Eco-friendly fashion has gained huge popularity in recent years. The big question is, what is Eco-friendly? Almost every post I see regarding the sale of clothing seems to contain the words “Eco” and/or “organic” to help entice customers to look at their items. Unfortunately not every item of clothing, diapers or baby blankets is actually Eco or organic.
When one is looking for Eco-friendly clothing items they must remember that there is no such thing as a completely Eco-friendly fabric. Every item of fabric, where ever it comes from, takes water and energy to make the clothing and often times chemicals leaving a footprint. You really should be looking for clothing that makes the smallest footprint possible ex: using vegetable dyes rather than harmful chemicals or using as little water as possible to grow the items used to make the clothing such as hemp and bamboo.
Organic fabrics must come from a sustainable farm to be considered “organic”. Meaning a farm that uses no chemicals or pesticides for at least three years before the crop was planted, nor can they use artificial fertilizers on their crops. There also has to be barriers around the farm to keep out any pesticides or chemicals that might come in from surrounding farms.
Eco-Friendly and Organic Textiles
Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop. Every year, cotton growers around the world use over 2 billion dollars’ worth of pesticides, equivalent to more than 1/10th of the world’s total pesticides. Cotton growing also uses nearly 1/4 of the world’s insecticides. These synthetic chemicals not only endanger the environment, they also put at risk the health of people and animals living near these fields.
Organic farming doesn’t use pesticides or artificial fertilizers. An important benefit of growing cotton organically is that the lack of chemical pesticides promotes a healthier workplace and offer a chemical free product that you can feel safe using on yourself or your family. Organic cotton is a great, breathable, comfortable choice.
Bamboo is an amazing grass! It can be grown with little water and no pesticides or fertilizers and grows at an extremely fast rate making it very sustainable. It’s softer than cotton, is 100% biodegradable, and has a natural anti-microbial agent that helps prevent bacteria build up. Although all bamboo is naturally organic (due to the fact you don’t need pesticides, fertilizers, or insecticides), it is not always Eco-friendly or organic once the process begins to make the fabric.
Although bamboo can be dyed with natural colors, quite often it isn’t. Especially when it is a fabric that has originated from China. There are two ways to break the grass down to turn it from a grass into a fabric. The Eco-friendly way has the bamboo being broken down then uses natural enzymes to break down the bamboo into a pulp, which is then combed out and spun into a yarn.
The other method and less Eco-friendly, is to use harsh chemicals to break down the bamboo rather than natural enzymes. These chemicals are bad for our environment, underground water supply, and the health of those using the chemicals. To be sure your bamboo is as Eco-friendly as you were hoping it would be you can always check to see if it has the Oeko-Tek certification which will ensure it is free of any processing chemicals.
Hemp is an amazing plant to use for fabric because it, like bamboo, uses no pesticides and very little water to grow. It also grows in abundance and at a quick rate. Clothing produced from hemp is also warmer, softer, more absorbent, and breathable compared to other fabrics. The amazing thing about hemp is also that it doesn’t contribute to global warming as it will absorb as much CO2 as what will later be released when the stocks are burned for fuel. As long as the material is using natural dyes, which absorbs more easily than other textiles, hemp is an amazing option.
Wool comes from the coat of sheep. Although it starts off pretty scratchy once their coats are sheered and combed out it turns into a great fabric option. It easily absorbs dye allowing natural options to be a great choice to color the fabric or yarn. Using a wool sourced from a sustainable farm is what you’ll want to look at when choosing any wool product. How do they treat their sheep? What are the sheep being used for? Of course, all sheep need water to drink though their feed can be right from the earth they live on. No animals or people are harmed in the sheering, dying, spinning or making of wool. Downside, it can be more scratchy than other textiles and some may have allergies to it.
Synthetic fabrics, such as polyesters, nylons, and acrylics are made from petrochemicals, the production of which creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas far more potent than CO2 in contributing to climate change. However, some companies manufacture clothing from recycled synthetic polyester, which is made from recycled plastic bottles. I personally own one of these items in the form of a purse from Lily Bloom. The recycled pop bottle fabric is sturdy and heavy like a canvas, I don’t see this being a good choice for clothing, but for items not worn or to bring comfort I suggest going for another form of fabric. Synthetic fabrics are neither Eco or organic, ever.
With all the choices of fabrics out there for your family to be using it is never easy to know which one is the right choice for you. Hopefully, you will feel more prepared to know which fabrics are the right choices for you and what questions to ask the manufacturers when purchasing your clothing after ready this article.
Do you have a favorite Eco-friendly or organic brand of clothing? Diapers? or any other item made from fabric? Please let me know in the comments!
Eco-friendly and organic companies
Clothing, bath, jewelry and more – All Things Being Eco
Hemp clothing for him and her – Hemp & Company
Eco-friendly and organic clothing, bath and more – LivEco
Organic baby items – Parade Organics Baby Co.