makes a fabric “green,” and how to choose the most ethical fabrics for your business or home.
Each year, the world is consuming 80 billion new pieces of clothing.
Yes, that’s right, that’s BILLION with a B.
Comparatively, in the early 2000s, we consumed less than a quarter of that amount.
Fast fashion and fast-paced interior design trends are fast becoming a global issue, and people are calling out for more sustainable solutions that are ethically sourced.
However, sustainability is a general, sweeping term, but what does it actually mean?
What Exactly Are Sustainable Fabrics?
Sustainable textiles are often produced from natural or recycled materials with the goal of minimizing harm either during production, fiber characteristics, or overall environmental effect.
The 3 main categories in fabrics are:
- Natural Fabrics
- Synthetic Fabrics
- Semi-Synthetic Fabrics
Let’s take a closer look at what each one means and how they are (or aren’t sustainable).
Natural fabrics are one of the most sustainable options within textiles.
They frequently come from renewable resources, such as cotton and linen fibers, that grow back quickly after being harvested.
Generally, natural fabrics don’t have as much of a negative impact on the environment as synthetic or semi-synthetic fabrics, because they aren’t produced with toxic chemicals or processes.
In fact, natural textiles can help to preserve our planet by sequestering carbon in the ground where it belongs instead of adding to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
But not all natural fabrics are created equal; some may use chemical treatments during production, while others may be made from recycled materials like plastic bottles.
Linen, organic cotton, hemp, and raffia are popular natural fabrics.
The majority of organic cotton fabric is also GOTS certified, making it a great choice for ethical apparel.
Organic Cotton Fabric:
Organic cotton fabric comes from crops that are grown without pesticides or herbicides and aren’t treated with chemicals.
Organic cotton fabric is often soft and breathable, making it a great choice for clothing that will be worn against the skin. It also absorbs moisture easily, so it’s perfect when you’re looking to make activewear garments. This makes this fabric an ideal choice for casual wear too!
Cashmere and non-organic cotton can have a negative environmental impact, despite being natural fabrics.
Synthetic fabrics, also known as artificial or man-made fabrics, are a type of fabric that is made from non-natural materials. In fact, the fibers in polyester are made from the same material as plastic bottles.
The primary cause of global warming is carbon dioxide, which is made when creating synthetic fibers because they use fossil fuels.
It has also been proven that washing artificial fibers generates micro-plastics that pollute the water supply and eventually make their way into our food chain. Synthetic fibers do not decompose, so if not recycled they will end up in landfills for decades before they start to break down.
The GOOD NEWS is that synthetic fibers CAN be recycled. And they can also be created using recycled bottles, plastics and so much more.
Don’t write off all synthetic materials as having a negative impact. They are not all created equal, and if you know what to look out for can be environmentally friendlier than some natural materials.
There are many types of synthetic fabric, from polyester to nylon, and they have varying degrees of environmental impact.
Recycled Polyester Fabric
Switching to recycled polyester fabric is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of your business.
In fact, it will have a positive effect on both the environment and potentially your bottom line too.
Recycled or recycled post-consumer materials are frequently made from plastic bottles, which reduce the amount of petroleum used to create fabric and help reduce landfill waste.
One of the fabrics made with this method is 100% Polyester fabricated with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles
Polyester fabrics are typically strong and durable, which makes them popular for workwear. However, they can also be toxic and cause skin irritation to some wearers.
Recycled polyester fabric can help reduce the negative effects of this type of material without compromising on strength, durability, or performance.
100% recycled PET fabrics are often made from post-consumer plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill site. They can be stronger than standard polyester fabrics due to the strength of the recycled material.
Semi-synthetic materials come from a natural source but must be processed to become fibers that may be used in clothing. Viscose, modal, lyocell, and bamboo are examples of this type of material.
Many semi-synthetics are made from chemically treated cellulose fibers that pollute water sources with toxic chemicals during manufacturing processes.
Some, however, do not and with a little research, we are able to source these for you and stock them here in our head office in Dubai.
Whether your business is interior design, within the ever-changing world of fashion, or even if your interest in sustainability and ethical fabrics is purely personal – there are a few key ways to decipher whether fabrics you are purchasing are environmentally sustainable and ethically sourced.
If you are ever in need of some free advice, or you would like to come down and see our range of ethically sourced and sustainable fabrics – get in touch.
We provide designers with a clear understanding of what they are buying, how it was made, and what the impact is.
We understand that being sustainable can be a challenge, but we want you to know that you are not alone. If you require any help choosing material for your next project, we are here to help, and we have a wealth of information at hand.
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