The Eco-Impact of Your Clothing Fabrics: Beginners Guide

The Eco-Impact of Your Clothing Fabrics: Beginners Guide

Every time we buy an item of clothing, it's not just a style statement we're making; we're also indirectly influencing the environment.

First of all, it's important to note that there is no such thing as a completely sustainable fabric.

The textile branch is a polluting industry, there’s no way around that. However, it’s important to note that there’s a significant difference between the different fabrics that are used for clothing production.

In this article, we will investigate which fabrics are most eco-friendly and those that we should avoid to lower our carbon emissions.

Without further ado, let's dive right in.

Evaluating the eco-friendliness of clothing materials

Assessing which fabric is more eco-friendly than others is not always a straightforward task. Some fabrics might decompose quickly, but their manufacturing process might consume excessive water, which diminishes their eco-friendly status.

Broadly, we can categorize the eco-friendliness of fabrics based on three key aspects:

  1. Origin of the fabric materials: Are they animal-based? Do their farming methods harm the environment? Or, are the materials sustainably cultivated or recycled?
  2. Processing of the raw materials: Some eco-friendly fabric processing techniques include weaving, knitting, or using non-toxic dyes. However, many fabrics necessitate bleaching, colouring with carcinogenic dyes, and chemical processing.
  3. Post-consumer impact: How biodegradable is it, and will its end-of-life phase be harmful to people or the environment?


Eco-friendly fabric choices: what to look for on labels?

A good general "rule of thumb" is to opt for natural fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool, alpaca, and bamboo. Some other viable choices include recycled polyester, TENCEL, and soy cashmere/silk.

Here's a brief overview of some primary ones:

1. Cotton

Cotton, being a water and pesticide-intensive crop, often doesn't rank high on the eco-friendliness scale.

However, organic cotton tells a different story. As it is cultivated and manufactured in a manner that reduces environmental harm and supports livelihoods and communities, organic cotton is a desirable fabric choice for eco-conscious shoppers. Being a natural fabric, it is fully biodegradable.

2. Organic Hemp

Hemp is a versatile plant, which has been used for centuries to produce a wide variety of products, including clothing.

Its appeal lies in its low maintenance needs; it requires minimal water, no pesticides, and naturally contributes to environmental wellbeing by returning nutrients to the soil. When grown organically, without chemical assistance, it becomes a truly eco-friendly fabric.

3. Organic Linen

Organic linen shares several eco-benefits with hemp – it has been cultivated for centuries, needs minimal upkeep, and is biodegradable when untreated. It's soft, lightweight, strong, and naturally resistant to moths.

The entire plant can be utilized in fabric creation, reducing waste. While the manufacturing process does release some emissions, linen remains one of the top eco-friendly fabric choices.

4. Bamboo

Bamboo is a fast-growing, rejuvenating crop that demands little or no fertilizers or pesticides. Mechanical conversion of bamboo into bamboo linen requires minimal chemicals.

However, the downside lies in the uncertainty of sustainable farming methods and the intensive chemical processing required for softer bamboo-based garments, similar to the manufacture of viscose (or rayon). However, recent improvements in chemical management have been noted in the industry.

Eco-credentials to look out for

1. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed by leading standard organizations to unify sustainable textile processing standards. This standard inspects all stages of fabric creation, including the harvesting of raw materials, manufacturing processes, and responsible labeling.

2. Oeko-tex

The International Oeko-Tex Association tests textiles for harmful substances and provides certifications to textiles that have been manufactured without harmful chemicals. An Oeko-Tex STANDARD 100 label assures the consumer that the item is safe for human health.

3. Fairtrade Certification

Fairtrade certification verifies a company's commitment to ensuring ethical treatment of workers and producers in the fashion industry. Fairtrade labels attest that a fabric has been produced with ethical considerations, including fair labor and material cultivation practices.


Understanding the environmental implications of our clothing choices is a crucial step towards sustainable living. While there is no 100% sustainable fabric, choosing materials with lower environmental impacts can make a significant difference. Always look for eco-credentials on labels, and try to support brands that prioritize sustainable practices.

We hope this guide serves as a useful tool in navigating your eco-conscious fashion journey.

Let’s Chat!

What’s you favorite sustainable fabric for your fashion items? Let us know in the comments down below.

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