What are sustainable fabrics?

Sustainability is certainly coming to the forefront of the fashion industry and consumers are starting to take an interest into where their clothes are made and what they’re made of. The ‘what are my clothes made of’ was a big topic this year with Fashion Revolution Week. But what actually makes a sustainable fabric? Here we discuss the different types of sustainable fabrics, how they’re made and what makes them sustainable.


Sustainable fabrics usually originate from natural or recycled materials which aim to have a low impact on the environment, whether that’s through the production process or the actual fiber properties. A low environmental impact could be low water or energy needed during production, from renewable resources, no GMO or chemical controls used, biodegradable or made from waste.


Sustainable Fabrics Glossary


Organic Cotton


Perhaps one of the most natural fibers, organic cotton certainly gets the sustainability badge. Grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, it originates from non-genetically modified plants. This makes it not only better for the environment, but safer for the workers health as well, since no toxic chemicals are used in the process.

organic cotton plant - sustainable fabric

It also uses a lot less water during production. Now when we mean a lot we mean… to make a t-shirt from regular cotton it takes 2,168 gallons of water, but a t-shirt made from organic cotton uses just 186 gallons of water.


There are several certifications for organic cotton including: GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OCS (Organic Cotton Standard) and OEKO-TEX 100. This assures the customer that the cotton you’ve used is in fact organic cotton.


Linen


Linen is one of the world’s oldest fabrics. It’s a great natural and biodegradable fabric (when not dyed) that is made from flax plant fibers which is grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. The great thing about the flax plant is that all of it can be used (seeds, oil and crop) so there’s no waste at all!

linen - sustainable fabric

Linen comes in natural colours, including ecru, off-white, tan and grey. Often used for summer clothing it is light, breathable and thermo-regulating.


ECONYL


ECONYL is regenerated nylon made from recycled fish nets, plastic bottles and other discarded materials especially found in the ocean. It is 100% sustainable as it is made from pre and post-consumer waste which is repurposed into new products. Plus, it has the same features in terms of performance and qualities as virgin Nylon so it’s really a win-win! There’s less water, energy and fossil fuel consumption involved during the process.

fishing nets on beach - ECONYL

Find out more about the process of turning waste into wear by clicking here.


Recycled Polyester


Recycled polyester can also be known as rPET and is made from recycled single-use plastics, including plastic bags and bottles. Existing plastic is melted down and re-spun into a new polyester fiber. This prevents plastic being sent to landfill and provides a second life to materials that are not biodegradable.

single use plastic bottle on beach - recycled polyester

It has almost the same qualities as virgin polyester but requires 59% less energy during production. For example, 5 2l fizzy pop bottles can make enough fiber for an XL t-shirt.


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