Cotton on pink background

Your guide to sustainable textiles

With clothing being responsible for an estimated 3-6.7% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, it’s important to know which textiles have the lowest impact. But when it comes to fabrics, there are so many labels being thrown around that it can be hard to know what’s green and what’s greenwashing. Of course, the most sustainable clothing is what you already own or can find secondhand! But if you do need to buy a new item, keep reading to learn about the more environmentally conscious fabrics on the market and where you can find them. 

Natural textiles

Clothing made out of 100% natural textiles are a great choice because they are biodegradable and don’t leach microplastics into our water. Here are some of the best natural textiles:

Recycled or organic cotton

Recycled cotton is arguably the most sustainable clothing material. Although it can take up to 1800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans, we already have millions of tons of cotton in existence. Recycling cotton creates a closed loop. 

An alternative to conventional cotton is organic cotton. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment and agricultural workers. 

Where you can get it: 

Threads 4 Thought – A full lifestyle brand creating everyday basics and workout wear that are produced responsibly.

Hope for Flowers – Hope for Flowers is conceived around the idea that when we know better, we do better. The collection is designed and produced following the 3 guiding principles of sustainability: the health of people, planet, and equity in profit.

Toad&Co – a company using recycled cotton and other more sustainable fibers to make socially and environmentally committed garments.

Organic hemp

Easy to grow almost anywhere in the world, this plant also fertilizes the soil around itself, replenishing the ground in which it grows. The plant itself is resilient and requires little water. Strong, naturally insulating and cooling, and protective from UV rays, it’s a great fabric for any occasion. Hemp is considered sustainable – as long as it is manufactured organically, without added chemicals.

Where you can get it: 

Nomads – A pioneer in hemp fashion, they’ve been making durable, comfortable, and stylish clothing for the past 20 years.

Rawganique – Founded by off-grid island homesteaders in 1997, they make their organic cotton, linen & hemp products from start to finish in the USA & EU for the ultimate sweatshop-free & plastic-free lifestyle.

Organic linen

Organic linen is made from the flax plant. It’s highly versatile and easy to grow even in poor quality soil. Like hemp, it requires little water and little-to-no pesticides and it is completely biodegradable when left undyed! Since all of the plant can be used, no waste is produced from the farming process. Strong, durable, and lightweight, linen is another fantastic material.

Where you can get it: 

Everlane – A company committed to radical transparency and using the best factories to make clothing that lasts. 

Míe – A conscious lifestyle brand focused on resort wear made out of natural, biodegradable material that is elegant and functional. All their clothes are locally made by seamstresses and artisans in Lagos, Nigeria, where they are based. 

Innovative textiles

Natural fabrics may be considered more sustainable textiles by some measures, but we’ve come to rely on fabrics like polyester and spandex. Fortunately, innovative materials are continuously popping up and offering alternatives. 

Tencel

Tencel is an award-winning fabric that uses wood pulp to create fibres. One benefit is that the production of Tencel uses only one-third of the water that is needed to produce rayon. It’s soft, breathable, and absorbent to boot, but it does tend to be on the expensive side.

Where you can get it: 

Reformation – This company makes effortless silhouettes, focusing on people and progress each step of the way. 

Thought – A brand that creates classic shirts and dresses from more sustainable fabrics.

Piñatex

Piñatex is a leather alternative made from pineapple leaves that would have otherwise been thrown away by farmers. It requires no additional raw materials for production and uses only non-toxic chemicals that are then reused through a closed-loop system. With Piñatex, you can look and feel good knowing the material has a low environmental impact. The downside is that  Piñatex is not biodegradable because the final product contains some petroleum. Also, if demand for this fabric rises too quickly, it could result in deforestation.

Ceibo – Ceibo is a small, independent vegan brand created by Maria Caden in Houston, Texas. All products are designed and hand made by Maria at her home studio in Houston. She spends several hours designing, cutting, sewing and assembling each Ceibo item.

Votch – A cruelty free watch company that’s based in the UK. Every three months they partner with a different charity to donate 10% of their profits to.

Econyl

Econyl is a nylon alternative made from waste like industrial plastic, old fabrics, and fishing nets. Since it uses plastic already in circulation, no new resources are used. Nylon receives a lot of scrutiny because it is a crude oil by-product; Econylon could be the solution. However, since this material is made from plastic, small particles may be released when a clothing item is washed. 

PrAna – PrAna creates clothing for positive change that inspires new generations to thrive and stay active. Their company is Fairtrade certified and their whole supply chain meets Fairtrade Labour Association standards. 

Arrow + Phoenix – Arrow + Phoenix offers sustainable swimwear made in the U.S. They focus on diversity and size inclusivity, with bra cups ranging from A-H. Once you’ve given their swimwear all of the love they can withstand, you can ship them back to be properly recycled for 30% off your next order. 

Don’t miss our merchandise sale!

We hope this guide has helped to demystify sustainable textiles! There are thankfully a growing number of places to buy these materials, one of which is our spring 2021 merchandise sale! Don’t miss this opportunity to get yourself a tote bag made out of 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton! The online sale for our new line of merchandise is only open till March 29th, 2021. Our merchandise is made in Canada and designed and decorated in Alberta, so you’re supporting your local economy and helping fuel Plastic-Free YYC with every purchase.

Image of tote bags and toques

Published by

sunskywater

sunskywater muses about relationships between people and the environment.