A Guide to Organic Fabric

Green your Wardrobe with Natural Fabrics

Not all fabrics are equal. Many manmade fabrics like nylon and polyester are made from petroleum and other harsh chemicals. Additional waste is often created during the manufacturing of these fabrics. Learn how you can green your fabrics by purchasing clothing made from natural, organic fabrics.

Different types of natural fabricsMany people are surprised to hear that cotton is not an eco-friendly choice, even though it is a 'natural' fiber. The fact is that more chemicals are used to produce cotton then any other crop in the world. Cotton uses about 3% of the world’s farmland and accounts for 25% of world wide pesticide use. Citing USDA statistics, over 57 million pounds of pesticides were used in just one year in US cotton fields. Moreover, the EPA has listed many of the pesticides commonly used on the cotton crop as likely or known carcinogens. Now that you understand the magnitude that unsustainable fabrics have learn how you can choose natural fiber alternatives. 


Natural fabrics found in eco clothing

There are many fabrics that are made from natural fibers that are grown using sustainable methods. Read labels and look for companies that use eco friendly fabrics in their product lines.

  • Hemp – This fiber is so strong it is naturally resistant to most pests and bacteria and therefore does not require pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. It is resistant to odors and molds and very durable. Fabric can be soft or hard depending on the weave. Hemp is often blended with cotton.
  • Wool – This popular fabric is famous for its warmth and durability. It is both water repellent and flame resistant as well as anti static and odor repellant. Wool comes in many different varieties such as alpaca, cashmere, merino, mohair and angora.  Wool comes from sheering various animals such as sheep, goats, rabbits and llamas.
  • Organic Cotton – When cotton is grown under certain conditions it can be certified as organic. Certification requires crops free of pesticides, synthetic chemicals and herbicides. Organic cotton grown in the US must follow the conditions outlined by the national Organic Standards Board and Organic Foods Production Act. 
  • Flax (linen) – Linen has become a generic term and can be applied to various fabric blends. Look for linen made from the fibers of the flax plant and that is certified organic; i.e. grown without pesticides and fertilizers. Linen made from flax is highly absorbent and cool to wear in hot climates. However, many linen garments are dry clean only.
  • Bamboo – This is a strong silky fiber that grows so quickly it doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides. If offers natural UV protection and is naturally resistant to many bacteria. It doesn’t pill and lasts longer then many other fabrics.
  • Soy – This new fabric is a by-product of soybean production. Designers are just discovering new uses of this absorbent material.
  • Ramie – This natural plant fiber has an ancient history. It has been used for thousands of years and has been found in Egyptian pyramids. It resists shrinkage and keeps its shape. It is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. Ramie is often blended with other fibers. It is 8 times stronger then cotton so it will last longer.  Ramie plants give high yields up to 6 times a year and this hardy perennial can produce for 6 to 20 years.


Reading clothing labels

Many of us have gotten use to reading food labels, now we need to make a habit of reading the labels in our clothes.

  • Look for all fabric content – Many garments are made with various fabrics. For example suits and coats may have a natural outer fabric and a synthetic lining.
  • Read care instructions – Look to see if the garment you are considering requires bleaching, dry cleaning or other special care.
  • Look for organic certification – Non food organic items are not as stringently regulated as edible products. Look to see if the certification is accredited by the ISO (International Standards Organization).
  • Buy close to home – Remember clothing made on the other side of the world uses energy for shipping. 


Greening your clothing - thinking outside the box (or mall)

Earth friendly habits can be applied to your wardrobe choices.  When it comes to clothes, shopping green applies to some stores outside of the mall. Many of these habits not only help keep the earth green, but they also help keep a little extra green in your wallet.

  • Support your local tailor – Think twice before you toss an outfit because it’s missing a button, needs a new hem or a seam repaired. If you don’t know how or don’t want to fix it yourself, look in the phone book for a nearby tailor for basic repairs. You’ll save money, save resources and support local business.
  • Avoid Dry Clean Only garments – Dry cleaners use harsh chemicals that are often toxic and harmful to the environment. Try to patronize Green Cleaners that use non toxic cleaning agents. 
  • Look for Vintage Clothing – Slightly worn or vintage clothing shops offer recycled clothing. This is a great way to save money and conserve resources. Many second hand shops are connected to local charities so the dollars you spend will be used to help others
  • BOB&H – Bring your own shopping bags and hangers with you when you shop. 


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