This is our five tips on more sustainable materials to look for when shopping new garments. But remember, the most sustainable material is the one found in the clothes you already own.
Choose Second Hand
Buying second hand is the single most sustainable choice, when it comes to buying clothes. A Swedish study shows that the Co2–emissions from buying one pair of jeans is the equivalent of buying 197 pre-loved ones. And a new winter coat’s emission is equal to buying 394 second hand ones.
With this said, there are occasions when your problem can’t be solved by the second hand market. Here you can make a difference by simply choosing more sustainable materials.
Five more sustainable materials
Linen is a natural fabric made from the flax plant. The plant grows in cold and rainy climates. It’s naturally resistant to many diseases and doesn’t require the use of pesticides. Always choose linen instead of cotton, when possible, as growing cotton is a process that requires a lot of water and chemical usage. Cotton is also grown in warmer climates, with the fabric ending up travelling halfway across the globe. Learn more about linen here.
Linen clothes are comfortable to wear, and when properly cared for they will last for years. Linen is also great for people with allergies, as it’s naturally dust repellant.
Lyocell, also known as Tencel, is a cellulose-based fabric, and is manufactured by chemically processing wood. The process is more energy-efficient and its chemicals are reused, which is a major difference from the manufacturing of the similar fabrics viscose and rayon.
Despite not being a natural fabric, it’s very comfortable to wear and is sometimes referred to as “fake silk”. Lyocell is also more durable, making these garments likely to last longer. Choose lyocell over synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon.
Silk is a natural fabric made from cocoons from the silk larvae. The process does not require any pesticides, but chemical fertilizers might occur.
The silk fabric is often perceived as luxurious and timeless, and if you take good care of your silk garment, it can last for generations.
Econyl (and other recyled synthetics)
Econyl is made of recycled plastics, and is a better option over nylon, polyester and other synthetic fibers that are similar to plastic, that requires lots of chemicals, dissolvents or residues from oil to be manufactured.
The disadvantage is that Econyl releases microplastics when washing, which cannot be filtered by wastewater treatment plants, making them go straight out into our lakes and seas.
Econyl is good for swimwear and accessories that are not washed as often. Invest in a laundry bag that collects microplastics from synthetic garments.
From hemp you can manufacture fabric in a similar way as the flax plant. Just like the flax plant, industrial hemp can be grown in cold and rainy climates and requires no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
The fabric is similar to linen, and it can be mixed with for instance ecological cotton to gain other qualities.
Look for sustainable labels
It’s also good to look for certificates such as GOTS for cotton, and Fairtrade certificates that mean that workers are treated fairly. There are many more out there, but not all should be trusted, as they may lack supervision.