If you’re like me, you’ve become more conscious of the effect of buying clothes on the environment, which led me to explore which fabrics are most sustainable. I’ll share what I’ve learned with you in this post.
Unfortunately, I did learn that no fabric leaves a completely zero footprint. They all require some use of resources to be grown and processed. And, the list of these natural fabrics includes bamboo, linen, silk, hemp, cotton, and wool.
In this post, I’ll discuss each kind of natural fabric and the individual pros and cons so you can make the best choice for your situation.
After that, I’ll share what to do with the clothes you already have, plus information about a Canadian clothing company that I like to use because I admire their efforts to be eco-friendly.
6 Eco-Friendly Natural Fabrics
Below, I’ve listed each of the top 6 eco-friendly natural fabrics and their pros and cons when it comes to being sustainable:
- It grows quickly
- There’s no need for pesticides (naturally anti-bacterial)
- It costs less to produce
- The process uses less water than cotton
- The fabric is moisture-wicking
- It’s a long-lasting fabric
- You have to make sure it’s grown sustainably
- The waste may be going into the environment
- The processing is intensive
2. Linen (made from flax)
- The fabric is breathable and reduces sweating
- It lasts a long time
- It’s an efficient crop and the whole plant can be used
- It can be grown in soil not suitable for food crops
- The process for making it is long, so it’s more expensive to buy
- It wrinkles and shrinks easily
- You can get undyed or naturally dyed silk
- “Peace” silk is processed without killing the silkworms
- Artificial silk is made from wheat, sugar, and yeast
- Some silk is made with chemicals and uses toxic dyes
- Some silkworm farms kill the worms to get the silk
- It grows practically anywhere with little water and nutrients
- It helps prevent soil erosion
- It doesn’t need pesticides
- The fabric is strong and breathable
- It doesn’t color well
- It tends to wrinkle easily
- It’s biodegradable
- The manufacturing process isn’t complex
- Organic cotton doesn’t use pesticides and uses less water
- It needs a lot of water, taking it from other sources
- Non-organic cotton uses a lot of pesticides
- A small percentage of cotton is organic
- It can keep you warm and cool
- It’s naturally anti-bacterial
- The fabric is moisture-wicking
- It is long-lasting and can be washed cold
- Commercial sheep farms have a large environmental impact
- Some wool farms practice animal cruelty
As you can see, all of these natural fabrics have their pros and cons. You’ll need to research those that you intend to buy to see how it’s processed, what’s available to you, and what fits your budget.
Ultimately, you just need to do the best you can with your wardrobe to leave the smallest footprint you can manage. (Zero waste is not always possible, but a good ideal to aim for.) This leads to the question of what to do with the clothes you have now.
What to Do with Your Current Wardrobe?
In a zeal to go eco-friendly, you might be tempted to get rid of all your synthetic or “fast fashion” clothing and replace it with more sustainable options.
But that may not be the best option to leave a smaller environmental footprint.
The most eco-friendly thing to do with your current wardrobe is to wear out what you have and replace the items gradually with eco-friendlier pieces.
You may even want to work toward a more minimalist wardrobe that has fewer pieces of clothing. But with each piece being of higher quality, lasting longer, and affecting the environment less.
Thinking along those lines, you may be interested in the following Canadian company:
An Eco-Friendly Canadian Clothing Company
An eco-friendly Canadian clothing company that I buy from is tentree, based in British Columbia.
This company makes a good effort to source their materials and clothing from responsible and sustainable sources, plus engaging ethical manufacturing for their items.
They are also actively involved in tree planting projects by partnering with charitable organizations around the world to plant trees and rehabilitate natural ecosystems.
When you buy items from tentree, you are supporting eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical practices, plus donating trees to be planted for the health of the environment and the lives of real people.
One thing I really like about this company is that everything is available on their website for you to research their practices (no greenwashing), and you can register your trees to follow their progress.
So, while all natural fabrics leave some form of footprint, we can buy our clothing from sources that are working to make a difference in how we build a wardrobe.