It seems lately that many clothing brands are spending a great deal of energy marketing their sustainability. Clothing companies are trying hard to be better but we all have a long way to go. There are a number of terms used when brands speak to their sustainability, green or eco-friendly efforts and we thought we’d take some blog space to explain what some of the more common terms or phrases really mean and what the implications are:
Recycled polyester is obtained by melting down existing plastic (plastic bottles etc) and re-spinning it into new polyester fiber.
The problem: While this reduces emissions and can help reduce extraction of materials used to make new polyester/plastic, recycled polyester actually sheds more plastic microfibers into our waterways, air and farm fields than new polyester. Plastic particles washed off from products such as these synthetic clothes contribute up to 35% of the primary plastic that is polluting our oceans. Learn more here.
The better option: textiles made with materials from the Earth like organic cotton and hemp.
Vegan Leather is a replication leather that isn't made with animal products.
Whether or not vegan leather can really be considered “sustainable” depends on how it was made. For instance, most mainstream vegan leathers don’t harm animals in the production process, but they are largely made from polyurethane or PVC leather.
The problem: these materials use large quantities of water and are not completely biodegradable, which ultimately break down into plastic microfibers.
The better option: newer, better alternatives like cacti, pineapple leaves, and mycelium are starting to become available however, reducing the environmental impact of leather production. Leather made from cacti saves 164,650% of water compared to animal leather and 190% in comparison to polyurethane-based vegan leather.
(Source: 2022 Article published be World Economic Forum in Collaboration with Ecowatch)
Bamboo fabric (you may see bamboo viscose or rayon) is not a natural fabric. It is a semi-synthetic textile made of natural cellulose extracted from bamboo. That’s why it's often marketed as eco-friendly.
The problem: the manufacturing of bamboo fabric emits poisonous gas. Heavy chemicals are required for its production and those chemicals pollute drinking water, the air, and soil.
The better option: lyocell. Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulosic fibers (like bamboo) but it is produced using a closed loop process that can almost fully recover and reuse water and chemicals rather than dumping them into the environment. Lyocell has a similar look and feel to bamboo viscose but much better for the environment. To top it off, the main ingredients in Lyocell are also considered non-toxic.
Takeaway: Don’t Always Trust Labels!
These are just a few of the sustainability buzzwords and products out there. We hope it’s given you a few things to think about.
It’s a challenge putting these out there as we are not perfect ourselves. For instance dyeing. Dyeing is not the cleanest process and we will be covering that in a future blog/newsletter. Do we wish we were naturally dyeing everything? You bet! We’re trying to crack that code and we hope to be introducing some great new naturally dyed items in the not too distant future. Unfortunately that is not an easy process, is quite costly and to be honest has been quite an adventure to bring to market.
We can’t change the world, but we can make small decisions that make a great impact.
Until next time,