It can be difficult trying to decide which clothing is best to buy. What materials should you look for? Are the materials made from eco-friendly, sustainable material? Where are they sourced from? Are they ethically produced? Following on from our article about buying eco-friendly fashion I thought you might like a list of the best materials to look for, as you wonder through fashion shops. If you haven’t read that article, click here BEING AN ECO CONSCIOUS DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP BEING A FASHIONISTA.
Although I have pulled a list together, there are many more fabrics that could be added to this list, but I am giving you a list of what I think are easy to obtain and have a good track record of being long lasting and reliable.
Bamboo - Bamboo is totally sustainable. Fast growing as it can be harvested every three years. Bamboo doesn’t require re-planting as it continually puts up new sprouts. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial, so it doesn’t require pesticides or fertilizers during growth, unlike cotton which needs both. Bamboo releases 35% more oxygen into the air than trees The fabric feels so soft and luxurious on the skin, perfect for sensitive skins or those with skin problems. Bamboo is warm in winter, cool in summer. Bamboo is great at absorbing moisture.
Banana Fibre (Abaca) – For centuries the banana fibre has been used by Asian countries to make rugs, interior textiles, tablecloths, curtains and kimonos. Long fibres are extracted from the stalks of the banana plant by hand, then processed and spun into yarn and eventually into fabric.
Coir (Coconut Fibre) - You have probably already seen this fabric in the form of floor mats, brushes, baskets, bags and weaved decorations. Coir comes from the husk of a coconut, and is a sturdy material, most often found as furniture filling.
Cotton, Organic – Non-organic cotton uses many chemicals during growth and production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of any fertilizers, pesticides and harmful chemicals to the land. Organic cotton tries to keep its impact on the environment to a minimum, but please take note that cotton needs huge quantities of water to grow; it takes 1500 litres (400 gallons) to grow enough cotton to make one t-shirt!
Cotton, naturally coloured – this is something I learned recently, that cotton was not always white. In fact, cotton comes in a variety of colours, but because it was much cheaper to produce a fabric that was uniformly white, only the white cotton was used as a raw source for mass-producing cloth and fabric items. Then they add the harmful dyes to colour the fabric. Naturally coloured cotton is getting a revival as it reduces environmental impacts and the need to use harmful dyes. As naturally coloured cotton is already coloured, the colour of the fabrics made from naturally coloured cotton doesn’t fade compared to synthetically dyed cotton fabrics.
Hemp – is also a sustainable crop. It doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides as it is resistant to most pests and diseases. Also, it requires little water to grow. Hemp is a very versatile plant because the seeds are processed for oil and food, while the fibrous plant is used to make fabric, which is very durable and strong (hemp fibre is approximately 8 times the tensile strength and 4 times the durability of cotton).
Linen - is made from flax, another traditional fibre crop which needs few chemical fertilisers, and less pesticide than cotton. Very absorbent and found to be cool and fresh in hot weather.
Mohair - this is made from the hair of the Angora goat, known for its glossy and soft coat. The fibre is very durable and has excellent insulating properties. Mohair can be dyed and is often blended with other fibres, to add strength and warmth.
Ramie - this fabric comes from a flowering plant that is highly sustainable and eco-friendly. The fibre is very strong and durable (8 times stronger than cotton and even stronger when wet). Ramie is naturally resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew, therefore it doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides during growth.
Recycled polyester - recycled drinks bottles are used to make some outdoor fleece products hi-tech fleece jackets and outdoor gear. One concern that has arisen lately is that recycled polyester maybe leaching micro particles through washing, just like the plastic microbeads in cosmetics. Avoid PVC, laminates and polyurethane – not environmentally friendly.
Soya bean cashmere/silk – Produced from a by-product of food manufacturing of the soya bean. The soya protein fibre is made into the fibres to produce the cashmere. Be aware that the soya beans used may be genetically engineered unless noted on the label. It is wise to check its credentials as if not organic, chemicals will be used in the processing.
Vegan Leather – materials such as paper, wood, cork, kelp and waxed cotton, can be used to create 'leather look' fabrics that are completely natural. As no animals are involved, production and slaughter of animals is avoided, including the toxic and energy intensive processes associated with conventional leather production. Pinatex is a vegan leather made entirely out of pineapple leaves. Be aware if the leather is not made from these materials, it most likely made from a chemical process or a petroleum based product which is toxic to the people producing it, to you and the earth.
Wool (Alpaca) - Alpaca wool is made from the fleece of the South American alpaca. Alpacas require no pesticides or antibiotic treatment when raised for wool. The wool with is softer and silkier than sheep's wool and also hypoallergenic. This durable fleece is naturally organic.
Wool (Merino) – Look for organic Merino wool grown using sustainable farming methods. Merino wool is a sustainable, renewable and biodegradable fibre that holds up to 30% of its weight in water before feeling wet. This makes it excellent for use in outdoor clothing and for humid weather. Look for sustainable fashion that ensures the wool is sourced from non-mulesed farms.
Silk (Spider Silk) – the fibre used to make silk come from golden orb spiders. The production of spider silk is completely environmentally friendly and the silk is completely biodegradable. If the production of spider silk ever becomes industrially viable, it would be a vast improvement on the petroleum based equivalent Kevlar. Scientists are developing methods to replicate spider silk, like Qmonos, a fabric developed by fusing of spider silk genes and microbes in Japan.
New materials are being developed all the time and as we learn more about them, I will add them to the list.
Hope this helps you with your decisions when you are shopping for clothes.
Attracta & the earthly passion team