The side-effects of the fashion industry comprise many things, and impacting the environment is one of them. Starting with the production part, the making of clothing material consumes loads of water, energy and chemicals, resulting in pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion. Now coming to the final product, the consumption and abandonment of fast-fashion products in the modern era happen much faster than we could imagine, leading to a problem of global waste. This comes from the ever-changing trends of the ever-evolving fashion industry. Because of all this, the fashion industry is openly held accountable and pressure has been initiated from all sides to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, including the use of eco-friendly fabrics.
Fabrics made from naturally raw materials such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, silk & wool as well as recycled materials such as polyester, nylon and cotton are known as eco-friendly fabrics. They are called so because their production results in the least amount of impact on the environment and human health. They are made in sustainable ways, such as water and energy conservation, non-toxic dyes & finishes and zero-waste manufacturing.
Using eco-friendly fabrics invites various advantages. Eco-friendly fabrics require less amount of water, energy and chemicals, therefore reducing waste and pollution. They are also safe for human skin, are of better quality, and are more durable than freshly produced synthetic fabrics. Their durability raises the probability of a decrease in global waste. Lastly using eco-friendly fabrics empowers local communities and favours fair labor practices.
Natural Eco-Friendly Fabrics
One of the most widely used natural fibers in the textile industry, cotton is of 2 types based on its production process: Conventional and Organic. Conventional cotton brings adverse impacts on the environment as well as society through pesticide use, soil degradation and labor exploitation. The eco-friendly alternative to conventional cotton is organic cotton, which is cultivated without utilizing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, therefore empowering the preservation of soil health and biodiversity. Recycled cotton and fair trade cotton are other eco-friendly options.
Hemp has been used for centuries in textiles, papers and various other products. Hemp is a fast-growing plant that is responsible for a sustainable fiber that requires less water and pesticides than cotton in its production process. Not only that, but it also produces strong and durable fiber. Hemp is produced for initiating the making of a range of eco-friendly pieces such as hemp denim, twill and jersey.
Linen originates from the stalks of a flax plant. It is a highly absorbent and long-lasting fabric that is ideal for summer clothing and bedding. Linen’s use of a minimal degree of water and pesticides and its ability to be either recycled or biodegraded qualifies it as a highly eco-friendly material.
Silk is a royal and gentle fabric that is produced out of the cocoons of silkworms. Keeping in mind the uprising of animal welfare issues, eco-friendly silk options are available that use non-violent and sustainable methods. Peace Silk and Ahimsa Silk are examples of eco-friendly fibers. It involves letting the silkworms complete their entire life cycle and emerge from the cocoons unharmed.
Produced from the hair of sheep, goats and other animals, wool is another fiber after silk that is extracted from animals rather than plants. Woolen clothes are the most demanded garments during the winter season due to their ability to preserve the heat of the skin. As a material, wool is renewable and biodegradable. It is naturally immune to any form of odor, stains and wrinkles. Organic wool is one of the eco-friendly wool options which is produced without the involvement of synthetic chemicals. Another option is recycled wool, made from discarded wool fibers.
Sustainable Production and Practices
Various kinds of dyes are eco-friendly and therefore can be used in the painting or printing process as well without causing any harm to the environment. Such kinds of dyes include natural dyes, low-impact dyes and water inks. Such dyes minimize water usage, eliminate using toxic pollutants, and lessen carbon footprint. Furthermore, we also have the option of adopting plant-based dyeing, organic dyeing, or even low-impact dyeing as one of the eco-friendly dyeing practices. In addition, printing techniques like block printing, hand printing & digital printing can also be used to create unique designs.
The idea of making clothes and designing them to leave no waste is known as zero-waste manufacturing. Such a goal of manufacturing textiles can be attained by using upcycled or recycled materials, creating patterns that use fabric to its level best and figuring out an innovative approach to use leftover fabric scraps. With this, the fashion industry can cut down its impact on the environment to a great extent.
We should consider artisanal production techniques like hand embroidery, hand knitting, hand weaving, etc. to reduce the carbon footprint of fashion. This can also help promote traditional crafts which is a vital part of our cultural heritage. If we source materials locally, it cuts down the need for long-distance transportation and gives empowerment to local communities. Such initiatives leave a positive, long-lasting impact not only on the environment but the complex human society as well.
Design and Functionality of Eco-Friendly Fabrics
Eco-friendly fabrics are responsible for expanding the scope of creativity that has further revolutionized the fashion industry. Fashion companies now come with one-of-a-kind textures, patterns and colors, all thanks to their incorporation of natural and recycled materials in the production process. Many brands turn their involvement in using organic materials as a unique selling point for their business, which attracts consumers considering the health benefits of eco-friendly fabrics. Some popular eco-friendly fashion trends are linen and cotton dresses, bamboo leggings, etc.
Eco-friendly fabrics have outclassed traditional fabrics in many ways, even with the expectations of quality and durability. Fabrics like cotton and linen are lauded for their strength and durability. At the same time, recycled materials like nylon and polyester are just as durable as virgin materials. There are also very unique and powerful benefits to many eco-friendly fabrics, such as moisture-wicking and UV protection.
Eco-friendly fabrics such as recycled polyester can be curated for moisture-wicking properties that keep the wearer dry and comfortable, especially during physical activities. Cotton, linen and hemp are often praised due to their lightweight nature, which further provides comfort and breathability. These fabrics are thus perfectly compatible with your hot summer days.
Consumer Education and Awareness
With the advent of high demand for eco-friendly clothes, consumers need to know how to figure out if the garment is environmentally friendly or not. One such way of doing so is by knowing about the labels and certifications which confirm if the eco-friendly apparel is authentic or not. Some examples of these labels and certifications include Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Cradle to Cradle and Bluesign.
Support sustainable brands as a consumer by using your power to choose them over regular brands and hence, buy eco-friendly garments to show your side of contribution towards a sustainable future. Your well-made decision can also bring a positive impact on the fashion industry.
Through awareness campaigns and education about the benefits reaped by nature and society using eco-friendly fibers and fabrics, which will eventually benefit the quality of human life, we can immediately put pressure on fashion brands as well to adopt sustainable practices and products and also encourage their customer base to make eco-friendly choices. This movement can grow exponentially with the help of advocacy groups and fashion influencers.
A vital component of the sustainable fashion movement, eco-friendly fabrics have immense potential in creative direction and carry a prominent place in the future of the fashion industry. An array of fabrics that are naturally sustainable, renewable, biodegradable, comfortable, breathable and durable will take over the trend of ongoing fast fashion based on the production of fresh, synthetic materials someday. These fabrics can turn out to be extremely beautiful and functional clothes ranging from tops to midi dresses, and the best part is we can source the services to make them locally, thus supporting the local communities and cutting down the transportation.
However, it’s super necessary to be aware of the labeling and certification standards that authenticate an eco-friendly textile product. In the end, with the onset of the sustainable fashion movement, we are seeing a new day and a new way to bring a healthier version of planet Earth into existence.