The fabrics we choose to wear impact not only our skin but also the planet. Natural, eco-friendly fabrics like cotton and linen are more sustainable than artificial synthetics.
Look for sustainable fabric labels such as Bluesign and OEKO-TEX certifications. These ensure no toxic chemicals in the production process.
Look for organic cotton, linen, bamboo rayon/viscose (sourced from sustainably managed forests), and modal fabric (derived from eucalyptus wood pulp). Curbing our washing urges will reduce energy use, climate change impacts and water intake!
Laundering is an important part of garment maintenance and can have environmental impacts through water, energy and chemical use. However, the largest potential for environmental improvement is reducing laundering frequency and selecting washing and drying processes and fibers, notably woolen garments with lower water and energy use per wear and GHG emissions compared to cotton due to the reduction in laundry cycles. Considering best practice garment care and laundering habits in environmental assessments and policies would make a significant difference.
Using greener cleaning processes is one of the most important ways your business can become more sustainable. However, many customers don’t know what this entails. Educate your customers on the benefits of environmentally friendly laundry practices by handing out pamphlets or providing information in email newsletters, one-on-one conversations, or in-store events. This will foster a loyal customer base and contribute to wider environmental change.
Similarly, if your shop uses energy-efficient washing machines and dryers, you will reduce energy usage and the associated carbon emissions. Furthermore, installing a water reclamation system can help reduce waste and resource consumption by collecting, filtering, and recycling the wastewater from dry cleaning operations.
In addition, consider switching to organic and chemical-free fabrics like hemp, wool, and linen. These fibers are more eco-friendly than cotton, which consumes a lot of water and generates toxic pesticides and pollution when overfarmed. Similarly, silk is considered a more eco friendly fabric than polyester, but only from small-scale sericulture farms supporting local villages and ensuring fair pay and working conditions.
For those garments that can’t be laundered in a washing machine, choose to use liquid CO2 dry cleaning instead of solvent-based methods like perc or trichloroethylene (TCE). This cleaner is much less toxic than those chemicals and suitable for all fabric types.
While getting laundry label literate and avoiding the dryer is one of the most important things you can do to reduce environmental impact, you can make other smaller changes that can add to big savings and even help your clothes last longer. Ironing can be a time-consuming and energy-consuming task, so here are some eco-friendly ways to do it:
The best thing you can do for your fabrics is avoid them. Hanging your clothes up to dry after the wash cycle and avoiding the final spin will leave more water in your material, which works with gravity to pull most wrinkles out. If you must use the dryer, consider using a few wool dryer balls to help reduce chemicals and speed up dry times.
Adding vinegar to your rinse water is a great way to brighten and soften your cotton clothing while reducing ironing time. It is also an effective replacement for fabric softeners, which contain several potentially harmful and non-biodegradable chemicals that are detrimental to the environment. A quick search online will find several natural and safe products that can be substituted for the commercial brands you may be used to.
Whether you’re a fashion designer, seamstress or fabric lover, choosing eco-friendly fabrics is an important step towards a more sustainable future. Thankfully, there’s an ever-growing selection of materials made with environmentally friendly fibers – from sustainable cotton to organic hemp and mohair, known for their softness and versatility.
When shopping for sustainable fabrics, look for labels such as Oeko-Tex and Cradle to Cradle that guarantee the production process hasn’t left behind harmful chemicals and the products are safe to wear. Also, make sure the manufacturer is committed to environmental and social sustainability. This means the workers are well paid and treated, and the product is designed with sustainable end-of-life prospects in mind.
Regarding washing, it’s best to avoid harsh detergents and only wash your clothes in cold or warm water if possible. This can help reduce microfiber pollution caused by synthetic fabrics shed in your washing machine and dryer. If you want to reduce your impact further, consider using a Guppyfriend or Cora Ball to catch any microfibers that escape your clothes in the washer.
If you cannot switch to natural fibers, look for organic or recycled fabrics that can be dyed with environmentally friendly ingredients. This will limit the new dyes you need to buy, saving money and the environment.