The fashion industry is under scrutiny for its significant impact on the environment. Unless we take immediate action to prioritize sustainability, the situation is likely to worsen. Shockingly, the textile industry alone contributes 10% of global carbon emissions, and the rise of fast fashion has led to over 85% of apparel produced each year ending up in landfills. Additionally, the industry is a major polluter of water, air, and soil, exacerbating environmental damage.
Plant-based natural fabrics
When fabrics are derived from plants that are grown naturally without the use of chemicals, they are considered to be “vegan” fabrics. If they are produced sustainably, these fabrics have the least negative impact on the environment.
It’s important to differentiate between traditional cotton and organic cotton, as the latter is significantly more eco-friendly. Cotton is the most widely used fabric in the fashion industry, and as a result, it is extensively cultivated.
The primary issue with traditional cotton farming is that it is grown repeatedly on the same land, leading to soil depletion and the need for large amounts of water to improve fertility, resulting in
significant resource waste.
In contrast, organic cotton is rotated between different soils, reducing the demand for water and allowing it to thrive on natural nutrients. Additionally, organic cotton is grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides, using only natural seeds.
Hemp is recognized as a fiber with a significantly reduced negative impact on the environment. It is a plant-based material that can be grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
Moreover, the plant releases specific nutrients that help to enhance the soil it’s grown on.
Compared to cotton, hemp requires less water, and it also absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere. As a result of these benefits, many environmentally conscious fashion brands are promoting hemp as a sustainable fabric choice for the future.
Bamboo linen stands out among other fabrics for several reasons, particularly for its ability to be grown and harvested without relying on external sources of water, as long as there is adequate rainfall in the area.
The fashion industry has long been criticized for its excessive water usage, making bamboo printed linen a particularly attractive option for environmentally conscious consumers. Additionally, bamboo plants can be harvested without killing the trees, allowing for rapid regrowth and a continuous supply of fiber.
Ramie, a natural fiber with a long history of use, can be used to produce a highly sustainable fabric that is up to eight times stronger than cotton. This durable fabric can last for years and is ideal for clothing that undergoes regular use.
Jute is a highly sustainable fabric due to its biodegradability, recyclability, and durability. This coarse-textured fabric is derived from the stalk of bast trees, and when cultivated organically, it can be one of the most eco-friendly fabrics available today. Its durability ensures that it lasts a long time, making it an excellent choice for raw materials in clothes that are subjected to regular use.
While synthetic fibers are known to have a more negative impact on the environment than natural fibers, there are some variants that are less harmful than others. EcoVero, a type of viscose produced by the brand Lenzing, is one such variant. It is made mainly from bamboo and other pulp trees and uses 50% less water compared to other types of viscose. EcoVero is considered a highly sustainable semi-synthetic fabric.
When compared to rayon, modal is a fabric that is designed by Lenzing to have a lesser environmental impact. It is produced using the pulp of beech trees that require minimal water and chemicals to grow. When manufactured sustainably, the modal can be grown from recycled natural sources within a closed-loop system, making it a semi-synthetic fabric that is environmentally sustainable.
The use of recycled fabrics can make a significant impact in reducing waste from fashion and other industries. By repurposing discarded materials, less waste ends up in landfills. Moreover, recycling existing fabrics can reduce the demand for virgin materials, leading to less waste generation overall.
Sustainable fabrics play a critical role in promoting eco-friendly fashion, and there are various options available for conscious consumers. The use of natural fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and ramie, as well as semi-synthetic fabrics such as EcoVero and modal, can significantly reduce the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment. Additionally, recycled fabrics offer a way to reduce waste and lower the need for creating virgin fabric. By making sustainable choices, we can contribute towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible fashion industry.