Monday, August 2, 2010

Organic and Eco-Friendly Fabrics

The popularity of going green and organic is becoming more and more part of everyday life. Living our lives in a healthier way and protecting the environment have become very PC and mainstream. I am now seeing more and more constructions of fabrics pushing that way as well. Many new types are being produced to be more environmentally friendly. Thus, eco friendly or organic are now offered by many of our vendors and mills. I’d like to explain what I have come to understand about this new segment of fabrics. The two types of collections I’ve seen are being promoted as organic or at least eco friendly.

Organic textiles are grown in controlled settings with no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals. Only natural fertilizers are used and the soil and water are monitored for contaminates. If a fiber is certified organic its growing conditions have been monitored and certified by an agency from one of the several organic trade associations worldwide. A fabric can be called organic as long as 95% of the fabric contains the organic fabric. You will see many cotton fabrics being sold as ‘certified’ organic.

To be certified organic cotton, it must be a cotton plant that has been grown without the use of chemical pesticides and defoliants for at least three years. Fertilizers that are used include compost, manure, naturally derived mineral and/or plant fertilizers and crop rotation. Insect control has to involve the use of beneficial insects and natural pesticides certified to be non detrimental to the environment. This involves protection of the ground and surface waters, and air and soil pollution.

Eco-friendly fabrics are made from fibers that do not require the use of and pesticides or chemicals to grow. Some fabrics made from these fibers are naturally resistant to mold and mildew. The types of fabric that are now being promoted as eco-friendly are cotton, linen, tencel, ramie, hemp, and bamboo.

Linen fibers are taken from the flax plant. Linen is inherently eco-friendly because it is a natural fiber, and needs very little to no chemical fertilizer to grow. Once harvested all the parts of the plant are used by making multiple by products.

Tencel is made from wood pulp cellulose from the eucalyptus tree. It is considered eco-friendly as it uses less water than cotton to produce, and is completely biodegradable, being that it is wood based.

Ramie is an eco-friendly fiber that is highly sustainable. Ramie is a flowering plant that can be harvested 6 times a year. It does not require pesticides or herbicides to grow.

Hemp is the most eco-friendly fabric listed as it grows quickly and in a densely packs which prevent weeds. This allows the farmer to not need pesticides or herbicides. Hemp does not exhaust the soil and enables sustainability by leaving the soil in excellent condition for any succeeding crops.

Bamboo is one of nature’s most sustainable resources it’s 100% biodegradable and is naturally regenerative. Bamboo can also grow up to 1 foot a day and does not need pesticides or herbicides to grow.

The use and importance of eco-friendly and organic fabrics are three fold. We all should be socially and economically responsible. By using fabrics that do not use chemicals and pesticides we are protecting the environment. Secondly, the fabrics listed are biodegradable over time and will not become land fill waste as many synthetic garments turn out to be. Lastly, these fibers are also better for our wellbeing as many are naturally anti-bacterial and hypo-allergenic (bamboo, tencel, ramie, hemp); UV resistant (hemp); or moisture wicking (bamboo).

To view our current offerings of organic and eco friendly fabrics, visit and see our Organic Section.

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