Natural Fiber VS. Synthetic
Natural fiber clothing vs. synthetic clothing. Which is better?
by Kimberley Graham
Many people wear synthetic fibres without realising. They are often more price competitive and are therefore available in mass quantities. However, with the discovery of ‘micro-fibres’ ending up in water ways and the ocean via washing machines, is putting the synthetic fibre industry under increasing scrutiny. So which fabrics are good to choose or avoid? Here were will take a look at some sustainable natural fibres, a few sustainable recycled fibres and some materials to avoid.
Sustainable Natural Fibres
Linen: A biodegradable and elegant fabric in fashion history. Linen is strong and naturally moth resistant. Linen is made from flax plant fibres, so it is fully biodegradable when left natural and untreated (i.e. not dyed). Natural colours include ivory, ecru, tan and grey.
Hemp: is a great fabric for the environment. It grows prolifically with little water and no pesticides. Per square metre hemp makes more fabric than trees. Of course, in its natural form it is also fully biodegradable. Hemp fabric softens with age, so it gets better the longer you wear it.
Organic cotton: is more environmentally friendly than normal cotton. Organic cotton eliminates the use of toxic and persistent chemicals, conserves water and improves soil health. Cotton feels soft, breathable and luxurious on the skin.
TENCEL: Tencel feels great on the skin and is completely biodegradable. TENCEL is made from certified bio-based fiber that is manufactured using an environmentally responsible production process. As a fully biodegradable material, TENCEL can fully revert back to nature and be effortlessly reused.
Sustainable Recycled Materials
Recycled Nylon: Made from a range of former products, such as the fishing nets rescued from Lake Ossa in Cameroon. This new Re-Nylon sustainability initiative involves a renewable supply chain, embodying sustainability, regeneration, and social protection in its conquest to use discarded materials. Without this resource recovery project and continued demand for this new fabric, hundreds of used fishing nets remain discarded in Lake Ossa over decades and would continue to clog ecosystems and be fatal to plants and wildlife. This is in a place where more than 80% of people in surrounding communities are dependant on the Lake Ossa for its natural resources.
Bio-Engineered Fabrics: This is a new area to watch. There are currently a number of start-ups that are focused on carbon dioxide extractive materials to help reduce the impact of the fashion industry while also reducing harmful carbon emissions. Some even involve a layer of living algae that continue to photosynthesise (absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen) over the life of the garment. The is a hot area of development as the fashion industry is keen to go green, as it currently produces more carbon dioxide a year than shipping and airline industries combined.
Fashion Materials to Avoid
By avoiding fur, leather, animal skins or silk, you are also avoiding animal cruelty and wildlife trade. When considering wool blends, consider fashion items that are sourced from producers with high standards of animal care.
Happy shopping! Of course, buying second hand or recycled clothes and materials is always better for the planet than buying brand new. There is already enough material in circulation to go around.