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Ethical Products Explained – 2. Eco-friendly Materials and Fabrics

This is part 2 of our Ethical Products Explained posts, where I talk about Eco friendly Materials & Fabrics, where they come from and how they’re made. If you would like to know more about Eco Fabrics and Eco Paper then you can follow those articles too by using the links below.

  1. Eco Plastics – you’ll be surprised whats in your clothes as well as the items you buy in your beauty and grocery shopping.
  2. Eco-friendly Materials / Fabrics – Clothing fabrics made from alternative sources.
  3. Paper & Cardboard / Alternatives – You don’t always need trees to make Paper & Cardboard…
Organic Linen Suit from NEXT

Eco-friendly Materials / Fabrics

So what makes a material / fabric Eco-friendly?

Lets start with how it’s produced. By making use of fibres with a low environmental impact, and avoiding those that create pollution both during creation and when cleaning, we can reduce the impact our fabrics have on the environment.

We can also look at the longevity of our fabrics, for example how long a fabric lasts and how well it stays together when cleaned.

Reducing the number of clothes we buy each year as well as buying more ethical fabrics and items which are made better and will therefore last longer, will have a positive effect on our own cash flow as well as our impact on the planet. Its a win win especially if like us you don’t have lots of money to throw into a big hole in the ground.

The latest “Fast Fashion” trends highlight this issue massively. Clothing that is designed to be cheap at all costs and which is simply not made to last, by design increases the number of times it needs replaced this is great for retailers, but not so great for our pockets or the planet.

Tommy Upcycled Jeans

Now at this point many people believe that they can still recycle the clothing by taking it to charity shops, but this again doesn’t always work in practice.

Sadly not all our discarded clothes are wanted and so they are disposed of, yes you guessed it in landfill. Then there’s also those clothes that are cheaply made and lets be honest that’s probably why you don’t want them anymore yourself, so again most charity shops will just dump the clothes that don’t look good anymore once again at the local tip.

Charity shops are looking for clothes that look good that they can sell, and most charity shops are small and don’t have much in the way of storage so they sift through to find the best bits and dump the rest.

I think this is probably also a good time to mention that if you haven’t washed the clothes before taking them then they’re more than likely of to the tip too. Remember charity shop workers are mostly unpaid or low paid staff and if they open a smelly bag its not a big decision to close it back up and dump it!

Retail guru Mary Portas, pictured here while making BBC show – ‘Mary Queen of Charity Shops’ – collaborated with Save The Children on a ’boutique’ range of venues.

So what about the Eco friendly materials and fabrics?

In the end the slightly more expensive item, the one that’s made with better materials, dyes etc and looks good for far longer, actually works out cheaper overall to buy and it’s much, much better for the planet too.

Now I know what your thinking, Eco Fabrics sound like rough nasty materials don’t they, well actually you’ll be pleased to know they are generally softer, better for your skin and in some cases they also offer UV skin protection too.

T Shirt is Tatty made from Organic Cotton Jeans are Tommy Upcycled Range

So what are ECO Fabrics / Materials?

Generally you are looking for the following terms: “Certified Organic Cotton” or “Concious Material” as these are the labels mostly used to describe Eco fabrics, however you’ll probably start to see more fabrics appearing in your favourite shops labelled with the actual fabric names too.

So look for materials or items made from the following:

  1. Linen
  2. Hemp
  3. Concious Cotton / Organic Cotton
  4. Bamboo (Material)
  5. Tencel (Lyocell/Modal)
  6. Vyayama (Sustainably farmed eucalyptus)
  7. Jute
  8. Pineapple Leather (Pineapple Leaf)
  9. Apple Skin Leather
  10. Orange peel fibre
  11. Leaf Leather
  12. Mushroom Leather
  13. Wool (Organic / Ethical)
  14. Sequins (Biodegradable)
  15. Dye (Organic)

Here’s a few examples of women’s clothing made from mixtures of Hemp, Organic Cotton, Bamboo and Tencel. These are not Ad’s or affiliated, I’ve just used these to highlight not just the variety available but also the softness of some of the clothing and some prices to give you a guide and show you that not everything is £00’s. We’ve actually seen Conscious collections T shirts from £7.00 in some high street stores.

Now as I said before, I totally understand not everyone can afford to go all out and just buy everything new in those fabrics listed above, its a process, and the best way to try to buy these items is as and when you need to replace something. This way you create a Mix n Match wardrobe built up from a few Eco friendly items mixed with other cheaper options. Then gradually you’ll increase your more ethical clothes as they last longer.

Boutique Kyra Velvet Sequin Bodycon Dress from

Again if your budget doesn’t allow that, then you can still make small changes by shopping more consciously and avoiding the items listed below where possible.

If you want to mix n match to fit your budget try to AVOID:

  1. Plastics like Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic, Polyamide found in lots of cheaper clothing. These are terrible for micro plastics leaving our washing machines and entering our water.
  2. Sequins (Petroleum Plastic Based) Horrendous for micro plastics being lost into our earth and waterways / food sources. (See example pic above that doesn’t even list the sequins in the description.)
  3. Glitter (plastic or mica based) again horrendous for micro plastics being lost into our earth and waterways / food sources.
  4. Dye (Non Organic)Wool (Non Ethical) Dye’s leak into our waterways and poison aquatic life as well as affecting our water sources too.
  5. PVC – (not ethical)
  6. Polyurethane – (not ethical)
  7. Laminates – (not ethical)

4, 5 and 6 are non eco plastics and won’t degrade in landfill.

Did you know? – The clothing industry already accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest global industrial polluter second only to oil.

The industry also contributes to a million of tons of textiles that end up in worldwide landfills each and every year.

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