These days, everybody is going green, and you can buy eco-friendly fabrics for everything from dresses to drapes. Which is awesome — we can’t wait to deck out our apartments while also staying friendly to the environment! Here’s our guide to the eco-friendly fabrics out there so you can choose the right one for you!
Why choose environmentally friendly fabrics?
Eco-friendly textiles vary greatly, but generally they use fewer chemicals and pesticides, rely on sustainable farming practices, involve more humane treatment of animals, (hopefully) follow fair trade requirements, and should come with a certification. Although creating any new product has environmental and social cost, eco-friendly choices are less destructive ones.
If you’re more convinced by numbers, The Eco-Market offers these compelling figures:
-22% of all insecticide use goes towards growing (non-organic) cotton
-You need 257 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one t-shirt
-That same t-shirt requires 1/3 of a pound of chemicals
-7 of the 15 most-used chemicals in conventional cotton production are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of known or suspected carcinogen.
Some “green” textiles:
-Organic cotton: Buying organic instead of convention cotton reducing a huge amount of pesticide use—good for your skin and also the environment. Take care to look for natural dyes and fair trade certification, however, or your t-shirt will still have a serious environmental footprint.
-Hemp: Although hemp can be grown without chemicals, it isn’t always, so take care when selecting this fabric. It generally uses fewer inputs even than bamboo, however—now we just have to wait for growing to be legal in the United States.
-Silk: Because it comes from silkworms, silk is one of the most natural fabrics available, although it generally is not vegan. Keep your silk “eco” by choosing naturally-dyed products.
-Bamboo: Bamboo, a renewable resource, grows very quickly and doesn’t need many chemical inputs. It can be woven into soft and comfortable fabrics.
-Lyocell/Tencel: Lyocell is the generic name and Tencel the brand name of a wood-derived fabric—make sure that the label certifies it as sustainable wood, however.
-Recycled Polyester: Regular polyester is hardly eco-friendly; it’s derived from petroleum. But recycled polyester is made from old polyester clothing or even from recycled plastic, and is a much greener choice.
-Organic wool or linen: Both natural fibers, but grown in ways that are less harmful to the environment.
…these are just a few! There are plenty more options out there if you care to look.
When washing eco-friendly fabrics…
Stay away from fabric softeners. They’re made specifically for synthetic fibers, and they adversely affect absorbency (that one was for the alliteration lovers out there). Always check the labels, as garment care might be different from what you’re used to.
Where to get these great fabrics? Plenty of stores, both on- and offline now offer them; here are a few.