Are you looking to create an eco-friendly wardrobe? Knowing what the most sustainable fabrics are and which ones to avoid is a practical way to skim through hundreds of garments.
Let us tell you all about them before we lose our thread!
What are the most sustainable fabrics? And what does it actually mean?
As there are lots of seemingly-interchangeable terms, let’s start with a definition. The most sustainable fabrics are those with a positive or minimal environmental footprint when it comes to:
- extraction of the raw material
- production methods
- added chemicals
- end-of-life situation.
For example, most synthetic fabrics are the opposite of all four points: petroleum-derived, their production involves high carbon footprints and toxic pesticides, and they stick around in landfills for decades or even 200 years.
Here’s a spotlight on our favourite sustainable fabrics, but don’t forget that it’s also important to know how the materials were sourced and produced by that specific company.
Marijuana’s sober cousin results in durable, biodegradable fabrics that keep you warm during winter and fresh in summer. Its crops require less water than most, as well as zero or little agrochemicals. Another bonus? Its roots enrich the soil, making it even more fertile!
It’s made from the fibres of the flax, one strong and resilient little plant: it thrives in poor-quality conditions and requires little water and pesticides. Moth-resistant and stronger after each wash, linen is a durable organic fabric that’s perfect to be worn all-year-round. When it’s not dyed (avoid very white linen, as it’s probably been bleached), it’s also biodegradable.
Delightfully natural, biodegradable and vegan, commonly-grown cotton actually has a terrible environmental footprint because of its high water usage, toxic chemicals and soil degradation. Luckily, organic cotton is a more sustainable alternative that doesn’t involve any harmful agrochemicals and focuses on soil fertility (look for external certifications such as the GOTS trademark).
Rayon, Tencel, Lyocell and Modal
These fabrics are different branches of the same tree, and by ‘tree’ we mean... dissolved wood pulp or cotton linter. These moisture-absorbing, breathable materials are sustainable alternatives to traditionally-grown cotton and synthetic activewear: they require less energy and water, can be produced in closed-loop systems to minimise waste, and are usually biodegradable.
Would you ever have guessed that the most sustainable vegan alternative to leather comes from... pineapple leaves? Reducing waste, cruelty-free and organic, piñatex fibres are 100% biodegradable. Unfortunately, the resins used for their coating aren’t. However, considering that leather is one of the worst fabrics for the environment and that most vegan alternatives are entirely plastic-derived, Piñatex is still the coolest new kid on the block.
Breathable, durable and often biodegradable, bamboo is a fast-growing natural crop that doesn’t require lots of water nor pesticides. Too good to be true? Sometimes it is: some companies still decide to use pesticides and chemical-heavy processes. That’s why it’s important to check its origin and production methods!
Wool is a tricky one. Not a vegan fabric, it comes with the cons of animal farming such as deforestation and gas emissions. Because of bad practices like mulesing, it’s not even always cruelty-free. Organic wool, on the other hand, is ethically produced. Plus, wool is biodegradable, recyclable, durable and doesn’t require frequent washing, meaning that it saves energy and water in the long run.
Upcycled and recycled materials
While materials like traditionally-produced cotton and synthetic fabrics can be bad for the environment, recycling them prolongs their life and reduces waste, so it’s still a yes from us! Upcycling is recycling’s hip brother: using discarded materials, each garment will literally be one of a kind.
Now that you know what the most sustainable fabric are, let us help you even further: did you know that Project Cece lets you filter the best ethical garments by material and certificates? Looking for your new favourite fabric could be a great way to start building the sustainable wardrobe of your dreams!
- UK Ethical fashion brands that will change the world
- Is Cotton Bad for the Environment? The No-Fluff Truth!
Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical clothing from different webshops on one website. Take a look in our shopping section and find the clothing that fits your style, budget and values!