Hey all you conscious consumers out there. We know you’re committed to making the world a better place and we salute you for your contributions! Perhaps you’ve been talking the talk but now it’s time to walk the walk… and make it fashion. Want to know how to be a conscious consumer and do it in style? Sustainable textiles are the answer.
Manufacturing clothes with sustainable textiles, aka the fabric of the future, prioritizes longevity, durability, and environmentally friendly processes to make the clothes we wear day in and day out. There are several different types of sustainable textiles out there. Natural fibers like organic cotton and wool are good, but there are also technologically advanced blends like Lenzing Tencel™that take sustainability to a whole new level. Here at IMBODHI, we’re all about sustainable comfort clothes. We want both your body and the planet to like the garments you wear. But what exactly are sustainable textiles and why are sustainable textiles important? We’ll unbutton all of that and more below.
What are Sustainable Textiles?
The simplest definition for sustainable textiles are that they are fabrics that come from eco-friendly resources like natural fibers and recycled materials. Natural fibers include organic cotton, wool, silk, and bamboo whereas synthetic fibers may be polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Then there are blended fabrics like Tencel and Pinatex that use fiber technology to produce sustainable textiles.
Manufacturing sustainable textiles consumes less energy, water, and natural resources to help reduce negative impacts on the environment. Eco-friendly practices also mean reducing the use of pesticides that go into harvesting the materials for sustainable textings.
Why Sustainable Textiles Matter?
Fast fashion has earned itself a negative reputation for being the culprit of excessive textile waste. In 2017 alone, Americans created over 16 MILLION tons of textile waste, 11 million of which ended up in landfills instead of being recycled or reused. With synthetic fibers like polyester, lycra, and nylon taking 30-40 years to fully break down, it’s no wonder we have a sustainability issue.
Those are staggering numbers, as are statistics of water and energy consumption to make simple things like a commercially manufactured cotton shirt. From growing the crops to manufacturing to transporting, washing, and beyond, it can take over 700 gallons of water to make just a single t-shirt! The good news is that our generation and those that follow seem to understand the gravity of the situation. 60% of millennials say they want to shop more sustainably in an effort to reduce waste and preserve our planet. So how do we do it? By shopping sustainably and wearing sustainable textiles.
What are the Most Sustainable Textiles?
Now that you’re onboard the sustainability train, it’s time to give you a crash course on the most sustainable fabrics around so you can start wearing them! Sustainable textiles come in a few different forms. For our purposes here, we’ll break them down into natural fibers (aka the classics) and the innovative bunch (aka the fabric of the future).
Natural Fibers: The Classics
At the top of the list of naturally occurring sustainable textiles is recycled cotton. Conventional cotton is one of the most commonly used fabrics in the world because it is lightweight and breathable, but growing it does not do our environment any favors. Growing conventional cotton requires a lot of water and uses chemical-intensive crops with pesticides that have negative impacts on farms and the planet. Organic cotton is a more sustainable alternative to conventional cotton because it uses fewer pesticides and chemicals in production, which helps minimize the environmental impact of production. Still, the most sustainable form of cotton is the recycled form because it uses post-consumer waste.
Grown all over the world, organic hemp requires very little water, uses no pesticides, and naturally fertilizes the soil in which it grows. This makes it one of the most eco-friendly fabrics around. The caveat with hemp clothing is that it is an acquired taste, so it may not be everyone’s cup of (herbal) tea.
Derived from the flax plant, organic linen also requires minimal water and grows well without pesticides. Another benefit of organic linen is that it can grow in poor-quality soil. Plus, clothes made from linen use every part of the plant; that means ZERO waste! Organic linen is also fully biodegradable, making it one of the most environmentally responsible natural fiber textiles clothing manufacturers can use.
Textile Innovations: The Fabrics of the Future
Tencel takes top billing for the fabric of the future. This light cellulose is made by
This vegan leather alternative is a futuristic material made from pineapple leaf fiber. It’s technically the food you can wear, although we wouldn’t suggest biting into it. As a cruelty-free alternative to leather, this food by-product reduces waste and helps farming communities that grow the fruit. We call this a win-win!
Italian firm Aquafil uses synthetic waste like industrial plastic, waste fabric, and fishing nets from the ocean to make Econyl. The fabric operates like imitation nylon but because of its closed-loop process, it uses significantly less water and creates less waste than what would be needed to make traditional nylon.
While not a sustainable fabric in and of itself, deadstock or repurposed fabrics are verified vintage or excess fabric from other warehouses and designers. The fabrics may be synthetic, but using them diverts the materials from landfills to help turn what could have been waste into fashion. IMBODHI plans to roll out our “deadstock” line of clothing in the coming weeks.
Ready to test out sustainable textiles for yourself? We recommend jumping right in with a yoga bodysuit. Happy (sustainable) shopping!