Sustainable Fabric?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mr Rcycled recently purchased a pair of Bamboo sports socks, ready for his monstrous 100k charity Oxfam Trail Walk he will be participating in tomorrow. Impressive Mr Recycled, a pat on the back.

Bamboo fibre is considered a more sustainable fabric than most textile fibres, which has been growing in popularity in recent years.

Image c/o we heart it

With so many of us striving to reduce our carbon footprint, is bamboo fibre the answer to our sustainable clothing needs?

"Bamboo owns a unique antimicrobial bio-agent called "bamboo kun." Textiles made of bamboo have natural antibacterial, antifungal and odor resistant properties, even after multiple washings."*

From an environmental view point, bamboo textile tends to be a chosen fabric over cotton, as bamboo does not require large amounts of pesticides that cotton does.

Bamboo grows at an incredible rate, with one species recorded growing three feet in a single day, which means it can be quick to cultivate, and due to being a natural fibre (as opposed to synthetic fabric such as polyester), its cultivation, apparently, results in a decrease in green house gases.*wikipedia
Bamboo fabric sounds fabulous doesn't it? Coincidentally, however, I stumbled upon an article written by ecosalon last week; Bamboo We Hardly Know Ye written by Kelly Drennan, which questions our ultimate green fabric's true sustainability:

"Bamboo seemed like a miracle fiber – and in a sense, it is. It’s turning it into fabric that’s the more complicated issue."

"Bamboo fabric can be made in one of two ways – chemically or mechanically. The chemical process has been met with much resistance from sustainable fashion experts because this process requires toxic chemicals. These chemicals, sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, change the genetic structure of natural bamboo, turning it into rayon. But the disposal of these chemicals can lead to soil and water contamination."

"Mechanically processed bamboo is also considered sustainable. Rather than extracting fiber, as in the case with regenerated cellulose, mechanical processing involves the separation and extraction of fibers directly from the bamboo shoots. However, it is a multi-step process that is more costly, and therefore is not commonly practiced."

Read more here. I am all for mechanically processed bamboo, but wonder if there is such a thing as a sustainable, affordable fabric? Alternatives include:


The registered trade name for Lyocell; a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose, which claims the fabric to be environmentally friendly and a good choice for people with sensitive skin, however it is difficult to dye the fabric without treatment with a number of different chemicals. Currently, Tencel® is fairly expensive to purchase. *


Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent, more mildew-resistant, and more insulative than cotton. This means that hemp will keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer than cotton. Hemp is more effective at blocking the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The nature of hemp fibers makes them more absorbent to dyes, which coupled with hemp's ability to better screen out ultraviolet rays.

Hemp has a deep root system that helps to prevent soil erosion, removes toxins, provides a disease break, and aerates the soil to the benefit of future crops. *

Mountains of the Moon Eco-Fashion, sell beautiful dresses made with sustainable fabric, including

The Coco Dress: Black Hemp/Tencel

Organic cotton

Organic cotton is generally understood as cotton and is grown in subtropical countries such as America and India, from non genetically modified plants, that is to be grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides. Its production also promotes and enhances biodiversity and biological cycles. * wikipedia

Samurai Owl Organic Cotton Men/Unisex Tee, printed with eco-ink

Samurai Owl - Organic Cotton Men/Unisex Tee, printed with ECO ink on dijon
US$28 from ironspider

Eco-fi kunin felt (formally known as Ecospun)

A polyester fibre made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles. Used mainly for craft use, rather than clothing.

Kunin Eco Fi Classic Rainbow Felt Sheets

Kunin Eco Fi Classic Rainbow 9x12 Felt Sheet Blues 8 Colors 16 Sheets

Garments made with sustainable fabrics would be the way to go when choosing to purchase new clothing, my personal choice however, would be to choose garments and fabric already in existence; second-hand fashion, and unwanted fabric then restyle, and refashion into 'new'.

An outstanding dilemma though; which socks or underwear does one choose to buy, when second-hand is simply out of the question?


Violet said...

some people make them out of recycled cotton t-shirts.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately organic cotton still used massive amounts of water to grow- is it still sustainable then? Hemp seems to be the perfect all round choice at the moment.

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