It’s no secret that textile production is harmful to both the environment and the people involved in the cultivation and manufacturing processes. Textile production consumes 25 percent of the world’s chemicals, such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. A 2010 report by Pesticide Action Network UK put the number of people affected by pesticide use as anywhere between 1 and 41 million each year. The increasing use of synthetic fabrics is also an issue. Polyester, which is made from fossil fuels, is present in 60 percent of today’s clothing – it overtook cotton as the world’s dominant fibre in 2007. A study by ecologist Mark Brown showed that fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic release thousands of tiny plastic microfibres when washed, which travel through our sewage systems and contaminate marine habitats and wildlife.
Fortunately, the use of alternative, eco-friendly fabrics is on the rise. We take a look at our top five.
Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world. Unlike regular cotton, organic cotton is made without the use of potentially toxic pesticides or fertilisers that can harm wildlife, rivers and people. Organic production processes also help replenish and maintain soil fertility. Organic cotton is hypoallergenic, so it won’t cause irritation or allergies – it’s especially beneficial for babies and kids’ clothing. In addition, it’s highly durable, and wears down at a slower rate than normal cotton: as it hasn’t been treated, bleached or dyed, fibre breakage is more gradual (so clothes last longer).
Hemp has been used to produce a variety of products for thousands of years, and it was one of the earliest plants cultivated to make textile fibres. No harmful insecticides and pesticides are needed to grow hemp, and it requires very little irrigation – compared to regular cotton, it uses half the amount of water and produces between 200 to 250 percent more fibres from the same land. Eight times stronger than cotton, hemp is also known for being UV and mould-resistant, absorbent, lightweight and hypoallergenic. It can be used to make jeans, T-shirts, dresses, accessories and more.
Bamboo has been called an ‘environmental wonder plant‘: it can be grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and requires very little water. It also absorbs more carbon dioxide and releases more oxygen than other plants, and is 100 percent biodegradable. Bamboo has a self-replenishing growth cycle, so it hardly ever needs replanting. It’s known for being super soft, and it’s a great fabric for sportswear, as it’s absorbent, dries fast, and is naturally anti-bacterial.
Lyocell is a cellulose fibre that is most commonly made from wood pulp. Developed by an award-winning team in 1972, it is made using a closed-loop spinning process in which the solvents that are used to turn wood pulp into fibres are recycled again and again – minimising waste. The production of Lyocell also requires less use of energy and water than conventional processes, as well as a reduced use of dyes, and it is 100 percent biodegradable. Fabrics made from Lyocell are known for being strong, absorbent and wrinkle-resistant, as well as super soft and comfortable.
Linen is one of the oldest textiles in the world – it was even used as currency in ancient Egypt. Because of its lightweight, absorbent qualities and ability to withstand high temperatures, linen was traditionally used in Europe to make men’s summer suits. It’s made from the flax plant, which can be grown without chemicals and which uses less water than other crops. It’s also the most highly productive crop per hectare after hemp. Linen is very durable, and becomes softer and stronger with use, so clothes made from linen will last longer. It’s also biodegradable.
Infinity Trend uses sustainable value badges to categorise each brand. Our Good Fibres badge is awarded to companies that use materials that come from more sustainable processes. Click here to shop using our sustainable value badge system.