There’s a lot to know when it comes to making environmentally friendly wardrobe choices, especially when it comes to fabric.
One of my goals this year has been to learn more about the eco impact of my clothing. This not only includes the brands I buy from (and the amount of clothing I purchase) but the fabric that makes up the clothing I buy, too. Compiling research on the eco impact of fabric has taught me a lot, and I hope it helps you understand and select sustainable options, as well!
Working towards sustainability is a long process, and it won’t be perfect. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself a pat on the back for taking the steps to make environmentally friendly choices!
a beginner’s guide on the eco impact of fabric
what makes a fabric bad for the environment?
There are a number of factors that can make a fabric bad for the environment, such as: water usage; clearing of forests; use of pesticides and chemicals; use of dyes and bleaches; synthetic fabric manufacturing, and; micro-plastic fibres released from clothing during washing.
In order to produce clothing quickly, fast fashion brands use cheap synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and rayon. So not only is there waste from the sheer amount of clothing being produced by fast fashion, but the fabrics used are generally not the most sustainable options either.
sustainable fabric options
It’s important to remember that there are pros and cons to every fabric. However, the fabrics listed below are much gentler on the environment than the fabrics listed above. There are also more sustainable fabrics out there, but I haven’t included them for the sake of the length of this post, haha!
Made of flax, linen is breathable and fully biodegradable when it’s not dyed/treated. Flax is wonderful for the environment as nothing is wasted in production, it uses little water, and can grow in less than ideal conditions.
As a fabric, linen is excellent in hot climates which makes it a comfortable and sustainable summer wardrobe option. For extra sustainability points, look for organic cotton which is made from organically grown flax (no pesticides!)
Hemp grows quickly (it’s technically a weed) and needs much less water and pesticide to grow compared to other fibres. It also makes the soil it grows in richer by removing metals.
In terms of clothing, hemp is breathable and biodegradable like linen, and hemp pieces will last long due to the strength and durability of the fibre.
Econyl is a fascinating fabric – it’s created by recycling plastic waste and regenerating it into a new, high-quality fabric. This process is low on water and waste, making it a great eco option!
However, since econyl is made from plastic waste, it still releases micro-plastics into the environment. You can use a washing bag that catches micro-plastics to reduce the environmental impact.
things to consider when buying clothing
Like I said earlier in this post, every step we take towards sustainability is impactful. Do you need to only buy environmentally-kind fabrics to be sustainable? Nope! There are many ways to introduce sustainability into your wardrobe, like buying less overall or buying pieces that you will love to wear for a long time.
If you have the choice of buying an item of clothing that’s made of a low-impact fabric, it’s a great way to practice sustainability in your wardrobe. I have barely scratched the surface with the fabrics I mentioned here (bamboo and modal are great when produced in the right hands) – it’s great to see sustainable fabrics becoming more mainstream!
What’s your favourite sustainable fabric to wear?