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What Are The Most Eco-Friendly Textiles For Clothing

What Are The Most Eco-Friendly Textiles For Clothing


Eco-friendly fashion is much more than a trend. It's a revolution. The sustainable fashion movement is growing and one of the largest force driving changes in the textile and apparel industry today.

One of the best ways to be more sustainable with clothes is to choose eco-friendly fabrics. Most textiles used in the fashion industry are wasteful and polluting.

Fashion is the second-largest polluting industry globally. It produces high amounts of textile waste, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions. It also consumes lots of natural resources, water, and energy.

Textiles made from animal-derived products or byproducts are cruel and unethical. Fur, leather, down, wool, and silk encourage the exploitation of animals for profits. Let's avoid them as they aren't required to make beautiful and functional clothing.

Luckily, some textiles used in fashion are more ethical and environmentally friendly than others. As consumers, we have the option to reduce the impact of our wardrobe with eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics.

Here is a short guide to some of the most eco-friendly textiles used for clothing.




Cotton

cotton

Organic cotton and recycled cotton are a great option for eco-friendly clothing. They are much better than conventional cotton. Organic cotton also includes Fair Trade organic and CmiA organic cotton.


Fabrics qualities:

  • Soft
  • Breathable
  • Strong
  • Clean


Environmental impact:

  • Bio-based
  • Biodegradable
  • Recyclable
  • Lower air pollution
  • Low impact on ecosystems
  • Natural pesticides and fertilizers


Drawbacks:

  • More land, water, and energy used
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Labor intensive and time-consuming
  • Lower yield
  • Expensive


Read more...





Linen

linen

Organic linen is made from flax plants grown organically. It's a very luxurious and sustainable fabric. But it's rare and expensive, a great choice for high-end garments.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Luxurious
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Versatile
  • Breathable
  • Absorbent
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Quick-drying


Environmental impact:

  • Natural and bio-based
  • Biodegradable
  • Recyclable
  • Low water footprint
  • Natural fertilizers and pesticides
  • No threat to wildlife


Drawbacks:

  • Poor elasticity
  • Costly manufacturing
  • Very expensive


Read more...





Jute

jute dress


Organic jute is a very sustainable material, a great eco-friendly alternative. It's also the longest and one of the cheapest natural fibers. It's the most widely used natural material after cotton for various applications.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Affordable
  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight


Environmental impact:

  • Natural and plant-based
  • Biodegradable and compostable
  • No waste
  • Soil fertilizing


Drawbacks:

  • Rough and harsh on the skin


Read more...




Hemp

hemp

Organic hemp is made from hemp plants. It's one of the most eco-friendly textiles but has a bad reputation since it's often mistaken for cannabis. The stigma around hemp should be lifted to make it more popular.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Anti-bacterial


Environmental impact:

  • Natural and bio-based
  • Biodegradable
  • Recyclable
  • Low water footprint
  • Carbon dioxide absorbent
  • Contaminant removing


Drawbacks:

  • Low availability
  • Bad reputation
  • Poor elasticity


Read more...




Ramie

ramie

Ramie is made from natural fibers extracted from the ramie plant. It's a strong and very versatile fabric used to create lots of fashion items such as dresses, sweaters, blouses, jeans, jackets, or sportswear.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Strong
  • Quick-drying
  • Anti-bacterial


Environmental impact:

  • Natural and plant-based
  • Biodegradable
  • Recyclable


Drawbacks:

  • Low flexibility
  • Rare
  • Costly cultivation
  • Expensive


Read more...




Lyocell

lyocell

Lyocell is a man-made cellulosic fiber, similar to viscose-rayon, acetate, and modal. It's primarily made from cellulose-based resources such as wood. It's a semi-synthetic fabric and a great alternative to petroleum-based textiles.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Soft
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Moisture-wicking


Environmental impact:


Drawbacks:

  • Complex production
  • Chemical-intensive
  • Water and energy-consuming


Read more...




Cupro

cupro

Cupro or cuprammonium rayon is considered semi-synthetic and made from regenerated cellulose. The largest producer of cupro fibers is a Japanese company making textiles from post-industrial cotton waste.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Cheap substitute
  • Soft
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Moisture absorbent


Environmental impact:

  • Bio-based
  • Water, waste, and chemicals recovery with closed-loop processes


Drawbacks:

  • Hazardous production
  • Energy, water, and chemical-intensive


Read more...




Polyester

polyester

Recycled polyester is a synthetic fabric and a much better option than virgin polyester. It's manufactured from PET bottles, industrial polyester waste, or used garments.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Cheap
  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Water-repellant
  • Quick-drying


Environmental impact:

  • Low water footprint
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Low carbon emissions


Drawbacks:

  • Microfiber and plastic pollution
  • Chemical-intensive


Read more...




Nylon

nylon swimsuit pin

Recycled nylon or polyamide is a synthetic fiber often used in the fabrication of sportswear and swimwear. It's manufactured from post-consumer and post-industrial wastes, such as fabric scraps, carpet flooring, fishing nets, and industrial plastics from landfills and oceans.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Soft
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Quick-drying


Environmental impact:

  • Low water and carbon footprint
  • Waste-saving


Drawbacks:

  • Difficult to recycle
  • Chemical-intensive


Read more...




Bioplastics

Bioplastics, also known as bio-based plastics, biopolymers, or bio-synthetics are bio-based manufactured fibers made from biological sources such as sugar cane, seaweed, starch, or agricultural wastes.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Lightweight


Environmental impact:

  • Low water footprint
  • Bio-based


Drawbacks:

  • In development
  • Not recyclable
  • Chemical-intensive


Read more...




Elastane

Recycled elastane is a synthetic fiber made from post-industrial spandex or elastane waste, a by-product of the fabric manufacturing process.

Fabrics qualities:

  • Highly elastic
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight


Environmental impact:

  • Low water footprint


Drawbacks:

  • Difficult to recycle
  • Chemical-intensive


Read more...

About the Author: Alex Assoune

Alex Assoune Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.

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