People who think about Our Environment and live sustainably will sooner or later be confronted with “sustainable clothing” or “sustainable textiles.” If we take a look at our wardrobe, we will probably find that the clothes in our wardrobe are made of 90% polyester, acrylic and elastane. Maybe you will also discover one or the other piece of pure cotton, which is undoubtedly not certified organic.
Then you have to ask yourself the question: What on earth are sustainable materials?! What are synthetic fibers, what are natural fibers? Which natural fibers are good or bad, and are all synthetic fibers the spawn of evil?
With this article, we would like to shed light on your textile forest and explain which materials are “natural” and which are “artificial,” and what in the end, is sustainable.
Natural fibers come from plants or animals. On the other hand, synthetic fibers are artificially produced from natural or synthetic materials. At first glance, natural textures, therefore, sound much more sustainable.
Cotton is a natural fiber obtained from the cotton plant. More precisely, the fiber is derived from the “fiber tufts” in the fruits of the cotton plant. These are there to spread the seeds of the plant over longer distances with the wind.
The following applies to cotton: the longer the fiber, the higher quality of the material. It is well suited for finely knitted or warp-knitted underwear. The cotton fabric is given a beautiful sheen by finishing processes such as mercerizing.
Favorable material properties are excellent wash resistance even at high temperatures, skin-friendliness and pleasant wearing comfort. As it is neither scratchy nor has a particular allergy potential, it is recommended for sensitive skin.
Cotton is only suitable to a limited extent for sports underwear. The reason is that although it absorbs moisture very well, it only rereleases it slowly. It is, therefore, quickly colonized by bacteria or germs. The material also creases strongly. The colors of cotton fabrics fade quickly with frequent washing.
Cotton material from organic farming or fair trade is marked with an organic or fair trade seal.
Advantages of cotton:
• Machine washable
• Good for sensitive skin
Disadvantages of cotton:
- Washes out over time
• loses color with each wash
• Creases easily
• It shrinks with the laundry
Environmental disadvantages of cotton:
- It requires a lot of water for cultivation: worldwide, an average of 11,000 liters of water is needed to produce 1 kg of cotton
• Toxic pesticides are used in cultivation – 25% of all pesticides used worldwide are used in cotton production.
Silk is the natural protein fiber from the cocoon of the silkworm. The caterpillars form a cocoon from a continuous silk thread to pupate and become a moth. When hatching, they destroy the silk thread, which is not desirable in the production of silk. For this reason, the silk moth cocoons are boiled before the moth hatches.
The main component of silk is keratin, which is responsible for the silk-typical shine. Silk is the only natural endless fiber and, therefore, extremely tear-resistant. It not only convinces with its skin-friendly structure but also with its antibacterial properties. Its heat-insulating properties ensure an airy feeling on the skin in summer and keep the body warm in winter.
Advantages of silk:
- temperature regulating.
- pleasant to wear.
- natural sheen.
- fast drying.
- low weight.
- enormously tear-resistant.
- allergy friendly.
Disadvantages of silk:
• Tears very easily
• It loses its color intensity quickly and tints easily.
• Since the silkworm is boiled alive to extract the cocoon thread undamaged, the fiber is associated with animal suffering.
Environmental advantages of silk:
- Very Easy to dye
Hemp for textile production comes from a specific variety of the cannabis plant, which is especially suitable for creating textiles. It grows to a plant ready for harvest in only 80 to 120 days.
Hemp has just had a revival in the textile industry, and more and more companies are producing textile products from hemp.
Advantages of hemp:
• Will become softer and more comfortable to wear
Disadvantages of hemp:
- Especially at the beginning very rough tissue
• Creases easily
• There are many rules and regulations for the production
Environmental advantages of hemp:
• Particularly long-lasting
• Produces more than twice the yield per m² than cotton
• Can grow on a wide variety of substrates, and grows like weeds
• No pesticides and very little water required for cultivation
Wool is a natural protein fiber made from the hair of sheep, alpaca, goats or other animals. However, wool most often comes from sheep.
Wool is a very light and soft material. The fine wool fibers ensure excellent temperature equalization. That is why this unique wool feels wonderfully cooling on the skin in summer. In winter, the material stores body heat.
Another advantage is that wool hardly absorbs body odours. It is not necessary to wash it immediately after wearing it. In most cases, airing it is entirely sufficient. The material is used for sports and functional wear and is often mixed with other fibers.
Wool is available in many variations and different quality levels. If you want to learn more about wool, World’s Finest Wool offers an excellent overview of the origin, history and quality of the different types of wool.
Also, sustainable production and animal welfare are important topics there.
Advantages of wool:
- Water repellent
• Keeps very warm
• Moisture Absorbing
Disadvantages of wool:
- Can scratch – depending on wool quality and skin sensitivity
Environmental advantages of wool:
- Easy to dye
• Less potent toxic substances must, therefore, be used
For a sustainable lifestyle, natural certified organic fibers are the first choice – primarily if they are fairly traded.
There are now many ethical, fair fashion brands on the market.
One of the most sustainable options is to buy your clothes second-hand. Especially robust, high-quality wool fibers are very durable and hardly absorb any odours.
For this reason, wool is also very popular in second-hand markets. Second-hand purchases ensure that an item of clothing can be worn further instead of ending up in the world’s big rubbish dumps.
We hope this article has helped you to inform you about sustainable clothing.