What Are the Most Sustainable Fabrics?

» Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Design, Fiber, Sustainability, Textiles / Fabrics | 0 comments

Designers ask this question a lot. The savvy offer up personal favorites, including organic cotton, hemp, bamboo (ugh), and anything recycled.

So what’s best?

It depends… No matter what fabric goes into a product, there will be benefits and drawbacks.

Plant-based fibers are natural and renewable. They also need water to grow, and water is scarce. Animal fibers are natural and renewable, but chemicals are commonly used to control pests, and humane practices are not universal. Polyester is a petroleum-based product (as are other synthetics), and we all know this is not a renewable resource. But did you know poly requires very little water to make (compared to cotton), and it can be recycled multiple times?

Products aren’t more or less sustainable just because of the fabric. There is more to it…

The best products:

  • Have a transparent, ethical supply chain
  • Are built to last
  • Match textiles to product performance needs
  • Use only 1 or 2 fiber types (total, including thread)
  • Include recycled content and / or organic raw materials
  • Do not use spandex or lycra
  • Were manufactured in efficient facilities that create little waste
  • Include reuse / recycling info during the initial purchase


Sadly, few products today meet all of the criteria above, but truly sustainable ones can check at least half of those boxes. How does your closet (or portfolio) stack up?

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