Is your clothing hurting or helping the environment? What can purchasing eco-friendly clothing do for you and the world?
The majority of clothes made today are seriously damaging to the environment and to your health. Especially with the prevalence of fast fashion, clothing production has a lot of serious effects:
- It can waste a lot of natural and finite resources;
- Production chemicals, bleaches, and dyes are dumped into oceans and our ecosystem;
- These chemicals end up on our skin and in our bodies.
You’re a smart consumer. You want to purchase eco-friendly clothing that not only
So we’ve created a guide of eco-friendly clothing fabrics that are best for the environment and for your health, so you can make strong purchasing decisions to take your wardrobe and conscientiousness to the next level. We’ve also ended the guide with the most damaging clothing materials you’ll want to avoid whenever possible.
When looking for healthy clothing materials, we care about:
- Where is the material sourced? (Natural is better than man-made.)
- What resources are required to create the fabric? Are those resources renewable? “Resource consumption” refers to water, energy, land, fossil fuels, pesticides, chemicals, dyes, etc.
- What does the longevity and end-life of the fabric look like? Is it biodegradable or recyclable, or does it sit in landfills?
Psst… All of the materials mentioned below are biodegradable anddurable enough for multiple homes and owners. They’re sustainable and great for first-time wearers as well as consignment purchases!
Hemp is not only one of the most sustainable and renewable fabrics available to us, but it’s also becoming an increasingly popular fashion statement. It’s a natural fiber that actually
Water: Unlike other natural materials (like cotton), hemp doesn’t require a lot of water to produce.
Land: Hemp has a huge yield and high utilization of land. It can produce almost three times more fiber per acre than cotton. Plus, it doesn’t deplete soil nutrients while growing. In fact, it actually replenishes the soil, so farmers can continue to grow and grow without damaging the soil.
Chemicals: Hemp requires little to no pesticides and fertilizer during growing. There’s no chemical processing required to turn hemp into clothing, either.
Hemp is a warm fabric, so it’s best for colder weather in the fall and winter. It’s also moisture wicking and antibacterial, so it works well against the elements.
Some hemp feels a little “scratchy” when you first buy it, but it becomes a lot softer with wear and washing. Unlike other eco clothing materials that wear down bit by bit with each wash, hemp is incredibly durable and can withstand years of use without losing its structure and style. It’s also machine washable, so it’s easy to care for years to come!
Learn more about hemp clothing with Earth Easy.
Bamboo is a natural fabric that comes from a highly renewable and sustainable plant. It’s the “OG” of eco-friendly clothing, and for a good reason.
Bamboo is easy to grow and easy to renew. It doesn’t require a lot of water or land, since it grows tall in thin stalks. Bamboo grows in a variety of areas around the world, and it doesn’t damage the environment around it.
In some cases, chemicals are used to produce the bamboo fabric. If this is the case, it will usually be labeled as “bamboo-based rayon.” So look for “natural bamboo” to ensure chemicals were not used during production.
Bamboo is an increasingly popular fabric because of its breathability. It’s light and airy for summer wear, but durable enough for the fall and winter. It even works well for athletic wear. It’s one of the softest materials and it’s naturally antibacterial, so we also love using bamboo for sleepwear.
Linen is a light, natural fiber that’s a favorite for hotter climates, though it can be more challenging to care for.
Linen is made from the flax plant, which doesn’t require pesticides or chemicals to grow naturally. The low chemical count makes it healthy for the ecosystem and your health.
However, linen does require a lot of water during production, so it’s not the most sustainable when it comes to resource consumption.
Linen is an incredibly lightweight, breathable, and absorbent fabric, which makes it great for warmer climates. It can actually help keep your body temperature low in the summer, especially compared to cotton or hemp.
However, linen requires a little more upkeep than other fabrics. It wrinkles easily, and it usually isn’t machine washable (hand-wash only). It’s an investment in time and care - but it can be well worth it!
Lyocell, also called Tencel (the brand name), is a unique natural fiber that’s becoming more popular for both small brands and large fashion retailers to implement in their fashion lies.
Lyocell is made from natural cellulose wood pulp that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Using sustainable harvesting practices, farmers harvest raw wood pulp and break it down into threads. It requires less water than cotton, and harvesting processes are highly sustainable.
It does require chemical processing to turn the wood pulp into fabric. However, they use closed loop processing, so all of the chemicals are recycled and reused - rather than being released into the environment. This means it’s not necessarily bad for the ecosystem, but some of the chemicals may still make it to your skin.
Lyocell is soft and gentle, and it’s cool and dry to the touch. It’s anti-bacterial, so it’s naturally odor-resistant. It’s machine washable and wrinkle-resistant, so it offers easy upkeep as well! It’s one of the newer eco clothing materials on the scene, but it’s worth trying out!
Wool is a renewable fabric made from sheep’s fur. This means it’s virtually “infinitely” sustainable - as long as we take care of our sheep. It doesn’t require a lot of land, except for grazing land, but it uses small amounts of water consumption.
You want to ensure you buy organic wool. This ensures there are no chemicals, especially chlorine and bleach, used in production. You may also want to check to see if the company uses humane treatments with their sheep.
Wool is warm, comfortable, and great for cool climate. It requires hand washing, though, and it’s slightly higher maintenance.
Check out these 10 easy hacksto maintain your clothes and make them last longer.
We have to include silk because it’s such a luxurious fabric—and it’s natural and renewable! It requires less water than cotton, it’s biodegradable, and it uses minimal chemicals during processing.
Even though silk requires a lot of TLC (like hand-washing and gentle wear), we can’t get enough of this soft and plush material.
However, some companies kill silk worms in the process off silk production. Look for vegan silk for highly sustainable silk practices.
Cotton sometimes gets a bad reputation, because certain cotton producers use a lot of pesticides and water. But as the fashion industry has become more sustainable and conscious, a lot of brands are moving towards super eco-friendly ways of production.
Cotton is a natural, durable, and sustainable fiber. Cotton is typically biodegradable, soft, and comfortable, and it’s highly. renewable.
At Current Boutique, you’ll find a lot of gorgeous designer styles made from cotton. You’ll love the way this cotton looks and feels, and it’s the best material for your “everyday” clothes. Plus, you’ll be looking out for the environment!
Clothing materials to AVOID
Polyester is affordable, easy to care for, and found in a lot of blends… but it’s made with super toxic chemicals that are bad for humans and for the environment. It’s also made from petroleum (oil), which is a non-renewable resource. (Petroleum is also used for plastics.) During production, it uses high amounts of energy and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. It’s non-biodegradable, so it can stay in landfills for over two centuries.
That’s a lot of bad stuff for you and for the environment. If you’re looking to take your sustainability game up a notch, avoiding polyester is probably step one.
Recycled polyester (rPET) is becoming more popular, but it has both positives and negatives. It gives us access to polyester—which is good for active wear and swimwear since it’s so resistant to water—while cutting out the need for virgin polyester that’s so damaging to the environment. However, the recycling of polyester still requires a lot of energy and chemicals, so it’s not entirely sustainable either.
Nylon is a man-made fiber that’s affordable and popular, but it’s bad for the environment. Like polyester, it’s sourced from oil—which is a non-renewable source. It’s also processed with lots of chemicals, especially since it usually requires acid dying. The production process also creates nitrous oxide, which is a powerful and harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Say “no thanks” to nylon.
Acrylic is a synthetic alternative to wool. Although it’s lightweight and soft with almost a cashmere feel, it pills easily and it’s not breathable. Production requires a lot of toxic chemicals and immense energy consumption that damages the environment—and the fabric itself. It’s also not biodegradable and it can’t be recycled, and a lot of companies won’t even buy worn acrylic.
Shop Eco-Friendly Clothing
Staying mindful of the clothing materials you’re purchasing and wearing can completely revolutionize the fashion industry. You are in control of how the fashion industry moves forward. Let’s work together towards a more sustainable (and stylish) world.
Want more awesome info about sustainable clothing options? Check out these resources to learn more and be a part of the solution!