SUSTAINABLE FABRICS IN TEXTILE
When you choose to walk a healthy and eco-friendly path, it might feel as if you entered a deep forest. On one hand, as one Lithuanian saying goes, “the deeper into the forest, the more trees”, on the other hand, the deeper into the forest, the brighter, the more melodic, the more beautiful it starts to seem. The deeper into the forest, the more familiar and kind the animals that live there and the plants that grow there become.
This analogy with a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle is not that far-fetched. The first step is often what we’re most discouraged by – after all, the things we doubt about and the things we’re not familiar with often makes us scared. We often start with the most obvious step – our diet – thinking that’s going to be the only thing we need and want to change. However, after we explore the joys of a healthy diet (discovering the foods we’ve never even heard about before and just couldn’t live without now), our focus turns to our makeup bags and bathroom cabinets. Then we probably move on to the remaining areas of our lives and only at the very end we might cast a critical eye over the clothes we’re wearing.
Well, it’s probably not surprising. Eco-friendly clothes seem to be more difficult to get, nobody talks about them that much, their influence on our health is a lot less noticeable, and, overall, we buy clothes a lot more rarely than, for instance, food. There are many reasons why eco-friendly clothing doesn’t reach our focus of attention, but the main one is probably the fact that by choosing what to wear we are extremely dependent on others. You might be able to grow a vegetable or enjoy the organic harvest of our friends, parents, and grandparents; you also might be able to beat some toothpaste or a shampoo out of natural remedies. However, the chances that you may be able to make your own garment, from sowing the seeds to weaving the fibre to sewing the piece of clothing, are pretty slim.
Yes, we are especially dependent on the other parts of the garment industry chains. But still, we are the ones making the decisions that can change a lot. By choosing what to wear we don’t only show that we’re concerned about our own health, but also start actively caring about our impact on the environment. The first step is taking an interest and doing your research. In this column, we write about the fabrics that the clothes and accessories offered in our shop are made of and how these materials are influencing our health and our global environment.
We have to notice that it’s inadvisable to categorize all the possible materials into strictly eco-friendly and strictly non-eco-friendly. To be more specific, eco-friendliness, as a concept, should be considered as a sort of scale. This scale should advice where the chosen garment falls into between the two mentioned theoretical extremes, taking into account how the materials that it’s made of influence the health of the wearer and the producer, the well-being of the animals, nature and whether they’re renewable or not. This suggests that, for example, organic cotton is more environmentally friendly than the regular one, grown with pesticides, organic cotton is less eco-friendly than hemp, and faux leather will always be less harmful to the environment than the production of real leather.
There’s no fabric in this world that’s 100% eco-friendly. That is because to make the fabric out of even the most undemanding plant, you’d still need to use water, fertilizers, electricity, and other natural resources, the usage of which always makes an impact on nature. By this logic, so far the most sustainable materials are those that are recycled and upcycled, as no new materials are being produced or otherwise sourced from within our planet. Having all this in mind, globally-intended ambition formulates itself: with each and every new purchase use and discard as little as possible.
OUR ECO FABRICS
- Grown from non-GMO seeds, without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, this way protecting nature, animals, and the people working in the fields from harmful chemicals, also keeping the soil heathy and suitable for cultivating other crops.
- Cotton plantations take up around 3% of the cultivated soil in the world, but it uses up to even 16% of the insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and other soil, air, and water polluting chemicals used in the worldwide.
- Transitioning to the organic cotton cultivation would have an extremely positive impact to the natural ecosystem in the whole world.
- The way cotton is grown requires an enormous amount of water. Because organic cotton is grown in rotation, after a few cycles the soil cleans itself from the previously used pesticides and other chemicals, making it able to save minerals and water, necessary for the cotton plants, more effectively. After the soil reaches this stage, the water consumption by the cotton plants is often reduced, in comparison to the consumption of the non-organic cotton plants.
- Clothes and other textiles made of cotton, which was grown without using any chemicals, do not irritate the skin, they are softer and smoother.
- One of the fastest growing plant in the world (it can grow from 3 to 91 cm in 24 hours!) that can grow up to 35 metres and reach their maturity in only 3-5 years.
- The fastest growing woody plant in the world. Because it is a member of a grass family, bamboo renews itself after the harvest omitting the need to plant new bamboos.
- It is estimated that there are more than 1600 kinds of bamboo, growing in various climatic conditions, from cold mountainous regions to the tropics. Bamboo is naturally spread in Asia, South and North Americas.
- From the olden days, bamboo has been used to make everyday items, such as dishes, interior details, furniture, paper. It’s also widely appreciated as a great material for construction works. In textile, it’s usually Moso, a kind of bamboo that grows in China and Taiwan, that is being used.
- Bamboo forests are usually very dense, therefore they take up relatively little space on earth. Also, the soil that bamboo plants are grown in absorbs more carbon dioxide and emit up to 30% more oxygen than any other trees in the same amount of surface.
- Bamboo requires little care and water.
- Because of its antibacterial properties, bamboo can be easily cultivated without any pesticides and other chemicals.
- Bamboo doesn’t require rich soil. It easily takes in the worked-out land and cleans it from toxins.
BAMBOO RAYON FABRICS
- Helps regulate your body temperature, absorbs sweat and effectively evaporates it.
- Has antibacterial properties, therefore its fabrics protect you from sweat odour.
- Naturally soft; has a silky shine.
- Gives an additional protection against UV rays.
- After disposal, bamboo rayon textiles are easily decomposed by microorganisms and the Sun.
- Hemp is one of the fastest growing and thriving plant in a grass family, reaching its maturity in up to 100 days since its planting.
- Cannabis Sativa is a truly versatile plant since all of its parts (core, fibre, seeds, and blossoms) are used for various commercial purposes: food, cosmetics, as a construction material, paper, medicine, and, of course, textile.
- Hemp is one of the oldest plants used in everyday life since Ancient Egypt up until now. This wild plant was started to be cultivated in 16th century BC in China.
- Hemp cultivation does not require pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and requires only a little amount of water.
- Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibres – hemp fabrics are long-lasting.
- Hemp fabrics become softer and softer after each wearing, although it stays just as durable.
- Hemp fabrics give an additional protection against harmful UV rays. If the garment is made of 100% hemp, the number of UV rays that reach the skin is only 5%.
- Hemp fabrics “breathe,” keeping your body at the optimal temperature, no matter the season.
- Hemp fabrics are not that stretchy, which helps to keep their forms stable.
- Textile dyes are very well absorbed by hemp fabrics, they almost don’t fade at all.
- Stains are easier to wash out from the clothes made of hemp, and, after each washing, the clothes become softer, more durable, and shinier.
- Thanks to its antibacterial properties, hemp fabrics are used in medicine, proving how suitable this fibre is for allergic people and those with sensitive skin. Hemp’s antibacterial properties also protect the wearer from sweat odour.
- Hemp fibre is resistant to mould, salty water, and is less flammable.
- Hemp fabrics can absorb water and sweat, the amount of which can reach up to 20% of the fabric’s weight. Such fabrics also evaporate the water and sweat quickly and effectively.
- Hemp garments are biodegradable and are good for recycling.
HEMP CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES IN OUR E-SHOP >
FABRICS FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS
And yet the most eco-friendly materials used in textile must be the recycled ones. In this case, they don’t need to grow any plant cultures, therefore no water, fertilizers, and soil are used, saving energy, natural resources and work force. Also, the second usage of synthetic and natural materials lessens the amount of trash that is being discarded, and that means a lesser pollution of air, the waters, earth, and less harm to animals. Also, the second usage of synthetic and natural materials lessens the amount of trash that is being dumped, and that means a lesser pollution of the air, the waters, the earth, and less harm to animals.
The materials that are usually recycled:
- old textiles (while we witness a global cultivation of fast fashion when lots and lots of cheap and low-quality clothes are being made and purchased, the number of textiles in the landfills are growing menacingly),
- PET plastic (usually water and juice bottles),
- fishing nets.
It’s a synthetic fabric, extensively used in textile industry. Made of oil and its products (polyesters include naturally occurring chemicals as well as synthetics), such as recycled PET bottles. Polyester textiles are durable and have a soft texture, they almost don’t wrinkle, they don’t absorb liquids, making them easier to dry. They are usually mixed with natural fabrics.
VISCOSE OR ART SILK
Viscose (also called viscose rayon, art silk, or artificial silk) is a semi-natural fibre, made from regenerated cellulose. It has smooth, soft texture, its textiles are durable and almost don’t wrinkle.
It’s a natural, eco-friendly, and biodegradable fibre, made from pulp cellulose. It easily absorbs textile dyes, keeping the colours vivid for a long time. It has antibacterial qualities and lets the skin breath, which makes it suitable for allergic people and those with sensitive skin. Its textiles are soft, light, it nicely drapes and almost doesn’t wrinkle. The variety of textiles made from Tencel ranges from fabrics similar to suede to the soft ones similar to silk.
LYCRA, SPANDEX or ELASTANE
It’s a synthetic fibre, durable and exceptionally elastic. Elastane fabric can stretch up to 5 times and then come back to its original form intact. It dries very quickly too. When making garments, elastane is usually mixed with cotton or polyester.
It’s a synthetic fibre, durable like silk, most often used in making leisure, sports apparel. It often resembles cotton or wool. Even though it’s very soft and light, acrylic fabrics are quite resistant it also easily absorbs and evaporates humidity. Acrylic fibre is found in sport and leisure apparel, also in winter accessories, such as scarves, wraps, knitted hats, warm socks, and mittens.
VEGAN LEATHER, ARTIFICIAL / FAUX LEATHER, or ECO LEATHER
In order to make real leather garments, not only animals lives are sacrifices, but also the safety and health of the workers and nature itself is compromised by the gas emissions of the animals grown for leather and meat and the harsh chemicals used in the process of leather making. Leather tanning process, when the skins and hides of animals are treated to produce leather, is infamous for its harsh chemical usage that inevitably and heavily pollutes the air, the waters, and the soil. They also pose a real threat to the health of leather workers and those living around the leather manufactures. The most common health problems, related to the leather production, are asthma, eyesight and skin problems, respiratory system illnesses, and many others.
Faux leather is usually made of synthetic fibers – oil products. The most common material used is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but, unfortunately, it is not an environmentally friendly alternative. Artificial leather made of polyurethane is found more and more often. Garments made of this polymer require less harmful processing and its final products are soften and more flexible.
vegan leather can also be made of natural fibers (such as cork, mushrooms, pineapple, banana peals, and others) or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers.
In any case, the process of artificial leather making will always be less harmful to the environment, the people, and, obviously, the animals than the production of real leather. However, the less harmful alternatives you choose, the better.