By: Ciera Kemp
There are dozens of materials that can be made into fabrics, yet unfortunately, many of the clothes we buy and wear are made from unethically and unsustainably sourced materials.
Some of these materials like regular cotton were produced from crops sprayed with harmful pesticides that do not get completely washed from the garments we wear. Luckily, with the help of farmers, scientists, and consumers, we can reach for a better future for our planet and ourselves. These are just some of the materials that are made ethically and sustainably.
Better Cotton (Organic Cotton)
Sustainability does not just mean sustainability for our planet. There are many implications for farming and manufacturing garment materials, and BetterCotton.org recognized this. With the goal of growing cotton that is sustainable in three parts, environmental, economically, and socially, this organization has proved that sustainable farming is possible.
Cotton crops typically require lots of water and are additionally sprayed with pesticides sourced from chemicals that are toxic to humans. While this is the reality for many cotton crops, there is an alternative option.
Better Cotton is an initiative that helps to transform how cotton is farmed in hopes of maintaining the use of the material, while still being sustainable.
Cotton itself is biodegradable, making it much more sustainable than any other synthetic material. The issues arise in regard to how it is farmed. Cotton can be farmed organically, meaning persistent and toxic pesticides are not used. Sustainable cotton farms also rely more on rainwater, instead of irrigation. Organic cotton is also not genetically modified, which means it requires less water to maintain.
Some sites that sell clothing made with organic cotton or have made the initiative to switch to using 100% organic cotton in the future. You will likely recognize at least one of these brands.
Dr. Carmen Hijosa is the creator of the material, Pineapple Leather. This sustainable material, produced by using the waste product of pineapple leaves, Hijosa has shown the world that innovation through waste is possible.
Pineapple leaves have small fibers, which if woven or spun correctly can create a strong and durable material that can be made into various garments. Hijosa shared that she felt bothered by the wasteful process that comes with mass leather production. After a trip to the Philippines in the 1990s, Hijosa knew it was time for a change. Her company called “Pinetex” manufactures faux leather, out of Pineapple leaves.
The company details its process on its website, stating that sustainable material is produced by washing and drying fibers naturally. This is usually in the sun unless it is rain season which requires drying ovens to be used. From there, a process to remove impurities takes place, which purifies the material and makes it ready to be spun.
While Hemp is usually thought of in a different context, it is a superstar material in the fashion world.
Referred to as a “super fiber” Hemp fiber can transform into of the most ethical fabrics around. The hemp plant is classified as “an annual herbaceous plant of the species Cannabis Sativa. To add to its already stellar performance as a material, Hemp crops produce an extremely high crop yield, one that surpasses cotton by a large percentage. Hemp also helps the soil it grows in, by contributing its organic matter, the soil is able to retain more water. Scientists estimate that hemp plants return 60-70% of nutrients taken from the soil. In regard to the environment, Hemp does not require pesticides, and also is extremely efficient at producing oxygen from carbon dioxide.
As far as fabric goes, Hemp-derived fabrics are hypoallergenic, vegan, and studies indicate that Hemp fabric can kill infections like staph and other bacterias upon contact. Similar to classic linen, Hemp fabric feels generally soft and many describe it as a breathable fabric. Like the Pineapple “leather”, hemp fabric is produced by spinning the isolated fibers of the plant into a fabric.
Places to purchase Hemp-derived clothing: