Sustainability of Materials Found In Your Closet
When you take a look through your closet every day searching for what to wear - what materials do you come across the most? From leather, to polyester, wool, cashmere and sustainable alternatives such as hemp or vegan leather we all own pieces that are at different ends of the spectrum in terms of their sustainability level and contribution to environmental harm during their manufacturing process.
In this blog post we're going to talk about the most common materials we run into whilst sourcing here at SHOPUBBI, as well as some materials which have been marketed towards consumers for quite some time as "ethical", and "environmentally friendly" choices - yet may not entirely hold true to those descriptors. We'll outline some of the greenwashing^ that occurs on a daily basis regarding specific materials used in the fashion industry.
Usually, textiles are divided into two groups:
- Natural fibers
- Artificial fibers
Natural fibers consist of materials such as cotton, linen, wool, silk. Artificial fibers oftentimes consists of cellulosic materials such as rayon, acetate, and tri-acetate.
There are also non-cellulosic materials that make up artificial fibers such as nylon, polyester, and elastane.
In terms of ranking on each materials harmfulness/ toxicity to the environment the top five most harmful materials due to their production process and chemical composition include:
- Polyester (made from synthetic polymers containing dihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid)
- Rayon (treated with ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid to extend longevity)
- Acrylic (polycrylonitriles which have been found to be carcinogenic)
- Nylon (petroleum based fabric with an extensive amount of chemicals included in it amongst them being chloroform, caustic soda, terpineol,pentene, and sulfuric acid)
- Acetate (extensive chemical processing)
Any fabric which goes through such a large amount of chemical processing is worrisome as the impact does not disappear after production. Wearing and disposing of items that contain such harsh chemicals is detrimental to us, and the environment we live in as they transfer to our water sources and the living organisms around us.
Overall, we've narrowed down the fabrics that are your best choices, as well as the ones which are most harmful, or falsely represented as eco-friendly to consumers. As consumers we should aim to purchase items made from fibers such as recycled fibers, plant based fibers, animal based fabrics and semi-synthetic fibers. These fabrics are made with low environmental impact, consist of waste material, and are produced in a sustainable way. Inclusive of: recycled textiles, hemp, linen, alpaca, silk, lyocell/tencel, and orange fiber.
Fabrics we should be avoiding consist of cotton, leather, wool, down, leather, cashmere, polyester, viscose, rayon, modal, bamboo - synthetic fibers and vegan leather due to their high water need, energy consumption, harsh chemical composition, as well as being non-biodegradable.
*^ - Greenwashing is a communication and marketing strategy adopted by companies or other organizations. It consists in putting forward ecological arguments in order to forge an ecologically responsible image among the public.
Sustainable Fabrics • Guide on the most ethical materials . SustainYourStyle. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/fiber-ecoreview
The 5 most toxic fabrics to use if you want to kill the planet. THR3EFOLD Ethical Fashion Community. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.thr3efold.com/news/the-5-most-toxic-fabrics-to-use-if-you-want-to-kill-the-planet
Bl, B-side, & Brown, L. D. (2022, September 23). What is vegan leather and is it sustainable? Sustainable Jungle. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-fashion/vegan-leather-sustainable/
What is greenwashing, and how do you spot it? Business News Daily. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10946-greenwashing.html