Shopping mindfully begins with the understanding of our fabrics and selecting ones good for us and our planet.
Choosing an eco-friendly fabric is complex as there are pros & cons to all fibre types. Even then, fibre choice is only one part of a complex picture. Fibres still have to be spun, knitted or woven, dyed, finished, sewn, and transported – all of which have different environmental impacts. However, in general, you should be looking for organic fabrics where minimal chemicals are utilised in the production process.
In sourcing its raw materials, sustainable fashion brands will look for responsible farmers & mills for organic materials or choose biodegradable or recyclable materials where they are able to corroborate the reduced carbon footprint of production. For example, this may mean minimal pesticide use or sustainable irrigation techniques where water is collected from rains rather than depleting water resources. Or this could mean working with recycling companies or thrift stores to upcycle existing materials.
The manufacturing processes they employ will seek to prevent harmful by-products such as chemical runoff, water pollution, toxic off-gassing and deforestation. This can be done by prioritising organic materials’ sourcing, low-impact dyes, human and animal-friendly processes, closed loop systems, clean energy and the use of recycled materials.
See a list of some of the most commonly used fabrics and they're pro's & cons below:
- Keep in mind that fabrics may undergo various dying and finishing processes, for example polyester can only be dyed using harsh chemicals. Similarly, some highly sustainable fabrics go through heavy chemical processes in their final stages. I would recommend prioritising brands that are GOTS certified or utilize low impact dyes. Many processes depend on the supplier rather than just the specific type of fibre – factors such as energy consumption and processes vary from supplier to supplier as some may use solar, others may be handwoven or dependant on alternative power supplies.
- Opt for non blended fabrics as blended fabrics like 50% cotton & 50% polyester are not recyclable.