Bamboo fabric has a nice soft quality to it, and several characteristics which make it a sustainable alternative to cotton. First of all, bamboo plants grow super fast, up to one meter a day! Secondly, after the harvest, bamboo forests can quickly recover so therefore replanting is unnecessary. Sunlight is basically all you need for growing bamboo. There is no need for extra water or pesticides, because bamboo produces its own anti-bacterial substance.
Bamboo seems to be eco-friendly, but there is a problem. In order to cultivate the strong bamboo plants into a soft textile fabric, it needs to be chemically treated with viscose. This chemical process is harmful to workers. Fortunately, efforts are underway to make the viscose process sustainable. Thus, bamboo can potentially play an important role in making the fashion industry more sustainable. Essentially, bamboo’s exceptionally good qualities are beneficial for humans and the environment.
Your favourite jeans is made out of cotton. But is it sustainable? This depends among other things on the way it is produced. Cotton is sustainable in case no synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients are applied. Sustainability also depends on good working conditions.
In addition to organic cotton, there is also recycled cotton. The reuse of cotton is eco-friendly because there is no need to grow new cotton. This means you save raw material, and the use of land, water and energy.
Hemp is a good raw material for textiles. Compared to most crops, hemp does not exhaust the soil, and it hardly needs fertilizer. This means less pollution of soil and waterways. Hemp is even good for bio-diversity. Hemp fibers can easily be produced naturally. Humidity or water is required for removing fibers from the hemp stalks. This can be achieved by rotting the hemp by means of dew, or by water-bathing it. Hemp is one of the fastest growing crops, and produces about two to three times more fibers than cotton. 100% hemp textile lasts nearly 3.3 times longer than cotton.
Tencel is made of wood pulp. The wood for making Tencel is sourced from specially managed, sustainable forests. These forests can be recognized by the FSC seal, which stands for responsible forestry. The trees are cut, the bark is removed, and then the bare tree trunks are chopped into tiny pieces no larger than a post stamp.
These pieces end up in big container filled with a chemical solution. This solution turns the woodchips into a fluid. The threats from this fluid are eventually processed into yarn.
Although chemicals are being used, they do not end up in nature. They are continuously reused for the same process. As a textile, Tencel feels great. It is not sticky because it does not absorb moisture, which makes it feel cool against the skin. Tencel is as soft as silk and as strong as polyester.
Wool is a beautiful natural material. Wool clothes last a long time. When produced in an animal-friendly manner, it is a nice sustainable raw material.
A fine example is Pashmina, better known as Cashmere wool, coming from the undercoat of Cashmere goats. In spring, the cashmere can be collected from the goats when they drop their winter coat. To retrieve wool, the goats are sometimes combed or shaved.
Another hit is Alpaca wool. This wool comes from alpaca, and it is ten times warmer than sheep wool. The wool is free from lanoline, which makes it hypoallergenic. Moreover, the wool is naturally water and fire resistant.
Merino wool comes from the merino sheep. Because of its rinkly skin, this sheep has a lot of wool. The wool profit of a merino sheep is therefore higher compared to other sheep.
Sustainable, artisinal, and natural products probably come to mind when you think about leather. Unfortunately, tanning learther is far from sustainable. Yet, sustainable variants of leather are on the rise!
We have, for example, ecologically tanned leather. With ecologically tanned leather, environmentally harmful materials are not used for tanning the leather. Although it may be slightly less versatile compared to normal leather, ecologically tanned leather is a beautiful product.
Vegan leather is another exciting alternative. By using vegetable raw materials, you get an animal-friendly product with a leather look. EN&, for example, produces vegan shoes and bags made of ananas leafs.
At the moment, it is very popular to use PET-bottles for making new products, including clothes. Oil is the raw material from which polyester is made. With the right methods, polyester can be infinitely recycled. This makes it an interesting material for making the fashion industry more sustainable. The fashion industry is looking for ways to extend the lifespan of fibers.
With mechanical recycling, less water and energy is required, but the quality of the fiber cannot be maintained. This is different with moluculair recycling. This does not affect the quality of the fiber, but the technique is not used often. One of the challenges is the fact that polyester is often used in combination with other fabrics. The effects of recycling polyester in combination with other fabrics, in terms of releasing dyes and chemicals, are unknown.
We are all familiar with soy beans, soy milk, and tofu. But as a natural protein, soy is also perfectly suitable for making textile. With textile, the soy shells are used as a resource instead of the beans. Thus, the production of soy does not need to be increased. Also good: soy clothes feel silky soft, and they can be washed cold.
In addition to materials, the social circumstances, that is the ways in which trade takes place within the fashion chain, are important when it comes to sustainable fashion.
WHAT CONSTITUES FAIR TRADE?
A dirt cheap clothing brand
A fair T-shirt of €4,-? When you think about the approximately 20 different people who are part of the production process and need to profit from it, you will understand that someone within the production process has to pay the price for your cheap piece of clothing.
A relatively expensive clothing brand
Does an expensive piece of clothing guarantee fair work circumstances and wages? No, not necessarily. In the end, the costs for sowing a piece of clothing are usually less than five percent of the retail price.
Clothes produced in low-wage countries
In case a piece of clothing is produced in a low-wage country, does this always mean that it was produced under bad conditions? This is also not necessarily true. You cannot tell from looking at clothes. In order to be sure about the conditions, you need to be critical as a consumer. You can ask the brand if it was produced in a fairtrade manner. Some brands provide information on labels, or a track-and-trace system which enables you to see who made your clothes, what they are made of, and where they were made.
Dutch Awearness is a company that works on the visibility for consumers, who, what, and where. At the moment, the focus is placed on making recyclable work wear and corporeate wear. As chain manager, Dutch Awearness makes sure that its clothing chain remains circular. Key elements of this are transparency and traceability. They therefore work with a system which shows you where your clothes are from.
With the system, they also look for new possibilities. For example, the planning of new circular textile chains, the testing of new business models, and developments of sustainable textile innovations.
Infinity is the current fabric used for making work wear. By using this fabric, Dutch Awearness saves 95% water, 63% CO2, and they reuse textile waste! In order to guarantee the quality of the clothes, Infinity clothes can be recycled up to about eight times. Afterwards, the material is processed, for example, into furniture.