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Recycled Polyester

Recycled polyester, often called rPET, is made from recycled plastic bottles. It is a useful way to divert plastic from our landfills. rPet requires a lot less resources than producing new fibers and emits less CO2 emission.  

There are 2 ways to recycle polyester: Mechanical recycling consists in melting the plastic to make new yarn. This process can only be done a few times, then the fiber loses its efficiency. Chemical recycling involves breaking the plastic molecules and reforming them into yarn. With this process the quality of the fiber is similar to a virgin one and it can be recycled infinitely. However this process is rare and expensive.

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


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Recycled Nylon

Recycled Nylon has the same benefits as recycled Polyester: it diverts wastes from landfills and uses much fewer resources to be produced compared to virgin nylon production (including water, energy and fossil fuel).

Nylon can be recycled from used fishing nets, clothing, carpets, tights, etc.

A large part of the recycled nylon produced, comes from old fishing nets. Which is a great solution to divert garbage from the ocean. 

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

Lots of researches are being carried out currently to improve the quality and reduce the cost of the nylon recycling process.

Econyl is one example of certified eco-friendly recycled nylon textile.


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Recycled Cotton

Preventing additional textile waste and using a lot less resources than conventional and organic cotton, recycled cotton is a very sustainable alternative. Recycling cotton also avoids soil and water pollution.

Cotton can be recycled using old garments or from textile leftovers. It is then spun into new yarn to make new fabrics.

The quality of the cotton may be lower than that of new cotton, for this reason recycled cotton is usually blended with new cotton.

The main limitation with recycled cotton is being able to separate the different fibers from used fabrics when they are blended (i.e cotton and polyester).

The production of recycled cotton is still very limited.

 

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Recycled Wool

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

Recycling wool is an old concept and modern tools help to sort the wool into color categories before recycling it. This allows us to eliminate the dyeing process, saving water and chemicals and eliminating the resulting wastewater.

Using recycled wool reduces the use of land needed for the sheep grazing. It also reduces wastes, thereby the accumulation of wastes in landfill, and/or reduces toxic emissions from incinerators. Compared with non-recycled wool, recycled wool contributes to a reduction of the air, water, and soil pollution.

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


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Linen

Linen is a natural fiber that comes from the flax plant. It uses considerably fewer resources than cotton or polyester (including water, energy, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers).

It is usually cultivated in humid regions and does not require irrigation. Linen production also consumes very little energy.  
As flax plants are less vulnerable to diseases, even when pesticides

and fertilizers are used, it needs significantly less quantities than cotton. 
Flax can grow in poor soils which are not used for food production. In some cases it can even rehabilitate polluted soils. 
Flax is usually cultivated using crop rotation, a farming method that helps to regenerate the soil. Finally flax plants 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.


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Hemp

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 the soils, it can be grown for many years in the same place without exhausting the soil. This is why hemp is considered to be eco-friendly.

Of course organic hemp is always a better option than conventional hemp, as it excludes the use of any chemicals, but we consider conventional hemp as a sustainable fiber as well.

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

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


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Ramie / Stinging Nettle 

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


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Alapaca

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, as they cut the grass when they eat instead of pulling it, which allow it to continue growing. Also Alpacas have soft padding under their feet, like camels, which is more gentle for the soil than the goat's or sheep's hooves.

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

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


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Silk

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

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


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Organic Cotton

It has the same quality as conventional cotton but without the disastrous effects on the environment. Organic cotton is a very good option that addresses most of the environmental challenges involved in conventional cotton production.

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

Organic cotton farmers are not exposed to harmful substances.

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

Although Organic cotton is grown without chemicals, it doesn’t mean that chemical won't be applied during the dyeing and the finishing process. Some certifications such as GOTS also address this issue.


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Sustainable Wool

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.  

We were happy to learn that in addtion to recycled wool, we have other options of sustainable wool, addressing the environmental and animal welfare issues of the conventional wool industry.

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


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sustainable leather

Leather will never be an animal friendly product: it is made from dead animals… But it can be eco-friendly. There are not many options in the market yet, but they do exist, such as Ecolife™ by Green Hides which provide an eco-friendly chrome-free leather, from Italian tanneries who recycle and purify the wastewater.

 


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SUSTAINABLE CASHMERE

As we can see in the related section, conventional cashmere is a fiber extremly unfriendly for the environment.

The good news is that there are some few sustainable cashmere options addressing the environmental problematics of conventional cashmere production which allow us to buy cashmere without feeling bad about it:

NOYA Fibers; Sustainable cashmere® by Chianti Cashmere; Fair Cashmere by Mayet, etc...


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Sustainable Bamboo

As we mention in the “Bamboo” section, the bamboo plant is one of the most sustainable plants around: it grows fast, easily, and it doesn’t require fertilizer, pesticide, or replanting. No GMO are normally used. Bamboo improves the soil quality, helps to rebuild eroded soil and prevents soil erosion. Bamboo plantations also reduce greenhouse gases.  

Bamboo clothes are 100% biodegradable.  

The main environmental issue with bamboo fiber is the process to transform the plant into textile, which normally involves the use of strong and harmful chemicals.

However, manufacturers such as Monocel® have developed a process which doesn’t involve any chemical additives and recycles and reuses 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 doesn’t involve chemicals and it is 100% eco-friendly. However the world production of bamboo linen is very limited because of its cost.


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Lyocell (Tencel®)

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.  

As with rayon and viscose, lyocell is 100% biodegradable.

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


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Orange Fiber

Orange Fiber is an innovative fabric made from orange skins that comes  from the juice industry’s wastes.  Learn more…  

 


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Pineapple Fiber (Piñatex)

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 of extra resources to produce it. It is used as a substitute for leather. Learn more…  


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Refibra™

Refibra™ is a fiber produced from the lyocell process which utilizes cotton scraps that are  leftover from the textile industry when cutting wood. It is considered to be sustainable as it partially uses wastes to be produced.

Learn more…  

 


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Crailar® Flax

Crailar is a very sustainable fiber made from the flax plant (like linen) and uses an environmental friendly process. Crailar is softer than linen, it has similar properties to cotton.

Learn more…  



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Cotton

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

Cotton is produced mainly in dry and warm regions, but it needs a lot of water to grow. In some places like India, because of inefficient water use, it requires up to 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton. In the meantime, 750 million people in the world are lacking access to safe drinking water.

It is time to rethink our style! 99,3% of cotton is grown using fertilizers and/or genetically modified seeds. Cotton represents 10% of pesticide & 25% of insecticide used globally. 

99% of the world’s cotton farmers are in developing countries where most of the time labor, health and safety regulation are nonexistent or not enforced.

Child and forced labour are common practice.

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


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Leather

Leather is a controversial fiber. First of all it is not an animal friendly option as it is basically 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 really need additional land and resources.

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

Those substances are often dumped into rivers, polluting freshwaters and oceans. Also, most of the tanning factories workers in the world don’t wear adequate protection and suffer from skin, eye, respiratory diseases, cancers and others diseases due to their exposure to chemical substances.  

Many children are working in tanneries.

Aldehyde-tanned leather or Vegetable-tanned leather is an alternative to chrome-tanned leather, however it has been proved that their environmental impact are very similar to chrome-tanned leather.

The good news is that there are some sustainable leather options appearing. Learn more...


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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 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, it leads to overgrazing.

Overgrazing means that the vegetation doesn’t have enough time to grow back again before it is eaten. The soil becomes weak and vulnerable to erosion and desertification and the vegetation cannot grow back in those area.   

For example 30% of the region of Patagonia is affected by desertification mainly due to sheep overgrazing. Sheep in Patagonia 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 dipped in insecticide baths which contain hazardous substance for the farmers. Residues of those harmful chemicals can stay on the wool and be found in our clothes.

Animal welfare:

Another concern about wool production is in regards to animal treatment. When a sheep’s fleece is removed (the 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 consists in removing the skin of the Merino sheep around the breech to prevent parasitic infection.


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Cashmere

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

The main environmental issue from cashmere comes from the fact that goats pull the grass out by the roots when they eat instead of cutting it,

which doesn’t allow the grass to grow back and leads 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 of 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.


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Polyester

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 1900 plastic microfibers, ending up in rivers and oceans and then in our food chain. Learn more..

 

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Other Synthetic Fibers

Acrylic, Polyamide, Nylon, Polypropylene, PVC, Spandex (AKA Lycra or elastane), aramide, etc. are  types of synthetic fibers that are derived from petroleum and therefore they have a very similar impact on the environment as does Polyester.


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Rayon, Viscose, Modal

Rayon is a fiber from regenerated cellulose usually 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 the environment. Viscose, modal, lyocell, bamboo are different types of rayon.  

The other substantial environmental concerns arising from rayon production is the massive deforestation involved, similar to what happens with paper production. 70 millions trees are cut each year to make our clothes. Thousands of hectares of rainforest are cut down each year to plant trees specifically used to make rayon. Only a small percentage of the wood is obtained by sustainable forestry practices.    

Viscose (also called Artificial Silk or Art Silk) is the most common type of rayon. It involves chemicals  that are harmful to the environment when released untreated 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. The positive aspect of this material  is that it uses the wastes of another product so it doesn’t need additional resources during plant cultivation. But it still has to go through a chemical process to be transformed, which has a negative consequence on the environment.


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Bamboo

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 fast and easily, it doesn’t need pesticide or fertilizers and it doesn’t need replanting after harvest because it grows new sprouts from the roots. However to transform bamboo into fiber, the bamboo is processed with strong chemical solvents that are potentially harmful for the health of manufacturer's workers, for the consumers wearing the garment and for the environment when chemicals are released in the wastewaters. Bamboo fabric is a type of rayon, it is often called bamboo rayon. 

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


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Vegan Leather

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

Some plant-based substitute of leather exist, such as the pineapple fiber.