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Which Natural Fabrics Are Sustainable? How To Choose the Right Environmentally Friendly Natural Fiber

In this article, we will cover which natural fabrics are sustainable. At first, it can seem daunting to know how to choose the right environmentally friendly natural fiber. You may think that cotton, silk, linen, and hemp are sustainable fabrics because they are natural. But is that true?

Sustainable fabrics are fabrics that were grown, harvested, and processed with minimal impact on the environment. Farmers and workers across the whole supply chain work in good working conditions. And they receive fair and a living wage.

But in the ideal world, there would not be involved any:

  • pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides,
  • chemicals or toxic dyes,
  • forced labor, children, modern slavery,
  • sexual and physical abuse on any step of the supply chain.

Cotton, silk, linen, hemp, yute, and bamboo are natural fabrics that are biodegradable. You can recycle them if they were not dyed with toxic dyes or mixed with other fibers.

A 100% linen t-shirt that has not been dyed chemically is recyclable. But if you mix linen with viscose, it is hard to separate the fibers and recycle.

Are cotton, silk, linen, and hemp sustainable fabrics?

what are the most sustainable fabrics_currently wearing swiss sustainable blog
COTTON 

It is the second most popular fabric in the world after polyester and a thirsty crop. Imagine that it takes nearly 3000 liters of water to make a t-shirt. When you grow conventional cotton you need to use a lot of pesticides and insecticides. 

In some countries, children have to help harvest the cotton, which may impede with their education.

The sustainable alternative to conventional cotton is organic cotton, which currently counts for less than 1% of the whole cotton production.

The sustainable alternative to conventional cotton is organic cotton, which currently counts for less than 1% of the whole cotton production.

SOLUTIONS:

  • look for garments made of recycled or up-cycled cotton,
  • buy cotton clothes at second-hands*,
  • look for cotton which is Fairtrade or GOTS certified.

*You can visit your local thrift/second-hand store. Look on platforms such as Depop, Vinted, ThredUp, Swop.it, or Marketplace on Facebook.

SUSTAINABLE BRANDS TO CHECK

Organics Basic is a Danish brand that makes affordable underwear from organic cotton (GOTS certified) using sustainable practices.

 
Are cotton, silk, linen, and hemp sustainable fabrics_currently wearing sustainable blog
SILK

Silk is a luxurious, soft fabric. It has the ability to warm you up in winter and cool down in summer. For a long time, I considered it a dream fabric and saved money for silk blouses.

But since I became more aware of how conventional silk is produced, I am not such a big fan anymore because the worms die during the process and child labor.

Currently, there are various alternatives to conventionally produced silk:

  • Peace silk,
  • Citrus or orange fiber silk,
  • Microsilk (a synthetic material made of water, yeast, sugar, and spider protein).
LINEN and HEMP

Linen yard is derived from flax plants. It doesn’t require much water, a minimal pesticide, and it can grow in poor-quality soil. 

Hemp is a versatile crop, it requires very little water, no pesticides and naturally fertilizes the soil it grows in.

BAMBOO

Organic bamboo is a great alternative to synthetic fibers. But bamboo fabric that is not organic has negative impacts on the environment and animals (pandas, for example).  


Are Cotton, Silk, Linen, and Hemp Sustainable?

Let me know in the comments below what natural materials you like to wear. Will you change the way you see fashion and shop after reading this article?

Additional Resources and Websites:

What are Sustainable Alternatives to Wool?

What Are The Most Sustainable Alternatives to Animal Leather?

Fashion Revolution

Good On You App and Website

Supply Compass

Business of Fashion

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