What Is Sustainable Fabric?

We understand that when we buy an outfit, we're doing more than just showing off.

We also have an impact on the environment, for better or ill. This is why we favour quality over quantity when it comes to apparel and fabric.

And what better approach to prioritise quality and the environment than by selecting eco-friendly fabric and sustainable textiles?

There are numerous advantages of using sustainable fibres for the environment, your clothing, and even your wallet.

We'll delve into issues such as "what are sustainable fabrics?" likewise, "Does cotton biodegrade?" However, let's first talk about what sustainable cloth actually is.

What is on a label? So what criteria do we use to select sustainable fabrics?

Choosing sustainable textiles is one of the first steps we can take to make our wardrobes more environmentally friendly, regardless of whether you work in the fashion industry or are just a fashion enthusiast who doesn't like how it affects the environment.

The question of which materials are actually sustainable, however, is hotly contested. Is it always true that natural is better and manufactured is worse?

What occurs when we wash or throw away our clothing?

The articles that can be worn and those that cannot are originally separated from the materials gathered for recycling.

They are once more divided according to their colour and material. Fibers are taken out of the fabric. These fibres are then cleansed and, if necessary, combined with other fibres. After that, the fibre is spun to create yarn.

Clothes are then stitched together once the yarn has been weaved, coloured, or printed.

Many recycling facilities recycle used or discarded clothing.

Charity organisations that get a lot of donated secondhand clothing typically recycle the clothing.

Clothes that are surplus or unwearable are sent to recycling facilities.

In exchange, they are paid for them.

Reusing old clothing reduces CO2 emissions into the atmosphere significantly, according to studies.

Recycling textiles is, without a shadow of a doubt, a sustainable habit. The environment benefits from this kind of approach. In the textile sector, it is highly advised.

This action will lessen the carbon footprints that the sector leaves behind. As a result, it will assist in lowering the overall cost of textile production.

Recycling is a step in the direction of sustainability, which is a good idea for everyone!

Shopping for clothing that is created sustainably is one method to make a more thoughtful purchase. Conscious fashion can imply many different things.

In order to keep up with demand, makers of fast fashion are forced to rely on virgin synthetic materials, which are quick to produce and inexpensive.

However, the biodegradation of certain materials (such polyester) might take decades or longer, and textiles in total account for 7.7% of municipal solid waste in landfills. Therefore, it is not only necessary to slow down, but also to examine our clothes labels more carefully.

But how can we tell which materials are environmentally friendly and which are not? There isn't really a single "ideal fabric" that can address every issue.

Since all new fabric must be produced using resources, even while we adore vintage and secondhand clothing, depending on the materials used to make them, they may also contribute to the microplastics issue. For starters, get familiar with the labels on your existing favourite wardrobe staples!

Depending on your needs and values, you'll find that different textiles suit you better.

For instance, you might wish to wear clothing free of animal products, in which case plant-based fabrics and recycled synthetics would be the best option.

On the other side, maybe you only want to use biodegradable materials, or maybe you have to wear certain synthetic materials at work.

If you have allergies to certain fabrics or skin sensitivities, all of this could also change.

The fact that some materials will last longer than others should be taken into account when making sustainable purchasing decisions.

The option that enables you to squander less, buy fewer things, and wear them for longer will be the best one for you.

What Is Sustainable Fabric?

Sustainable textiles are made from resources that are good for the environment, such as natural fibres and recycled materials.

Natural fibres were essentially considered to be synonymous with sustainable textiles for a very long time.

Natural fibres like polyester, nylon, and bamboo are more environmentally friendly than synthetic fibres like nylon, polyester, and acrylic.

Although natural fibres are more environmentally friendly, there are still issues to take into account.

For instance, cotton needs a lot of water and insecticides to grow well. Contrary to popular opinion, recycled polyester fibre would be more sustainable when compared to cotton fibre.

Modern yarn technology uses recycled plastics for synthetic yarns and landfill-degradable polymers that break down when thrown away.

Best Sustainable Fabrics To Look For In Fashion


Although there are issues with land clearing and harvesting practises, bamboo is a fast-growing, regenerative crop that doesn't require fertiliser and is frequently promoted as a sustainable fabric for clothing (something to ask a brand about before purchasing a garment).

Despite this, bamboo is a favourite among eco-friendly businesses since it is very absorbent, cosy, and moisture-wicking.

Recycled Cotton

One of the most popular and widely used fabrics is cotton. This natural fibre is a wardrobe must because it is airy and light.

However, cultivating cotton can be challenging because it is one of the most chemically and water-intensive crops.

It uses a lot of pesticides, which has an adverse effect on both the environment and the people that cultivate it.

In recent years, demand for organic cotton, a more environmentally friendly substitute for conventional cotton, has skyrocketed.

By eliminating toxic pesticides and other chemicals from the production process, it strives to reduce the environmental effect of cotton production.

Verify that your organic cotton is GOTS-certified to guarantee good production standards.

However, choose recycled cotton if you want the most environmentally friendly kind. Cotton waste from the post-industrial and post-consumer periods is used to create recycled or upcycled cotton.

Recycled cotton is a more environmentally friendly option than both ordinary cotton and organic cotton, according to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index.

We think of cotton as one of the most sustainable fibres available since it has the ability to lower water and energy use as well as prevent cotton clothing from ending up in landfills.

Cotton is not typically regarded as sustainable because it consumes a lot of water, pesticides, and land that could be utilised for crops.

Unless it's organic cotton, that is! Yet when it comes to ethical buying, organic and sustainable cotton is a highly popular fabric option.

This is due to the fact that it is produced and grown to have as little impact on the environment as possible while sustaining lives and communities.

One of the most natural materials available is organic cotton.

It is prepared without the use of chemicals and is farmed without synthetic fertilisers or pesticides.

Environmentally speaking, organic cotton growing uses 88 percent less water and 62 percent less energy than conventional cotton farming (which is, to the surprise of many, one of the single dirtiest crops around).

With sustainable and ethical cotton, a number of certifications are used to show that the cotton was a. cultivated without the use of chemicals or mechanical harvesting, and b. it was processed chemical-free, leaving the finished garment chemical-free.

Other important certifications guarantee fair compensation and secure working conditions for farmers (though not being exposed to chemicals in the field is already a huge component in that regard).

Reclaimed (Deadstock)

Reclaimed fabric, often known as deadstock, is fabric that manufacturers have left over. It can also refer to old clothing or other unsold, secondhand items that would otherwise be thrown away.

By employing deadstock, producers reuse previously produced materials while keeping textiles out of landfills.

Organic Hemp

Right now, hemp seems to be present everywhere.

The "sober cousin" of marijuana, however, is incredibly adaptable and has been grown and used for hundreds of years as a fabric in addition to being used as food, a building material, and a cosmetic.

The beautiful thing about hemp is that it can be produced everywhere in the world and is far more environmentally friendly than other crops because it uses minimal water, no pesticides, and naturally fertilises the land it grows in.

One of the most environmentally friendly natural materials available is hemp, which was covered in an earlier post.

Due to a process known as phytoremediation, it grows quickly, has a high yield, and uses a lot less water than cotton.

What is the primary driver behind our excitement for hemp clothing?

It is regarded as a raw material that is carbon negative. This is because it takes CO2 from the air and absorbs it.

But we should expect to see more hemp in the future because it has so many advantages (such being naturally antibacterial and UV protective) and is more difficult to grow than other sustainable organic materials.

Hemp, one of the oldest fibres in existence, keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter and gets softer the more you wash it. Because of all of these factors, hemp is also one of the most environmentally friendly textiles available.


Another semi-synthetic substance is modal, which is created primarily from beech tree pulp. The human-made cloth derived from naturally existing materials is typically more delicate and softer than its lyocell brother.


Viscose is another material that is sought after for eco-friendly apparel, but this again depends on how it is created!

Silk is frequently created from viscose, a semi-synthetic rayon fabric made from wood pulp.

Lyocell, Tencel, Modal, and Refibra are just a few examples of the viscose that is created from sustainable forests using a much kinder chemical process.

For instance, the production of Lyocell produces zero waste because every product is recycled in some way. This eco-friendly substance is also soft, absorbent, light, breathable, and breathable.


The board and the bottle have been replaced by our bodies with cork cloth.

For good reason, the material has gained popularity for vegan handbags and shoes.

By simply shaving away the bark, cork is sustainably obtained from a cork oak (yep, it comes from a tree). In order to prolong its life, Quercus suber should really be harvested.

The tree absorbs more carbon dioxide than most other species of trees while it is regrowing its bark. Plantations that produce cork can so serve as a carbon sink.

The cork can be spread out in the sun to dry after it has been harvested (which can sustainably happen to mature trees every 9 to 12 years), and then all that is needed is water to make it ready for clothing.

Applications of Sustainable Fabrics

How are sustainable fabrics now being used? You've probably heard that the majority of textiles in landfills are abandoned garments.

Unfortunately, this is accurate, and a lot of people are staying away from "quick fashion." Instead, choose clothing from thrift stores or rentals made of more environmentally friendly materials.

Nondurable items, on the other hand, are those made to last less than three years and are a substantial source of waste. For instance, according to the EPA's estimation, in 2017 there were 1.5 million tonnes of towels, sheets, and pillowcases produced.

Where is there now the highest need for sustainable textiles? It is becoming more and more clear that the focus of the sustainability movement must move away from individual customers.

Instead, employing sustainable textiles and functional fabrics—fabrics that perform with additional functionality beyond that found in ordinary textiles—can tremendously assist sectors like the medical industry, hospitality, transportation, and the military.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fabrics

What is the meaning of sustainable fabric?

Sustainable clothing is made from materials that are environmentally beneficial, including recycled materials or fibre crops that are cultivated sustainably. It also describes the method used to create these fabrics.

Is buying fabric sustainable?

Even more ethically and sustainably than buying fabric by the yard is fabric that has been "recovered" or "reclaimed" from outdated or unworn clothing. In this way, employing remnants or scraps from designers for our home sewing is similar to doing so even though the fabric's composition might not be organic, for example.

Are recycled fabrics sustainable?

Recycled cotton uses a lot less resources than regular or organic cotton and prevents the production of new textile waste. It is therefore a fantastic sustainable choice. However, the cotton's quality could not be as high as that of brand-new cotton. Therefore, new cotton and recycled cotton are frequently combined.

How is nylon sustainable?

The environmental effects of the manufacture of nylon are similar to those of polyester. Similar to polyester, nylon is produced using an energy-intensive method from a non-renewable resource (oil). But Econyl is indefinitely recyclable since it is manufactured from nylon trash that is dumped in landfills and oceans in a closed-loop process.

Organic Linen

In terms of sustainability, hemp and linen are nearly equivalent.

Additionally, the textiles are both incredibly light and permeable. The only distinction? The flax plant provides the fibre for linen.

Its growth needs extremely little irrigation, fertiliser, and pesticide. However, linen doesn't yield as much as hemp does.

Another natural fibre that we have been producing for generations is linen. It comes from the flax plant, which is a very adaptable crop, just like hemp.

Even in poor soil and with little water and pesticide use, linen may thrive. Additionally, no portion of the plant is wasted because it is all consumed.

Strong and naturally moth-resistant, linen is completely biodegradable when left untreated (that is, without dyeing).

It absorbs moisture without retaining bacteria, is light, and can tolerate high temperatures in addition to being beneficial for the environment. What is there to dislike?

The benefit of biodegradable natural, sustainable fabrics is that they do not use plastics, which are closely associated with the fossil fuel sector.

We are hesitant to promote bamboo, wool, or leather outright because they each present their own unique difficulties and are not all natural fabrics that have reached the list.

What is the industry doing to develop new sustainable textiles as innovation is the foundation of the fashion business? The following are a few of the most recent high-tech synthetic fibre kinds that have made it onto our list.

As you are aware, linen is a prefered fabric for anything from linen sheets to linen apparel due to its universal acceptance and dependability.


Silk is produced by silkworms that exclusively eat the easy-to-grow, pollution-resistant leaves of the mulberry tree.

Due to the features of this plant, producing silk is a relatively waste-free process.

However, because silk necessitates the use of animals, it's important to research companies and make sure they employ moral production practises. Be careful to look for Ahimsa silk (or Peace silk).


Depending on how it is manufactured, wool may be a sustainable material. For instance, Fibershed produces Climate BeneficialTM Wool on carbon-farming landscapes that recycle carbon into the ground.

Wool is also highly insulating, biodegradable, and doesn't shed microfibers made of plastic.

Due to the unfortunate prevalence of animal maltreatment in the wool business, it's critical to research brands and confirm their sourcing and manufacturing processes.

Wool is a fabric that many sustainable manufacturers are using even though it isn't for everyone.

Types of Sustainable Fabrics

What other materials are commonly used to create sustainable textiles, besides natural fibres like cotton and wool? current trends in sustainability include:

  • Utilizing fibre technology, blended fabrics lessen the pollution caused by synthetic microfibers.
  • Modern recycled and biodegradable fibres, including Econyl, which is created from industrial plastic and synthetic waste like fishing nets,
    polyester that decomposes, like CiCLO.
  • Since PFC-free hydrocarbons are integrated into the fibre, functionality can be maintained for up to 80 washes, which is longer than with traditional coatings.
  • Antimicrobial finishes like PurThread that require less washing.

It's important to read clothing labels, and you shouldn't always believe what brands say.

A company that is truly mindful will prioritise openness and include a section or page on their website devoted to the materials they utilise.

Many brands don't, though, which is why having this background knowledge is helpful. In no time, you'll be able to tell the fakes from the real ones!

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