By showing that we don't support the use of resource-intensive fabrics, we are creating a demand for materials that are sustainably sourced. Hemp
In terms of sustainable materials, you can't get much more sustainable than hemp. From the get-go, hemp actually gives back to the environment by returning 60-70% of nutrients to the soil. It also requires significantly less water (between 300-500 litres) to grow 1kg of hemp compared to 1kg of cotton (approximately 10,000 litres). As for what it's like to own an item of clothing made from hemp, given that it's the chosen material for ship ropes, you'll be hanging onto it for a very long time. Linen
Linen comes a close second to hemp with regards to sustainability: it doesn't need much fertiliser, pesticides or irrigation. Although, you might want to own an iron or rock the crinkled look (which, who knows, might come into style one day). TENCEL™ Lyocell Tencel™ lyocell
is produced from eucalyptus trees which require little pesticides or water to grow. One really special thing about Tencel™ is that it's produced using a closed-loop system which recovers over 99% of the solvents used and recycles them in the production process. We should be striving for a closed-loop system as a way of manufacturing fabrics because this would take us closer to a circular fashion industry. What fabrics should we be avoiding?
While it's difficult to avoid popular fabrics, it's useful to know what impact they have on our environment so we can make clothing decisions with our planet in mind.
As we are aiming to reduce textile waste and make our fashion industry more circular, it's good to know which fabrics take a long time to biodegrade. Polyester, acrylic and nylon are three fabrics that can take up to 200 years to biodegrade.
However, it's worth mentioning how some materials, even though they're biodegradable, can still be harmful to the environment. I'm talking about Rayon (aka Viscose). The process used to produce rayon is very chemically-intensive which puts garment workers at risk of severe health problems, as well as polluting the nearby eco-systems when the huge amount of water needed in rayon's production is dumped in the local water systems.
As we've established a few times already, cotton is not a friend to our water supply. It uses ridiculous amounts of water and actually drained the Aral Sea (a once large lake in Central Asia) due to the amount of water used to grow cotton in the area. Cotton also uses enormous amounts of pesticides which causes devastation to the health of surrounding communities and the environment.
So, there are a multitude of fabrics out there which are more resilient, recyclable and eco-friendly than many of the most popular fabrics and blends in circulation. It's so important we consider these options because, as we've learnt, fashion waste hugely impacts our planet. As well as a necessity, clothes are a way to express ourselves and to have fun – so let's make sure that we can continue to have fun for a while longer and protect the planet along the way!
It's a good note to end on that nobody is perfect. We can only do what's within our reach. Ultimately, most of the responsibility to reduce fashion waste lies with brands. They're the ones who can make the changes to the materials used, the emissions released, and the sheer volume of clothing produced. Hopefully, by consumers demanding a more circular system and being more mindful of fabrics, it will pressure manufacturers into rethinking their current practices.