What Are The Worst Fabrics For The Environment?

One of the main sources of pollution in the world is the fashion sector. Fabric manufacture is mostly responsible for the pollutants it produces. The majority of textiles used in apparel have a terrible effect on the environment and are the worst.

People, animals, and the environment are all negatively impacted by the clothing we wear. The majority of them use excessive amounts of resources, including land, water, and energy, and are laden with hazardous chemicals.

Purchasing more eco-friendly textiles is one of the finest methods to lessen the negative effects of fashion on the environment. We have the capacity to alter the current state of the fashion business as customers.

Learning which textiles to avoid when buying new clothing is the first step we can take towards a more sustainable future. Consuming less and more wisely really aids in protecting the environment.

With a few helpful hints, you may create a more environmentally and socially responsible wardrobe. Buy from more sustainable materials using, ethical brands.

You can easily learn about the dreadful effects of fast fashion, the nasty fabrics they use, and their catastrophic effects on the environment if you want to do a little research.

The worldwide textile and garment business has several negative effects. Unfortunately, there is a lot of contradictory data available. Consumers are being kept in the dark by the majority of fashion manufacturers and retailers.

Businesses do not want you to be aware of how much trash, pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions they produce. Even though the oil industry pollutes the most on a worldwide scale, textiles made from petroleum are not the only offender.

Not all natural fabrics are beneficial to the environment. Fashion brands don't want you to know many details about the things you wear.

I've put all the knowledge you require to stay away from wasteful textiles, purchase better apparel, and support sustainable fashion brands that are actively attempting to lessen their environmental impact here to make it as simple as possible for you to make responsible judgments.

We are aware that at first, especially if you are unfamiliar with sustainable fashion, this information may seem overwhelming and confusing. Consider each step as it comes. Tomorrow you don't have to make a big difference.

In the end, if you adopt the strategy of shopping less and better, you will be well on your way to making a difference in society and the environment.


What are the eco-friendly materials?

Reusing bags, tossing your paper, plastic, and metal waste into a recycling bin, or wearing recycled goods are all examples of recycling, which is one of the most sustainable lifestyle choices. Here are some instances of the greenest materials.

  • Hemp.
  • Soy Silk/Cashmere.
  • Organic Cotton.
  • Linen.

What is eco-friendly clothing?

Making clothing that considers the environment, consumer health, and the working circumstances of those in the fashion business is known as eco-fashion. Clothing manufactured from organic materials, such as cotton cultivated without pesticides and silk produced by worms fed on organic trees, is known as eco-fashion.

Is cotton on eco friendly?

Absolutely. Throughout the entirety of a product's life cycle, cotton is a great choice for an environmentally friendly fabric because it is renewable, sustainable, and biodegradable. Petroleum is the main component of chemical fibres, which means that nonrenewable resources are used to make them.

What fabric is biodegradable?

Whether synthetic or not, the majority of textiles and fibres will biodegrade.

  • Organic Cotton. When cotton is produced organically, no synthetic materials, pesticides, or chemicals are used in its production.
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Ramie
  • Jute
  • Wool
  • Organic Bamboo

What fabrics last the longest?

The most resilient and long-lasting fabric is polyester. It is a synthetic fibre designed to outperform natural fibres like cotton in terms of strength and flexibility.

Fabrics Rated Best to Worst

Below, we've listed fabrics in order of how environmentally friendly they are, along with how they rank in terms of manufacture, use, and disposal.


The most adaptable plant on the planet, hemp has a variety of uses. It is the best option for sustainability in terms of fabric.

Hemp can generate two to three times more fibre per acre than cotton and doesn't need much water to thrive. In addition, rather of removing nutrients from the soil as most plants do, it replaces it as it grows. Hemp is odor-resistant, breathable, cosy, moisture-wicking, and velvety.

Hemp is extremely resilient and gets softer with usage, much like linen.

Hemp is a completely natural fibre, thus washing hemp clothing in your washing machine shouldn't be a problem because any microfibres that end up in the water supply will quickly degrade over time.

Since hemp is biodegradable at the end of its useful life, you can use it as garden mulch in the backyard. Hemp is unquestionably the greatest fabric to use in terms of sustainability.


Similar to hemp, linen is still one of the best and most environmentally friendly textiles available today.

The creation of linen, which is made from the flax plant, utilises the entire plant, reducing waste from the start.

Flax is particularly sustainable since it is simple to cultivate, quickly regenerates, uses much less water than cotton, and doesn't require chemical fertilisers or pesticides (this when dew-retting or enzyme-retting is used, not water-retting).

Given its high level of durability, linen has one of the longest lifespans of any fabric.

Linole apparel has recently experienced a comeback as individuals look for ways to reduce their fashion footprint. Summertime is the ideal time to use linen because it is breathable, strong, lightweight, absorbent, antibacterial, naturally moth-resistant, and cooling.

Additionally, it almost completely cuts off gamma radiation, shielding humans from solar radiation.

It is the only fabric that gets stronger when wet and softens with time, much like hemp.

Like hemp, linen microfibers will also naturally biodegrade in the water, so there is no need to worry about them.

Natural coloured or un-dyed linen will biodegrade completely over time, making it sustainable and environmentally beneficial.

Bamboo (the same as Rayon or Viscose)

Bamboo is a natural fibre created from the bamboo plant that is swiftly gaining popularity as an eco-friendly cloth, although it is not as pure as we may believe.

One of the plants with the greatest global growth rates is bamboo, which makes it a fantastic resource. It can grow with very little water and without fertiliser or herbicides.

Despite this, bamboo is really converted into the silky fabric we all love through an extremely chemical-intensive procedure.

The manufacture of bamboo fibre generates a significant amount of trash, 50% of which is hazardous waste that cannot be recycled and is released into the environment.

The waterways of bamboo can be murky and aren't always as clear as we might believe because so much of the bamboo we consume comes from China and it is difficult to control pesticide use (many producers do use them to optimise their outputs, but don't always reveal it).

Bamboo has a high natural sweat absorption capacity and is known for its moisture-wicking properties, which draw moisture from the skin for evaporation.

Claims that it is inherently UV resistant or antibacterial are uncertain because the method of turning it into a fibre appears to rule these claims out.

The fabric itself feels wonderful against the skin and is really soft.

Bamboo isn't exactly as environmentally friendly as we might believe because of its chemical-intensive processing, and even if it may biodegrade, it is still regarded as a fabric that falls between natural and synthetic.

Micro-fibres in bamboo are a problem, thus it would need to be carefully recycled in a facility rather than just going into your compost. More details about bamboo, rayon, and viscose are provided below.


The fabric that you might least expect to find on this list is cotton. However, it's among the worst for the planet.

One of the worst types of natural fibres is conventional cotton. Extremely harmful to human health, polluting, and wasteful. It destroys soil fertility and biodiversity.

Today, subtropical nations all over the world mass-produce cotton. Additionally, mass production isn't viable.

Following polyester, it is the second most popular fibre for clothing and shoes.

Global cotton production is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to be 30.3 million tonnes per year.

With 6.1 million tonnes of cotton produced in 2018, China surpassed India as the world's top cotton producer, followed by the United States (4.69 million tonnes) (4 million tons).

Regular cotton farming threatens ecosystems, human lives, and water and soil sources. It supplies 16% of the world's insecticides, 7% of the herbicides, and 4% of the phosphorus and nitrogen fertilisers.

Additionally, cotton needs a lot of water to thrive. It is one of the crops that uses the most water. According to the World Wildlife Fund, producing one kilogramme of cotton, which is equal to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans, requires roughly 20,000 gallons of water.

Purchasing organic cotton is a superior option. According to the Textile Exchange, organic cotton growing has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 92.5 million kilogrammes and 218 billion litres of water.

Rainfall-derived water is used to cultivate about 80% of all organic cotton, which relieves pressure on nearby water sources. It is non-GMO and was cultivated without the use of artificial pesticides, fertilisers, or herbicides.

A well-known, highly sought-after fabric, cotton accounts for 25% of all fabrics used in clothing and textiles.

Cotton production requires a lot of water (700 gallons for a t-shirt, the same amount a person drinks in 2.5 years), pesticides (35% of the world's insecticides and pesticides), and arable land, all of which are used in an extremely unsustainable manner. Although organic cotton is undoubtedly the preferable choice, because crop yields tend to decline over time, more land is frequently needed.

Micro-fibres are a major problem, and when we wash our garments in non-organic cotton, they start to leak into our water systems and the environment.

If it has been treated or dyed with non-natural colours, the majority of cotton is not completely biodegradable, but organic cotton will ultimately decompose.


Although historically popular, wool is not for everyone, particularly vegans. However, while being among the greenest fabrics available (in terms of the cloth itself), its carbon footprint is the reason it is ranked fifth.

The main problem with wool is the methane gas emissions from gassy animals.

The sheep themselves are responsible for 50% of the carbon footprint associated with wool, although on the plus side, sheep are typically raised on non-arable terrain, requiring fewer resources than certain plant-based alternatives.

Wool is a strong, wrinkle-resistant, durable fabric that can soak up a lot of moisture without feeling damp.

It is cosy and can take the place of many polyester fleeces now on the market, which will assist lessen microfiber shedding.

Wool microfibers naturally biodegrade after being released into the environment. A wool clothing can last for 2 to 10 years on average, as opposed to 2-3 years for a conventional cotton or synthetic garment.

Despite having a large carbon footprint, we consume this fabric at a slower rate than we do other materials.


Although polyester is the least environmentally friendly material, it now dominates the textile industry (60 percent of clothing is made of polyester).

The cloth is elastic, strong, comfy, and simple to clean, yet it is a plastic item made from crude oil. Recycled polyester is slightly better because it uses less oil (the production of fresh polyester uses 9.5 billion litres of oil annually) and produces less waste, but it eventually has the same environmental effects as new polyester when it is disposed of.

The world's most popular fabric for clothing and textiles is polyester. In 2018, there were 55 million tonnes of polyester fibres produced globally. It produces 52% of the world's fibre.

China is the world's biggest manufacturer of polyester.

A third of its polyester is produced in Jiangsu, while half is produced in the Zhejiang province.

Polyester became a very popular fabric with the emergence of fast fashion over the past 20 years to create more affordable, fashionable, and disposable clothing.

It is a synthetic fabric created using petrochemicals or chemicals with a petroleum foundation. Other names for it include polythene terephthalate (PET).

In order to create it, synthetic polymer compounds created from components derived from oil must be polymerised.

Polyester is to blame for the microfiber and plastic pollution that threatens human health, land and marine species, and ecosystems worldwide.

According to current study, polyester is not biodegradable and can take thousands of years to breakdown in the waters.

Large volumes of waste are created by polyester clothing, which also releases toxic chemicals and plastic microfibers into the air, soil, and water.

Recycled polyester is a more eco-friendly substitute for polyester (rPET). It is produced using PET bottles, polyester waste from post-industrial processes, or secondhand garments.

To have less of an impact on the air, land, and water, use recycled polyester instead of virgin polyester. It cuts back on water use by roughly 90%, energy use by 30–50%, and glasshouse gas emissions by about 60%.

Every time polyester is laundered, a tonne of microfibers are released into the water, and since polyester takes up to 200 years to decompose, there is no way that this fabric can easily breakdown or biodegrade.

These micro-fibres are detrimental to the health of marine life, humans, and the ocean/waterways world's because they are consumed by our fish (and subsequently us if you eat meat).

However, unless the garment is something that requires it to be waterproof (raincoats, shoes, bathing suits, certain types of activewear), it shouldn't be made from virgin or recycled polyester fibres. Many clothing brands proudly proclaim that their product lines are made from recycled ocean plastic or recycled water bottles.

Don't let manufacturers trick you into thinking that a straightforward, every day dress or blouse is environmentally friendly just because it's made of recycled plastic. Simply put, it isn't.

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