We are more aware than ever before about the ways modern fashion negatively affects the environment. People all over the world are experiencing an environmental awakening when it comes to our clothing choices. We can’t talk about sustainable clothing without discussing the cloth garments are made from. Agreed?
Selecting a fabric is one of the first steps in the design process. Determining how the final garment will look, feel, and cost. Over the years fabrics have been adapted to meet the rise in demand and the plummeting costs of clothing.
Where ever we are in the world, whether we like it or not, we all need to wear clothes. Cultural norms differ but that will always remain the same. If like us, you’re a bit of a geek, you’ll know there is a lot of speculation circulating as to what fabrics have the least environmental impact, meaning they are the best to use.
Let’s start by saying, there is no perfect solution, no matter what we choose to wear it will have some negatives, this is just the way of the world. But, natural fibres are commonly acknowledged to be more environmentally friendly materials when compared to their counterparts, synthetics.
The reason is simple, natural fabrics are made from plants or animal fibres. Whereas synthetic, man-made fabrics are made from, you guessed it, plastic. They are known as synthetic man-made fibres, and almost two-thirds of the clothes produced are made using them.
The opposite of this is natural fibres. There is a long list of fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton, silk, Tencel, Pinatex, Linen, wool and many more.
Due to their environmental and physical benefits, many brands are using more and more natural fabrics and taking a stand against the cheaper chemical alternatives. Independent brands such as Amberoot see it as their responsibility to raise global awareness about the importance of natural fibres.
While there are some truly inspiring companies creating clothes from recycled plastics. Today we are to discussing the benefits of avoiding plastic fabrics when possible.
Let us share why we think natural fibres are the cats (silk) pyjamas:
1. Hands Down Better Quality and Comfort.
We are always harping on about buying quality over quantity, well, today is no different. The quality of natural fibres is generally much higher than synthetics. The extra you might spend, you gain in comfort and quality, no doubt. Better quality equals a better long-term investment, for yourself, and for the environment. Win, win some might say.
Natural fabrics are ‘naturally’ breathable and absorbent which is beyond important when its warm. But also naturally insulating when its cold. Synthetic fabrics tend to trap heat and everything else, turning us into human sweatboxes. No thank you. For this reason alone I back natural fabrics, with quite a passion. Many a good day have been ruined by uncomfortable clothes.
2. So Much Better For The Environment.
When it comes to the end of a garments life, it is well noted that any garments made from natural fibres have a much shorter lifespan in regards to degradation. Natural fibres come from the earth, so when made into cloth (given they don’t have any plastic coatings) will return to the earth, decomposing relatively quickly.
Synthetic fibres are essentially plastic, we know how that story goes, they are gonna be around for a very long time. This becomes important when currently we are sending 11 million items of clothing to landfill every week. Piles of waste results in the release of carbon gases into the atmosphere. Slowly breaking down into smaller bits of plastic that can get into the food chain. Boo hiss boo.
3. The Less Harmful Micro Plastics, The Better.
Synthetic materials, while inexpensive to produce, can cause more harm to the environment than good. Remember the cosmetic micro-beads that we all campaigned to get banned? Turns out they were a drop in the ocean, literally. Unfortunately, this marks just the beginning of the war we are waging with micro-plastics.
A micro-fibre is a tiny piece of plastic often invisible to the naked eye, and thinner than a human hair. Our clothes shed millions of these micro-fibres when we wash them. This is a problem because they don’t get detected in water treatment plants and slip through into our water supplies, then inevitably into the ocean and our drinking water, even bottled water.
We know the risk of large plastic in the ocean, well these tiny plastics are just as hazardous. Once in the ocean, these fibres act like tiny sponges, absorbing chemicals already there. A lot of these chemicals are banned substances, such as fertilisers or dyestuff. Unknowingly, they get eaten by animals at the base of the food chain.
We currently have no idea how this will affect us in the future. But, I sure am not a fan of the idea. Damn you plastic!
4. Reducing Our Dependancy On Fossil Fuels.
We currently use earth’s resources at a much larger rate than is sustainable. Some resources can be replenished and regrown sustainably. Yet, other resources are finite, such as fossil fuels. This is pretty common knowledge, but still many people are adamant to keep using them.
The raw materials for plastics commonly come from hydrocarbons that are readily available in natural gas, oil and coal. With so many more innovative natural fabrics becoming available, plastic clothes feel pretty old hat to me.
The world is on a mission to one day reach a carbon neutral way of life. Helping to rewind the damage caused by global warming and meet the Paris agreement goals. Clothing has to come under scrutiny the same as everything else, no favouritism here. Plus, renewables are just cool.
5. Bring Power Back To The Farmers.
By using natural fibres we have more control over where textiles come from. When growing cotton, responsibly, it can have transformative effects on the surrounding communities. Other natural fibres can have a positive impact on the livelihoods of millions of people.
Developing countries often rely on crops such as cotton. By degrading the value of our natural resources we have also degraded the livelihoods of farmers. It is a sad affair. Help a farmer or two out. Fair trade, organic fabrics can generate more income to educate children worldwide and don’t poison the earth and the locals. Three things that should never be overlooked. Organic cotton still only makes up around 1 per cent of global cotton. Meaning there is much room for improvement.
5. Preserving Craftsmanship and Local Business.
Due to the demanding pace of fast fashion, many artisan communities and craftsmanship traditions are threatened to extinction, in favour of programmed machines. We all know how valuable local businesses are in supporting economies.
It is important to keep creative designs alive with a heritage that runs deeper than the latest trends.
Supporting hand skills means supporting people that contribute to a self-sustaining community. Clothes with a story and a heritage. It is a hugely important part of the fashion. Artisans are doing more than bringing beautiful products into the world. They help bring humanity back into the fashion industry.
As you can see from our outfit post, plastic-free sustainable fashion is both functional and fashionable. I freaking love this red 100% linen dress. Made by Lemuel MC using leftover Baltic linen sourced from Lithuanian textile manufacturers. IT HAS POCKETS!
Love, Lottie xx
Into The Eco
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Call to action: Sign the friends of the ocean petition to help find solutions and ask retailers to take responsibility for their plastic.