When it comes to clothing, I think that we are all aware buy now that synthetics like polyester and rayon are not good for our environment, and that we should opt to buy quality clothing made of quality and sustainable fabrics. But you might not really know what fabrics are best to look for. Here is my list of the most sustainable fabrics right now and why they are sustainable. (The fibers listed below are in no particular order).
This is probably a no brainer as to why recycled cotton is sustainable. Since cotton is one of the most frequent and abundantly used fabrics in the industry, there is an overabundance of it. Recycled cotton is made by taking both post-consumer and post-industrial cotton, making sure that we use what we have already produced and making it into new pieces. This is super important because cotton itself is very unsustainable with the amount of pesticides and water used to grow it every year. You should know also that there is a difference between conventional “cotton” and “organic cotton.” Just because the fiber itself is natural in origin does not make it sustainable.
Like recycled cotton, recycled wool diverts wool garments meant for landfill and recycles the fiber to be used in new garments. It helps eliminate the need for excess water waste and pollution.
Hemp is one of the more sustainable fibers to produce that is simply almost everywhere. Because the fiber itself is so versatile, hemp can be used for more than just clothing. Hemp can also be grown all over the world, making it accessible for almost anyone to produce and use in their products. Hemp in clothing is also known to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and is also known for getting softer the more you wash it. It also requires less water and pesticides than other fiber crops making it one of the more sustainable fibers on this list.
Linen comes from flax and has been created by man for centuries. One of the best parts of producing linen is the fact that every part of the flax part is used in the production process, so nothing is wasted. When linen is left untreated, it can fully biodegrade.
Tencel is a cellulose fiber that is being produced by a company in Austria, and is created by dissolving wood pulp and spinning it. The best part is that the company creating Tencel, Lenzig AG, is reusing the chemicals used to create the fiber with a closed loop system, meaning that none of the chemical gets wasted. Tencel has been compared to cotton in its qualities but requires less energy and water to produce.
Another fiber that is being made by a specific organization is Econyl. Econyl is made by an Italian firm named Aquafil, and takes waste such as fishing nets, plastics, and other waste fabric to create a synthetic nylon. Econyl has the same properties and qualities as nylon does, but is much more sustainable. However, as Econyl is made from plastic, it still has the potential to shed microplastics in the wash.
Piñatex is a sustainable leather option made from pineapple leaves of all things. Pineapple leaves are a huge by-product of pineapple farming, so Piñatex is a way to use up that waste. Since it is a by-product, that means that there is no need for extra production to meet the needs of producing the new product. Piñatex has been touted recently as one of the best synthetic leathers on the market, but sadly, is not biodegradable. However, Piñatex is said to age and wear like leather does, so it has the potential to last for many years in a well made garment or handbag.