In this last blog I want to inform you about where you can do your sustainable shopping. I will provide you with a list of where to find sustainable fashion, which brands I like and which materials to look for when comparing brands and sustainable options. First, I think it is important to know which types of materials are most sustainable. For more tell tales of sustainable fashion, read my first blog.
As you know, fashion comes in different kinds of sizes, shapes, colours and materials. When on a sustainable shopping spree it is important to understand which types of materials are more sustainable than others and why. The type of fabric can be a good tell-tale of sustainable fashion. For example, regular wool, silk, nylon, leather, polyester and rayon/viscose are very polluting for the environment due to their inefficient production processes and their unfriendly animal sourcing techniques. Also are they more harmful to the environment as these materials require a lot of land, water and pesticides to be able to be useful.
Textiles: The Sustainability Movement
There is almost no part in the world or industry where the sustainability movement has not hit. As you’re probably aware of now, the textile industry is one of the biggest polluters. Nonetheless, sustainable textiles have grown in popularity because of the moral consciousness that many people feel. One of the main reasons the movement has gained so much ground is because of the shift away from using petroleum-based products. In the clothing industry, believe it or not, there is a huge number of garments that are produced with synthetic petroleum products. They are usually far cheaper than other types of textiles and so they are widely sought after. However, they are harming the environment because they are produced with toxic chemicals and are not sourced with the sustainable movement in mind.
Sustainable textiles consist of two different types of natural fibers. The first are plant fibers and the second are animal fibers. Many of the plant fibers are worn by people every day, such as cotton, but that does not necessarily means they are sustainable. Cotton is one of the most used materials for clothing in the world. This is a huge problem because it is also one of the most polluting products available. Insecticide and pesticides are used in a large scale to produce cotton and a lot of water is used to grown and clean the plant. Other materials like flax, hemp and soy are far more sustainable.
There are also animal products that provide sustainable textiles. Among these are wool, camel, and llama, which are all produced from the hair of the animals. Then there are also textiles made from animals like silk, which are produced in different ways. Even though the latter one is not very animal friendly, all of these animal products are still more sustainable than the synthetic products made from petroleum.
While there are serious environmental impacts associated with many fabrics there are some whose impact is much less. I have compiled a list below. When you’re going on your (first) sustainable shopping spree, make sure to remember and look for these fabrics.
What To Look For: Sustainable Fabrics
1. Organic cotton
When buying organic cotton, make sure it was sourced from Wear Organic. Wear Organic is a project and campaign run by the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK). It aims to reduce the problems caused by pesticides used particularly in cotton and promotes organic and fair trade alternatives. It provides information for consumers on the environmental impacts of fabric production. Organic cotton garments are likely to be free from chlorine bleaches and synthetic dyes.
Hemp is a great ecological option because it is highly productive, easy to cultivate and pest tolerant. This means there is no need for agrochemicals whilst at the same time binding and enriching the soil with its deep roots. It is a traditional fibre that went out of ‘style’ in the 1930s for political reasons, rather than practical ones. Just to make sure, before you light up your shirt: agricultural hemp, though versatile and productive as a fibre, oil and food plant, is useless as a narcotic!
Bamboo is the latest plant material to hit the eco-friendly fabrics market. It is described as hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast-drying and naturally anti-bacterial and comes from a very fast-growing plant. It’s not all good though, there are some concerns about the chemicals used in its processing, however less pesticides and fertilisers are used, and it is still a sustainable choice compared to most other fabrics.
One of the more promising developments in sustainable textiles is flax, a stalky and fibrous plant that can be grown with far less water and fewer pesticides than cotton and produced at a lower price. Most flax is produced for its grain, which is turned into food. But its fiber can also be transformed into materials that look and feel similar to cotton. Flax is mainly used for linen.
5. Organic wool
Organic wool is increasingly becoming available, It is produced using sustainable farming practises and without toxic sheep dips. Often organic wool can be sourced from local farmers which then reduces the carbon footprint and is thus more sustainable.
Tencel is a textile that is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees. It is rising in popularity due to its rayon-like feel and sustainable origins. Like bamboo and flax, eucalyptus requires fewer pesticides and far less acreage and water to grow than cotton. A competitor to viscose, tencel is made by combining wood pulp with the nontoxic solvent amine oxide, 99% of which is recovered and reused, in a process known as closed-loop manufacturing.
Soy fabric is made as a by-product of soy foods like tofu and soybean oil, meaning that the waste of the food industry is utilized by the textile industry. Soy is thus a renewable resource. However, the soy plant requires a large amount of water and pesticides for cultivation, although organic soy can successfully be grown on a smaller, more lower-impact scale. Another agricultural and environmental issue with soy production is the amount of rainforest land becoming compromised for the sake of this crop, which is causing massive habitat destruction, food shortages and rapid environmental change. So, soy’s sustainability and whether it is an eco-friendly fabric can vary depending on how the soy itself was grown.
8. Recycled polyester
Recycled polyester is a bit on the fence. Think of full-on, high-tech fleece jackets or swim trunks that are made from recycled drink bottles or PET bottles that are actually not as sustainable as they claim to be. This because these include coatings that are harmful for the environment like PVC, laminates and polyurethane. However, it does put good use to already existing polyester.
Textiles and Regeneration
Even though natural fibers are more sustainable textiles than are the petroleum products, there are still serious problems with some farming manufacturers. It is still possible for natural fiber producers to not be considered sustainable because they do not focus their efforts on regeneration. These types of producers are not helping the environment at all as regeneration is meant to regenerate the fibres that have been used so that these fibres don’t get exhausted or depleted.
There is still a long way to go before textiles are produced sustainably across the entire world. But you can help this process by only buying sustainable fabrics and thus creating higher demand. It is really up to the customer to demand sustainable clothing, fabrics and practices from designers and manufacturers. Just like any other type of sustainable project, the only way they will know to change their habits is if economic factors force their hand. Make sure to show them that sustainable products are the most important thing for the longevity of the planet earth!
It is often easier to do your sustainable shopping online as there are more brands available. Therefore I will first provide you with a list that entails brands that can be purchased online. However, I do think it is better to go to physical stores to shop and so I will also include a list of brands that can be found in Utrecht, The Netherlands as most of my readers live in this area.
Below is a list of a few sustainable brands that can be bought online. I wanted to highlight these brands as they are all innovative, modern and fashionable. It is also a pretty diverse selection of brands. This, to show you the wide range of possibilities and sustainable products that are available. There are a lot more sustainable brands out there that are easy to find by just simply typing in ‘sustainable brands’ in google. If you know of any sustainable gems, feel free to share them with me!
For more info on these brands, click here. (Dutch only)
Here’s an overview of the sustainable shopping you can do in Utrecht. These brands are completely sustainable or carry a sustainable line.
Want to know what other sustainable brands you can find in Utrecht? Join the ‘Fair Fashion Route’ organized by Fair Fashion Festival on the 7th of January 2016. Get to know more sustainable brands and get your own sustainable shopping done. Check out the program here.
Avoid At All Costs
Just to help you out, here’s a selection of the thousands of stores and brands you should avoid at all cost as they do not fit any of the sustainable criteria according to Rank a Brand:
Jean Paul Gaultier
Thank you for reading my last blog on sustainable shopping. I hope by now I have given you enough hands on tips and tricks to be able to turn things around in 2016 so you can live a guilt-free and more sustainable life 🙂 Please let me know if you have any questions, tips or comments! I hope you’ve had a lot of fun reading my posts and I wish you all the best for the New Year!