Thinking about our options when it comes to fabric, we have many. When determining which fabrics to buy either for sewing purposes or when shopping for clothing we may tend to veer towards clothing that lends itself to working during multiple seasons. Other factors we may include are, cost, thickness, breathability, the print, or how well it will drape.
Only in the past several years have more and more people began to understand that the fabrics we choose affect the environment as well as ourselves. Where polyester used to be the go to fabric for longevity and warmth, people are now understanding the chemical nature and dangers to health that accompany it. Itching, rashes, sicknesses and cancers have been linked to the chemical properties directly associated with polyester and other synthetic fibers. Cotton, while being a great source for a natural fiber, has a hard pull on the environment requiring a lot of water and maintenance for its production.
Choosing sustainable fibers for those who sew or consumers when choosing the fabrics of their clothing can be tedious as it may involve lifestyle changes or financial adjustments but the change is so worth it for personal health and for the environmental footprint we individually leave behind.
How to Choose Wisely
Naturally, when making a better environmental or healthier decision, there is some cost involve. However the cost is always worth the benefit of your health and the environmental footprint you leave behind. Planning out the fabrics you are determined to purchase beforehand can help prevent you from buying fabrics that do not fit your goals or specific standards. Additionally, research may need to be done on the actual sustainable nature of these fabrics to determine individually if any fiber choice is the best for you. So what switches can we begin to make in our buying habits to lend towards a more sustainable wardrobe? The list below details some replacements you can make.
Instead of Rayon Choose Tencel & Ecovero Viscose
Though rayon/viscose and bamboo fabrics are created from wood pulp, the amount of chemicals used as well as the over production of of forests and nature preserves makes this fabric more unsustainable than sustainable. Energy consuming fibers can have dangerous effects, especially when they are associated with toxic and harmful chemicals.
LENZING produces tencel and Ecovero viscose fibers that “are derived from sustainable wood sources harvested in certified sustainable forests.” This means that the production of these fabrics is controlled leading to less overproduction of forests and nature preserves. They also limit the amount of chemicals and toxins used in production. You’ll also find that tencel and Ecovero viscose have a better quality feel and drape, and also last longer with proper care.
Instead of Cotton Choose Linen or Organic Cotton
Water intensive and soil depleting cotton is made with many pesticides and chemicals to better its maintenance and harvesting. Naturally, this makes it lean more towards the non-sustainable side. Linen is a more beneficial fabric choice as it requires less water and energy to produce. Most of its energy uses come with lack of knowledge by consumers on how to care for it so here are some quick tips:
- Air out your linen fabrics instead of washing them constantly, clothing does not need to be washed after every wear.
- Handwash linens when they do need to be washed, then air dry. To get a more crisp or wrinkle free look, steam or iron the fabric.
Organic cotton is also a sustainable fabric to reach for as well as it is harvested with the environment in mind. I personally find the quality and durability of organic cotton to be better as well.
Instead of Acrylic Choose Cotton Jacquard, Chenille, Wool or Cashmere
“Acrylic fabric is made with plastic threads. The plastic threads are made of a manmade polymer fiber created from fossil fuels through a chemical process. Acrylic fabric is made in a way similar to the production of polyamide fabric (or nylon fabric) and polyester fabric.”- Excerpt from NaturalClothing.com.
Naturally we can see why this is not a sustainable fabric choice. While wool and cashmere are debatable in terms of sustainability, the choice to switch to these fibers is completely personal and it pays to do your own research on fabrics that come from animals to decide how you will move forward. The bottom line is, however, that chemical emissions and harmful toxins given off by the fabrics we wear have a strong negative effect on us and our health and this will have to be determined by each individual.
Most people choose acrylic fabrics for their sturdy hand, decorative design and weaved texture, however similar designs and weaves can be found on cotton jacquard and chenille blends which are breathable and more sustainable options.
Making these switches doesn’t necessarily mean old non-sustainable fabrics or clothing need to be thrown out. You may be able to recycle these fibers into beneficial uses or send them to a company that recycles specific fabrics into renewable resources. In any case, making the switches above can improve your wardrobe, hand made or store bought, your health and the environment as a whole. Never underestimate how your individual choices can affect the world as a whole!
Until next time friends,
HALFMOON ATELIER BLOG// Ethical Fabric Shops List (some shop information may be outdated)
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