Most people get dressed in the morning with familiar pieces of clothing in their closets without really giving these items a second thought. But if you’re trying to live a more natural and eco-friendly life, then it might be worth paying more attention to the fabrics your favorite clothes are made of.
Here is an overview of natural fabrics and what to wear for healthy skin and a more sustainable environment.
Benefits of Natural Fabrics
As with foods and beauty products, we always have to be careful and a bit skeptical when seeing the word “natural” on clothing items. The word “natural” can be used to simply describe fabrics and fibers that come from plants and animals rather than man-made processes. But those pieces of clothing could still have been produced with chemicals or used up excessive resources that make them anything but sustainable.
Some of the most poplar natural fabrics are made from cotton, linen, wool, cashmere, hemp, bamboo, and silk. Benefits of truly natural fabrics is that they are less toxic and synthetic materials, long-lasting after many times of wearing, and generally eco-friendlier because they use less energy to produce and decompose faster into the earth.
The Problem with Synthetic Fabrics
Examples of synthetic fabrics are polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon. Polyester and acrylic are other synthetic materials used for clothing.
It is possible that clothes made with and treated with chemicals transfer those chemicals onto human skin and cause irritation and absorption. Synthetic clothing can contain esters of dihydric alcohol, polycrylonitriles, ammonia, petroleum, and sulphuric acid to maintain their colors and durability. Clothing that is marketed as stain-resistant or wrinkle-resistant are often treated with chemicals, such as Teflon, to maintain these properties.
So basically, switching from synthetic materials to natural ones is just one of the many ways that you can reduce your daily exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
Conventionally produced cotton can hardly be called eco-friendly because it so often relies upon pesticides and GMOs. A better option is to choose clothing made from organic cotton that has never been in contact with pesticides or other chemicals. Fairtrade and the Better Cotton Initiative make accreditations for organic cotton brands, so make sure to thoroughly read cotton labels.
Hemp is a versatile plant used to make many things to use and wear, including clothing. Although hemp fabrics may seem stiff at first, they loosen up and become softer with each wash. It is also very possible to grow hemp used for clothing without the use of any pesticides and with only minimal water to reduce the waste factor of your fashion.
Wool is a favorite fabric during cold winter months, and it is possible to find natural and sustainable wool that you’ll love wearing. Wool is commonly produced in the United States and Australia, both of which have strict production standards. Try to buy wool products at local farms to reduce your carbon footprint, support local farmers, and ensure that the wool-producing sheep are treated humanely.
Linen fabrics come from the flax plant, which doesn’t need much water or any pesticides to thrive. This plant is easy to grow and spun into yarn to make clothes. Untreated linen is biodegradable, durable, and affordable for both clothing and bedding.