Our Fiber Eco-Review

We have created our own Fiber Eco-Review, using resources such as the MADE-BY Fibres Environmental Benchmark, Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber Market Report and other studies on the environmental impact of each of the fibers. Here, we have only taken the fiber production into consideration, and not the dyeing and finishing.

We have divided fibers in 2 categories according to their environmental impact:                                                               

 

The Fibers We Like

The FIBERS WE LIKE are “eco-friendly” fibers, which means that their production process has a low impact on the environment and meets at least half of the below criteria:

 

Sustainable fibers
 

RECYCLED FIBERS

made with waste material

Recycled Polyester

Recycled nYLON

RECYCLED COTTON

RECYCLED wool

PLANT-BASED FIBERS

with low eco-impact

Organic Cotton

Linen

Hemp

ramie

ANIMAL-BASED FIBERS

produced in sustainable way

alpaca

silk

RESPONSIBLE WOOL

RESPONSIBLE CASHMERE

RESPONSIBLE LEATHER

SEMI-SYNTHETIC

with low eco-impact

Lyocell/Tencel®

ORANGE FIBER

PINEAPPLE FIBER

REFIBRA

SUSTAINABLE BAMBOO

 

The Fibers We Avoid

The FIBERS WE AVOID have one or several of the below notably negative environmental impact. We consider these impacts serious enough to try to discard these fibers from our wardrobe:

 

Non-sustainable fibers
 

NATURAL & ANIMAL-BASED FIBERS

Cotton

Wool

Leather

Cashmere

synthetic & semi-synthetic fibers

Polyester

Rayon, Viscose, Modal

Synthetic Fibers

Bamboo

Vegan Leather


Fibers we like


Recycled polyester

sustainable fiber
 

Recycled polyester, often called rPet, is made from recycled plastic bottles. It is a great way to divert plastic from our landfills. The production of recycled polyester requires far fewer resources than that of new fibers and generates fewer CO2 emissions.  

There are 2 ways to recycle polyester: For mechanical recycling, plastic is melted to make new yarn. This process can only be done a few times before the fiber loses its quality. Chemical recycling involves breaking down the plastic molecules and reforming them into yarn. This process maintains the quality of the original fiber and allows the material to be recycled infinitely, but it is more expensive.

Recycled polyester is definitely a sustainable option for our wardrobe. However, we need to be aware that it is still non-biodegradable and takes years to disappear once thrown away.

54% FEWER CO2 EMISSIONS generated during rPet production compared to virgin polyester
54% FEWER CO2 EMISSIONS generated during rPet production compared to virgin polyester

Recycled Nylon

sustainable fiber
 

Recycled Nylon has the same benefits as recycled polyester: It diverts waste from landfills and its production uses much fewer resources than virgin nylon (including water, energy and fossil fuel).

A large part of the recycled nylon produced comes from old fishing nets. This is a great solution to divert garbage from the ocean. It also comes from nylon carpets, tights, etc.

Recycling nylon is still more expensive than new nylon, but it has many environmental advantages.

A lot of research is currently being conducted to improve the quality and reduce the costs of the recycling process.

Econyl® is one good example of a certified, eco-friendly, recycled nylon textile.

Nylon represents 10% OF THE DEBRIS IN OCEANS
600,000 TONS OF FISHING GEARS, including nylon nets, are dumped into the ocean every year

Recycled Cotton

sustainable fiber
 
765,000 LITERS OF WATER can be saved per ton of cotton recycled

Recycled cotton prevents additional textile waste and requires far fewer resources than conventional or organic cotton. This makes it a great sustainable option.

Cotton can be recycled using old garments or textile leftovers. The quality of the cotton may be lower than of new cotton. Recycled cotton is therefore usually blended with new cotton.

The production of recycled cotton is still very limited.


Recycled Wool

sustainable fiber
 

Recycled wool is also very sustainable option. Apart from diverting used wool garments from landfills, it saves a considerable amount of water, reduces land use for sheep grazing and avoids the use of chemicals for dyeing.

Recycled wool contributes to a reduction of air, water, and soil pollution.

Few certification labels exist to ensure consumers that wool is really recycled, such as Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), Global Recycled Standard (GRS), SCS Recycled Content Certification.

11 KG OF CO2 are saved per kilo of recycled wool produced compared to virgin wool
500 LITERS OF WATER are saved per kilo of recycled wool produced compared to virgin wool

Linen

sustainable fiber
 

Linen is a natural fiber which stems from the flax plant. It uses considerably fewer resources than cotton or polyester (such as water, energy, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers).

Flax can grow in poor soil which is not used for food production. In some cases, it can even rehabilitate polluted soil. Flax plants also have a high rate of carbon absorption. 

For these reasons, we consider linen to be a sustainable material, even when it is not organically grown.

 

UP TO 2.1 TONS OF CO2 are absorbed per ton of flax cellulose produced
60% LESS WATER is required to grow flax compared to cotton

Hemp

sustainable fiber
 

Hemp fabric comes from the plant with the same name. It is one of the fastest growing plants and it doesn't need much water, energy, pesticide, or fertilizers. The plant is very good for soil, it can be grown for many years in the same place without exhausting it. This is why hemp is considered to be eco-friendly.

Hemp has very similar properties to linen. They are often difficult to differentiate.

However, as hemp belongs to the same family as cannabis (although it does not have the same psychoactive effects), growing hemp is heavily regulated or prohibited in many countries.

 

Hemp produces 2 TIMES MORE FIBER per acre than cotton
50% LESS WATER is required to grow hemp compared to cotton
 

Ramie / Stinging Nettle 

sustainable fiber
 

Ramie and stinging nettle, or European nettle, are plants used to produced a fiber similar to linen. They are not very common but they are considered sustainable. Learn more...

 

Alpaca

sustainable fiber
 

Alpaca fiber comes from the fleece of the animal bearing the same name. Alpacas are mainly bred in the Peruvian Andes. Alpacas are much more eco-friendly than cashmere goats, because they cut the grass they eat instead of pulling it out, which allows for the grass to keep growing. Additionally, Alpacas have soft padding under their feet, which is more gentle for the soil than goat or sheep hooves.

They need very little water and food to survive and produce enough wool for 4 or 5 sweaters per year while a goat needs 4 years to produce just one cashmere sweater.

Finally, buying alpaca supports indigenous communities in Peru who often live under the poverty line.

 

Alpacas can produce 4 TO 5 SWEATERS PER YEAR while cashmere goats need 4 years to produce only 1 sweater
Alpacas eat ONLY 1% TO 2% OF THEIR WEIGHT PER DAY while cashmere goats eat 10% of their body weight per day

Silk

sustainable fiber
 

Silk is a protein fiber spun by silkworms and is a renewable resource. Silk is also biodegradable. For these reasons, we consider silk a sustainable fiber. However, chemicals are used to produce conventional silk, so we will always consider organic silk to be a better option.

Because conventional silk production kills the silkworm, animal rights advocates prefer “Peace Silk”, Tussah, Ahimsa silks which allow the moth to evacuate the cocoon before it is boiled to produce silk.

Organic Cotton

sustainable fiber
 
ONLY 0.7% OF GLOBAL COTTON PRODUCTION  is organic

The fabric has the same quality as conventional cotton but not the negative impact on the environment. Organic cotton addresses most of the environmental challenges which conventional cotton production faces.

It is grown from non-GMO seeds and without the use of pesticide, insecticide or fertilizer. Unlike conventional cotton, organic farmers use ancestral farming methods, including crop-rotation, mixed farming or no-till farming to preserve the soil. Organic cotton uses up to 71% less water than conventional cotton according to some sources

Organic cotton farmers are not exposed to harmful substances.

Several organizations have established certifications for organic cotton such as GOTS, USDA-NOP, Organic Content Standards, IVN and Naturland. Certification is the only proof that a product is truly organic.

Sustainable Wool

sustainable fiber
 

Conventional wool is far from being as eco-friendly as we would expect. However, there are some sustainable wool options on the market which make it possible for us to dress warmly and sustainably.  

So far, we have found the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), which ensures that farms use best practices to protect the land, and treat the animal decently.

Certified organic wool guarantees that pesticides and parasiticides are not used on the pastureland or on the sheep themselves, and that good cultural and management practices of livestock are used. Certified organic wool is still pretty rare on the market. GOTS seems to be the only organization certifying organic wool.

Sustainable Cashmere

sustainable fiber
 

As we can see in the related section, conventional cashmere has very significant consequences for the environment.

The good news is that there are a few sustainable cashmere options which address these environmental problems and give us the possibility to buy cashmere without a guilty conscience:

NOYA Fibers; Sustainable cashmere® by Chianti Cashmere;

Sustainable Bamboo

sustainable fiber
 

Bamboo is a very sustainable plant: it grows quickly, easily, and does not require fertilizer, pesticides, or replanting. GMOs are generally not used. Bamboo improves the soil quality, helps to rebuild eroded soil and prevents soil erosion. Bamboo plantations also reduce greenhouse gases. Clothes made with bamboo are 100% biodegradable.  

The main environmental issue with bamboo fiber, as mentioned in the relevant section, lies in the process of transforming the plant into a textile, which normally involves harmful chemicals.

However, manufacturers such as Monocel® have developed a process which does without chemical additives as well as recycling the solution and the water involved in the process.

There is also a “mechanical” process to make bamboo clothing, often called bamboo linen. The process does not involve chemicals and is 100% eco-friendly. However, worldwide production of bamboo linen is very limited because of its cost.

 

Sustainable Leather

sustainable fiber
 

Leather will never be an animal-friendly product: It is made of dead animal skin. However, the skin used to make leather comes from animals raised for their meat. In that sense, it uses a byproduct from another industry, so it doesn’t actually need additional land and resources.

Conventional leather is heavily criticized for the environmental impact of the tanning process.  But leather can also be eco-friendly. There are not many options in the market yet, but they do exist. These include Ecolife™ by Green Hides, which creates eco-friendly, chrome-free leather in Italian tanneries that recycle and purify wastewater.

The Leather Working Group is also promoting sustainable environmental practices within the leather industry.

Lyocell (Tencel®)

sustainable fiber
 

Lyocell is a manufacturing process of rayon which is much more eco-friendly than its relatives modal and viscose. Lyocell is made in a closed-loop system that recycles almost all of the chemicals used. “Lyocell” is the generic name of the manufacturing process and fiber. Tencel® is the brand name of the lyocell commercialized by the company Lenzing AG. Tencel® is made from eucalyptus from PEFC certified forests. Eucalyptus trees grow quickly without the use of pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation.  

Just like rayon and viscose, lyocell is 100% biodegradable.

Ioncell-F is another rayon developed by Aalto University in Finland, similar to Lyocell but considered to be even more sustainable.

Orange Fiber

sustainable fiber
 

Orange Fiber is an innovative fabric made from orange skins that comes  from the juice industry wastes.  

Learn more…

Pineapple Fiber (Piñatex)

sustainable fiber
 

Piñatex is a fiber that comes from pineapple leaves. It is considered sustainable because it uses the by-products of pineapple harvests, so there is no need for extra resources to produce it. It is used as a substitute for leather. 

Learn more…  

Refibra™

piñatex.png
 

Refibra™ is a new fiber produced with cotton scraps and wood. 

The fiber is based on TENCEL® production process, which has been recognized to be environmentally responsible, but in addition uses recycled material (cotton scraps), leftover from the textiles industry. 

Learn more…  


Fibers we avoid


Cotton

cotton.jpg
95% OF GLOBAL COTTON PRODUCTION is genetically modified
20,000 PEOPLE DIE OF CANCER AND MISCARRIAGES every year as a result of the chemicals sprayed on cotton
Since+1995%2C+more+than+270%2C000+COTTON+FARMERS+IN+INDIA+have+killed+themselves+because+of+debt+accrued+from+paying+for+GM+seeds%2C+among+other+things

Although it is a natural fiber, conventional cotton is far from environmentally friendly.

Cotton is mainly produced in dry and warm regions, but it needs a lot of water to grow. In some places, like India, inefficient water use means that up to 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce 1kg of cotton. In the meantime, 100 million people in India do not have access to drinking water.

99.3% of cotton is grown using fertilizers and genetically modified seeds. Cotton represents 10% of the pesticides and 25% of the insecticides used globally

99% of the world’s cotton farmers are located in developing countries where labor, health and safety regulations are nonexistent or not enforced most of the time. Child and forced labor are common practice.

In Uzbekistan (the 6th largest exporter of cotton in the world), more than 1 million people are forced to pick cotton for little or no pay every year.

Wool

non-sustainable+fiber
30% OF PATAGONIA is affected by desertification due to sheep grazing
94% OF AUSTRALIAN SHEEP are mulesed
1 BILLION SHEEP in the world are bred to produce wool

Wool as such is a renewable natural fiber, so it could have been considered an environment-friendly option. Unfortunately, the extensive sheep farming practiced to meet the global demands has had disastrous consequences on the environment.

Sheep survive by grazing, which can have a positive impact on certain types of ecosystems when it is well managed. But when the land is grazed too heavily, this leads to overgrazing.

Overgrazing means that the vegetation does not have enough time to grow back before it is consumed. The soil becomes weak and vulnerable to erosion and desertification.   

For example, 30% of the region of Patagonia is affected by desertification, mainly due to overgrazing by sheep which are primarily raised for their wool. 

Sheep also release methane, a gas that is 25 times worse for global warming than CO2. Sheep are often subjected to insecticide baths which contain substances hazardous to the farmers. Residues of those harmful chemicals can remain in the wool and make its way into our clothes.

Animal welfare:

Another concern about wool production is the poor treatment of sheep. When a sheep’s fleece is removed (shearing), the shearers often hurt the animals, cutting their skin or hitting them to keep them quiet. Finally, the practice of mulesing has been widely denounced by animal rights activists. Mulesing involves removing the skin of the Merino sheep around the breech to prevent parasitic infection.

Leather

non-sustainable+fiber
80% of the world leather production use chromium
16 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD are at risk because of chromium exposure
22,000 LITERS OF TOXIC WASTE is dumped into rivers by Bangladesh tanneries every day

Leather is a controversial fiber. First of all, it is not an animal-friendly option, since it is made of dead animal skin.

But environmental and social concerns related to leather are mostly linked to the tanning process:  Toxic chemicals are used (chromium in 80% of cases)  to transform the skins into wearable leather.

Those substances are often dumped into rivers, polluting freshwater and oceans. Also, most of the tanning factory workers around the world do not wear adequate protection and suffer from skin, eye, and respiratory diseases, cancer and more due to their exposure to chemical substances.  

Many children also work in tanneries.

"Chrome-free" leather, which usually means aldehyde-tanned or vegetable-tanned, is an alternatives to chrome-tanned leather. However, it has been proven that its environmental impact is very similar to chrome-tanned leather.

The good news is that some sustainable leather options are starting to appear. 

Learn more...

Cashmere

 
non-sustainable fiber

Cashmere fiber comes from cashmere goat hairs. More than 80% of the world’s cashmere is produced in China and Mongolia.

The main environmental issue stemming from cashmere is due to the fact that goats pull the grass out by the roots when they eat instead of cutting it. As a result, the grass does not grow back, leading to land desertification. This, combined with an overpopulation of goats, results in a real environmental threat.

Mongolia is now suffering the consequences of this overgrazing through cashmere goats. The breeding of more than 20 million cashmere goats is the principal cause of the massive desertification threatening 90% of the surface of the country.

4 YEARS ARE NECESSARY for a goat to grow enough hair to produce just 1 sweater
Goats eat 10% OF THEIR BODY WEIGHT every day, while alpacas eat  1% or 2%

Polyester

non-sustainable+fiber
200 years..png
700000 microfibers

Polyester is the most common fiber in our garment. We can find it in 52% of our clothes.

Polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from petroleum, a nonrenewable fossil fuel.  As we know, the transformation of crude oil into petrochemicals releases toxins into the atmosphere that are dangerous for human and ecosystem health.

The production of polyester also highly energy intensive.

One of the major problems with this plastic fiber, is the fact that it is non-biodegradable. Learn more about fashion & wastes...

Furthermore, each time we wash a polyester garment, it releases 700.000 plastic microfibers, ending up in rivers and oceans and then in our food chain. Learn more..

Rayon, Viscose, Modal

non-sustainable+fiber
70 MILLION TREES are cut down each year to make our clothes
30% OF RAYON AND VISCOSE CLOTHING comes from endangered and ancient forests
5% OF THE GLOBAL APPAREL INDUSTRY uses forest-based fabrics

Rayon is a fiber from regenerated cellulose, generally derived from wood pulp. Rayon is usually made from eucalyptus trees, but any plant can be used (such as bamboo, soy, cotton, etc). To produce the fiber, the plant cellulose goes through a process involving a lot of chemicals, energy and water.  Solvents used during the process can be very toxic to humans and to the environment. Viscose, modal, lyocell and bamboo are different types of rayon.  

The other substantial environmental concerns arising from rayon production is the massive deforestation involved. Thousands of hectares of rainforest are cut down each year to plant trees specifically used to make rayon. Only a very small percentage of this wood is obtained through sustainable forestry practices.    

Viscose (also called Artificial Silk or Art Silk) is the most common type of rayon. Viscose production involves a lot of chemicals, heavily harmful to the environment when they are released in effluents.

Modal, another type of rayon using beech trees with a similar process to viscose. The company Lenzing, selling modal under Lenzing Modal® only uses trees from sustainably harvested forests (PEFC certified) and employs an eco-friendly bleaching method. However modal is produced by many other manufacturers who don’t necessarily use sustainable processes.

Cupro is a rayon fiber from cotton wastes, which is a sustainable aspect. But it still undergoes a chemical process to be transformed, leading to negative consequences for the environment.

Other Synthetic Fibers

non-sustainable fiber
 

Acrylic, polyamide, nylon, polypropylene, PVC, spandex (AKA lycra or elastane), aramide, etc, are all different types of synthetic fibers that are derived from petroleum and therefore have a very similar impact on the environment as polyester.

Bamboo

non-sustainable fiber
 

Bamboo is usually sold as an eco-friendly textile. Which is partially true, as the bamboo plant is potentially one of the world's most sustainable resource. It grows very quickly and easily, it doesn’t need pesticide or fertilizers, and it doesn’t need to be replanted after harvest because it grows new sprouts from the roots. However, to turn bamboo into fiber, bamboo is processed with strong chemical solvents that are potentially harmful to the health of manufacturing workers, the consumers wearing the garment, and for the environment when chemicals are released in wastewater. Bamboo fabric is a type of rayon often called "bamboo rayon". 

Nevertheless, manufacturers have developed processes addressing these chemical concerns, converting bamboo into a truly sustainable option.

Vegan Leather

non-sustainable fiber
 

Vegan leather is usually made of PVC or  polyurethane, which are synthetic fibers that have a similar environmental impact to polyester. It is certainly better for animal welfare, but it is not an eco-friendly option.

However, some plant-based substitutes of leather exist, such as the pineapple fiber.