Updated: Jul 17
Most Sustainable Fabrics for Garment Productions
The textile industry is one of the largest industries globally, and sadly, it is common not to pay attention to the sustainability aspect of the garments we buy. The clothes can have a significant impact on the ecosystem and the lives of people involved in the garment industry. Therefore, the use of sustainable materials for clothing should be the priority.
What Exactly is Sustainable Fabrics?
To consider fabrics sustainable, they should be made out of natural or recycled materials. Such fabrics aim to minimize the harm done during the production process or afterward, the impact on our planet done by the used material. Using sustainable fibers helps to reduce waste production, carbon emission and conserve water. It is important to note that none of the fabrics is 100% sustainable. However, such fabrics have far fewer environmental impacts compared to unsustainable clothing fabrics. Generally, Sustainable fabrics should be at least 50% of the following criteria.
Consume less water
Need less amount of energy
It can be recycled more than once
It comes from a renewable source
No or minimum chemical use
Zero soil erosion
Should be Biodegradable
Comparison of Sustainable Fabrics
It's time to answer an important and frequent question. Which one is the most sustainable fabric in the textile industry? As mentioned earlier, sustainable fabrics should meet some of the criteria described above. Let compare different fabrics based on some of these factors.
Image source: www.Earth911.com
Seeing this graph, we have compared some of the most used fabrics in the clothing industry. We see the comparison for water use; it is clear that Wool and Polyester are the most sustainable fabrics while cotton and silk are the worst fabrics. However, water use alone is not enough to decide which is the most sustainable fabric.
Energy use is another big factor in deciding the sustainability of the fabric. The least energy demanding and the best fabrics include Hemp, wool, and cotton, while the most energy demanding are Acrylic and Nylon. When we see the water wastage, wool and regen waste the most water while Polyester and Nylon waste the least water.
With the rapid increase in population, land, particularly the fertile one, has become a very precious thing. Therefore, sustainability also includes how much land is required for a certain fabric's crop to declare it sustainable. When we compare the direct land use, we know that Jute, PLA, and Lyocell are the most sustainable fabrics, while wool and cotton are among the least sustainable.
How About Conventional VS Organic Cotton?
We all know cotton is probably the most used fabric when it comes to the clothing industry. Most of the companies are currently using conventional cotton, which is not as good for the environment. Over time, the industry is shifting to organic cotton. Organic cotton is more sustainable because of less consumption of pesticides and water. For example, conventional cotton consumes more than 2150 gallons of water to produce a single T-shirt compared to just 186 gallons in the case of organic cotton. Similarly, conventional cotton emits 5.9 Kg of CO2 per ton compared to just 2.35 kg in organic cotton. Both these factors make organic cotton one of the best fabrics for the clothing industry.
Some of the Most Sustainable Fabrics
Organic cotton is one of the most used sustainable materials for clothing. You do not have to use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers for its growth. Even you do not require any chemicals for processing it. Organic cotton requires 62% less energy and almost 90% lesser water as compared to traditional cotton. That is very beneficial from an environmental point of view. We know that conventional cotton is considered one of the dirtiest crops around.
Many authorities are emphasizing the application of organic cotton for the clothing industry. It tells us the following two things:
Organic cotton does not need any chemicals or pesticides.
It does not require chemicals for processing it, and the final cloth is environmentally friendly.
Many garment brands use the substance of organic cotton in nearly every kind of clothes because of its sustainability. Some examples are sustainable bras, sustainable mattress protectors, sustainable clothes for maternity, Sustainable clothing for babies, and many others.
We at North Fjord only use Organic Cotton to produce our garments.
We can use waste materials of various fabrics along with other wastes to develop recycled cotton. This material can be industrial waste or consumer waste. You can use this waste for designing clothes out of it. It is a better approach to make sustainable clothes.
This process requires many quality checks to ensure that appropriate material is being used for making it. Because you never know from where the waste material is coming. There is another problem with the confirmation of recycled cotton. It is about the purity of cotton. Anyhow, it is a great option to make our planet safe and livable for years to come.
The most environment-friendly and natural fiber is obtained from organic hemp. Organic hemp is a productive crop. It requires limited resources like water and fertilizers. By implementing the process of phytoremediation, organic hemp can strengthen the earth. Hemp is a carbon-negative natural element that is why it is regarded as very useful. It absorbs Carbon Dioxide from the environment.
Organic hemp has many other advantages. It is an antimicrobial element and naturally sun protective. On the other hand, organic hemp involves a difficult process to grow and an expensive crop compared to others. The use of organic hemp may increase in the future.
Linen is just like organic hemp when it comes to sustainability. Both provide a super lite and breathable fabric. The only source of the fabric separates between organic hemp and linen. The source of the Linen is the flax plant. Like other sustainable crops, Linen also requires minimal resources like water, pesticides, and fertilizers. But unfortunately, organic hemp is more profitable than linen. Linen has established its fan base, and we can see its usage in sheets to shirts.
Organic Bamboo or Bamboo Linen
You can harvest bamboo without cutting the complete plant. The best thing is Bamboo plants grow again after their harvesting. These plants don't require any special care and resources, for example, water and fertilizers. Bamboo plants can survive on rainfall alone. It is considered one of the fastest-growing plants.
The fabric we obtain from organic bamboo is considered one of the most sustainable fabrics. But we need to perform some processes to achieve this. There are two types of processes:
Chemical processing involves different chemicals which can be harmful to the environment. This process is mostly used across the industry. Other processes involve machines for processing, which is environment-friendly. Mechanical processing is minimal as compared to chemical processing.
The Final Words
Sustainable fabrics have minimum impacts on the environment. There are over a dozen fabrics that are considered sustainable. But, what is the most sustainable fabric? Well, all the above-described fabrics are better for the environment, but their use depends on your needs. Seeing all the sustainability parameters, organic cotton and organic bamboo are considered the best fabrics for garment productions.