Quick Guide to Sustainable Fabrics

Why you should care

Getting to know your fabric material’s good & ugly is the first step to becoming sustainably conscious.

By Hey Social Good

These days, you’ve probably come across all kinds of conversations about sustainable fashion. Do you ever wonder what fabrics these eco friendly clothes are made from? Here’s our simple guide on all things (sustainably) fabric.

Simple Guide to Sustainable Fabrics

Modal. Made of cellulose fiber predominantly from Beech tree.  Mostly produced by Lenzing AG under the Brand name Tencel. 

Lyocell. People-made natural fiber from wood pulp.  It can also be branded as Tencel.

Tencel. Brand name of modal and lyocell fabrics produced by Lenzig AG. Tencel is produced from sustainably sourced wood and environmentally friendly practices, including water recovery and closed loop production efforts.

Cotton. This is seen as “the fabric of our life” because cotton is natural, biodegradable and can be recycled after use.  The problem with growing conventional cotton is that is uses an enormous amount of water and land space. And, conventional cotton is often grown in parts of the world where water is scarce (e.g. India, Africa, etc.).  Growing cotton requires the use of pesticides is harmful to the land, farmers and everyone involved in the production chain.

Organic CottonCotton grown without pesticides is a better option because less water is needed to grow the crop, produces less carbon dioxide (CO2), naturally returns good nutrients back to the earth, and supports farmers with a fair-trade price.

Bamboo Fabric. Made of wood pulp , bamboo is an eco-friendly option because it grows fast and thus, considered a renewable resource. Because not all bamboo is processed in an Eco-friendly manner, it would be worth looking into the source of the bamboo material. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests because they promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC does this by setting standards on forest products, along with certifying and labeling them as eco-friendly.

Hemp. Hemp grows densely and does not require the use of herbicides and pesticides. It needs less water and land than cotton to grow and regenerates the nutrients in the soil during its growth cycle.   The process of turning hemp into soft fabric can include chemicals and dyes, so it is important to seek out hemp that is organic and sustainably harvested. 

In An (organic) Nutshell…

  • Modal or Tencel made materials are sustainable.  GOOD
  • Hemp and Bamboo materials are less clear. NEED TO CHECK
  • Cotton is sustainable if organic. GOOD

Recycled & Upcycled

Upcycled Clothing. Clothing made from vintage clothes and jeans or discarded stock fabric.

Recycled Plastic Bottle Fabric. Many companies use recycled plastic bottles, which are chipped into tiny pieces and than reformed to make polyester fabric. These are then made into clothing, shoes, and active wear.  Buying clothes made of recycled plastic bottles help remove plastic water bottles from the land and ocean.

Difference between upcycled and recycled fabric- Upcycled fabric is the creative reuse of existing fabric. Recycled fabric is created by breaking down waste material and recreating something new.

For more tips, check out our Fashion This for That Guide!


Keywords: sustainable fabric; fabric; sustainable fashion; Modal; Lyocell; beech trees; Tencel; natural fiber; natural fibre; wood pulp; lenzig AG; closed loop production; water consumption; water savings; clean water; water recovery; cotton; organic cotton; biodegradable; pesticides; co2; carbon dioxide; bamboo; Eco-plants Bamboo; fairtrade; fsc certified; hemp; sustainable hemp; upcycled; recycled

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