It wasn’t long ago that clothing made with eco-friendly fabrics brought up images of treehuggers in burlap. But with ever-growing demand for clothing made from sustainable fabrics, more top designers are embracing the environmental trend. So which fabrics are truly eco-friendly? So many manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, we’ve asked a panel of fashion school experts to guide us through the choices. The fact is, even if a garment is marketed as eco-friendly, the label doesn’t necessarily tell you everything about what makes the fabric good – or bad – for the environment.
Organic cotton. Organically-grown cotton is produced without pesticides or artificial fertilizers. This sustainable farming practice not only results in cotton that is free of chemical pesticides, it creates a healthier workplace for farm workers. But just because a garment is made from organic cotton doesn’t mean it’s completely eco-friendly. If it’s been dyed, see if it was done with low-impact dyes that are better for the environment. Better yet, look for organic cotton in shades that it’s naturally grown in, like cream and light brown.
Bamboo. Bamboo is currently the superstar of eco-friendly fabrics, and on the surface, it appears to have everything going for it. More like a grass than a tree, bamboo grows rapidly, and after it’s cut, regenerates itself. And bamboo fabric feels as soft as cashmere. But the way it gets that soft is primarily through extensive chemical processing; in fact, the chemicals have been linked to health problems like headaches and nerve damage. And the news gets worse. As bamboo becomes more popular, environmentalists expect over-harvesting that will impact wildlife, as well as the clearing of forests to grow additional bamboo.
Wool. While some clothing manufacturers consider wool sustainable because it’s a renewable resource, it’s not a pretty picture for the sheep. They are subjected to toxic pesticides and handled roughly by handlers who, during the shearing process, slice off more than just wool. Wool that has been certified organic, however, comes from sheep that have been treated ethically and humanely.
Silk. Silk is a natural fabric that is renewable and biodegradable, so that’s a few check marks in the sustainability column. But silk is usually produced in China, India, or other Far East countries where where U.S. fair labor practices aren’t in place, and then transported across oceans to reach us – not great for fuel consumption. And then there’s the little matter of the moths that are boiled alive after they’ve finished spinning the silk. For a more humane choice, look for vegan, or “peace” silk, in which the moths are allowed to live.
Linen. True linen is considered eco-friendly because it’s made from flax, which isn’t usually farmed with pesticides. But as with organic cotton, linen is better for you and the environment when it’s in a natural shade, or dyed with low impact tints. Our fashion school experts also caution us to be wary of “faux linen,” which is actually just conventional cotton that’s textured to look like linen. » Read more: Eco-Friendly Fabrics – Fashion School Experts Examine the Pros and Cons of the Top Green FabricsTags: artificial fertilizers, chemical pesticides, farming practice, fashion school, green fabrics, jumping on the bandwagon, nerve damage, school experts, sustainable farming, treehuggers