Our top rating of an “A” fabric is reserved for fabrics that are natural, plant-based, biodegradable, and do not require large amounts of water, energy and toxic chemicals to produce. These fabrics represent the top 10% of the apparel market.
What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton is a natural fiber that is non-GMO and grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. About a third of the world’s textiles are made of cotton but it is a challenging crop to grow, water intensive, and vulnerable to insects. Conventional cotton is one of the most chemically dependent crops, using 16% of insecticides. It also requires an intensive amount of water and is grown in countries with water shortages. Organic cotton makes up <1% of the total cotton market.
What is recycled cotton?
Recycled cotton is another environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cotton that reduces the reliance on virgin cotton production. It is mainly made through scraps leftover after cutting out patterns. It can be mechanically recycled by shredding leftovers and spinning the cotton.
What is hemp?
Hemp is a sustainable fabric that can typically be grown without pesticides or herbicides. It also requires little water. Hemp is natural, soft, breathable, lightweight, and durable. According to the Stockholm Environment Institute, it requires 500 liters of water compared to 20,000 liters for conventional cotton. However, hemp makes up only 0.2% of the total fiber market because it wrinkles easily and is difficult to dye.
What is linen?
Linen is made from flax fiber. Linen is a great summer fabric that is breathable, soft, comfortable, and luxurious. Historically, it symbolized luxury. It remains more expensive today because it’s hard to weave. The flax fibers are easily broken so machinery must run slowly. Linen also represents less than 1% of textile fibers.
What is Tencel?
Lyocell (or Tencel) is an innovative fiber. While not completely natural because it requires man-made additives, it is usually sourced from wood pulp; it can also be sourced from bamboo, soy, seaweed or coconut. The other ingredients in lyocell are considered non-toxic and easily regenerated. Tencel is one brand of lyocell made by Lenzing. Sustainable production of lyocell can reuse water and chemicals, with 99% of solvents recycled.
Our five favorite eco-friendly fabrics are natural or innovative materials that reduce water and chemical usage including organic cotton, recycled cotton, hemp, linen, and lyocell.