Did you know the United States throws away about 11.3 million tons of textile waste yearly? This amounts to about 2,150 pieces of clothing per second. Definitely not best sustainable fabrics practices! Plus, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the global carbon dioxide output, even more than international flights and shipping.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the United Nations once named the fashion sector the second-highest polluting industry after oil and gas. One common cause of the pollution caused by the fashion industry is that brands produce more new outfits instead of recycling. So, naturally, this has led to several criticisms by environmentally conscious organizations.
As a result, sustainability has become a significant focus for brands in the past decade. In 2021, fashion brands pledged more sustainability, policy changes, and materials innovations at COP26. This means more sustainable fabrics, not just for clothing brands but also for diaper manufacturers.
We at Nicki’s Diapers are committed to creating a cleaner world, using eco-friendly fabric for all our cloth diapers and other sustainable household items. This article discusses the top sustainable, eco-friendly, & biodegradable materials that help us create a cleaner world. But first, let’s talk about what a sustainable fabric is.
What Is a Sustainable Fabric?
Companies often throw around terms like “sustainable materials for clothing” or “eco-friendly sustainable fabrics,” but what does it really mean? Sustainable fabrics are textiles or materials that have less of a negative impact on the planet. These fabrics help protect the earth from harmful carbon dioxide output.
Also, these materials have a longer lifespan, unlike synthetic fabrics. One benefit of eco-fabrics is that throughout their lifecycle, from design to disposal, they do less harm to the environment because they are made from natural or recycled materials.
As a consumer, there are several advantages to choosing eco-fabrics. For instance:
- It’s better for your health, due to less chemical usage
- Eco-friendly fabric is easy to maintain
- Clothing made with biodegradable fabric is affordable
- You are helping save the planet and spread awareness
Sustainable fabrics can also be used for cloth diapers, and are better for your baby’s skin, especially if they have skin sensitivity. Also, since they are reusable, they help you save money, unlike disposable diapers.
Top Sustainable Fabrics That Make the World Cleaner
We broadly classified our choices of eco-fabrics into four sub-heads:
- Natural and vegan fabrics
- Semi-synthetic fabrics
- Vegan, synthetic fabrics
- Animal-derived natural fabrics
Sustainable Natural and Vegan Fabrics
Below are some of our top choices:
● Organic Cotton
Did you know that 75% of the world’s clothing products are made using cotton? However, not all of them are made from organic cotton. Unlike standard cotton, organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Furthermore, they are processed without chemicals. In the United States, only cotton from farms that meet the requirements of the National Organic Programme (NOP) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considered organic. So next time you’re shopping for organic cotton clothing, try to find out if the manufacturers used NOP and USDA-approved cotton.
Clothing brands use organic cotton fabric for mattress protectors, bras, and baby clothes. At Nicki’s Diapers, we have organic cotton diapers that are foldable, soft, and absorbent.
● Recycled Cotton
Recycled cotton comes from post-consumer or post-industrial waste. It is cotton fabric transformed into cotton fiber and reused in textiles. Other names for recycled cotton are reclaimed cotton, regenerated cotton, or shoddy.
Most recycled cotton involves cutting scraps from post-consumer waste, but they are difficult to sort through because of color variations. This makes it quite a labor-intensive process. Also, it is difficult to know when recycled cotton is pure cotton because some synthetic clothes with a 4% blend or less get reclaimed as recycled cotton.
However, there are several benefits to using this eco-friendly fabric. They are generally transformed into low-grade products like insulation and stuffing. Plus, regenerated cotton stops fashion waste from ending up in landfills.
● Organic Hemp
Organic hemp is one of our top sustainable fabrics. Hemp fabric is made from the stalks of the Cannabis Sativa plant, and it has had excellent tensile and durable fibers for years. But there’s another reason why organic hemp is one of our sustainable materials for clothing.
Hemp clothes are carbon-negative raw materials, which makes them absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Also, this eco-friendly fabric has natural sun protection and is antimicrobial. There’s only one downside.
Hemp is tricky to grow, making hemp fabric slightly more expensive than other sustainable textiles. But this has not stopped the manufacture of hemp clothing and textile products. Instead, organic hemp is used for dresses, skirts, hoodies, upholstery, tablecloths, jackets, and children's clothing, including hemp diaper inserts.
● Organic Bamboo (Bamboo Linen)
Organic bamboo is used to make different materials, including linen. Bamboo linen has existed for years, and the process of making it into fabric has been perfected. However, you can’t always get sustainable fabrics from bamboo because the transformation process sometimes involves chemicals.
Bamboo linen is used for underwear, towels, sheets, and t-shirts, and even fitted bamboo diapers for babies.
Sustainable Synthetic Fabrics (Vegan)
There are synthetic fabrics that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Read on to find out the best manmade materials for a green lifestyle.
Econyl is recycled nylon made from waste products by the Italian company, Aquafil. Generally, nylon harms the environment, but Econyl reduces its pollution by using recyclable base materials. Econyl feels like nylon, but it does not need a lot of water and is made using a closed-loop system.
You can buy the end-product of this eco-friendly fabric as leggings, stockings, tights, and other form-fitting clothes for the lower body. Econyl is also used for swimwear and sportswear.
● Recycled Polyester (rPET)
Do you know that all the clear plastic water bottles we use are recycled and converted into fabric? Recycling polyester prevents the water bottle from ending up in a landfill. Clothing brands use recycled polyester to make ethical activewear and fluffy, thick, sustainable fleece.
Sadly, recycled polyester has not stopped plastic bottles from ending in landfills. Also, rPET fabrics, when washed, release microplastics. Therefore, ensure you use a microplastic filter bag.
Sustainable Semi-Synthetic Fabric
Here are our top sustainable and biodegradable semi-synthetic fabrics:
Lyocell is a semi-synthetic or cellulosic fabric that is quite famous in the sustainable fashion industry. It is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees, which grow without water or pesticides. Moreover, the Lyocell manufacturing process is sustainable and happens in a closed-loop system.
Unfortunately, some lyocell materials are not sustainable fabrics. Therefore, when looking for clothing made from this material, ensure it has a TENCEL label. TENCEL is the leading manufacturer of lyocell.
If you need a semi-synthetic biodegradable fabric that gives you comfort, is breathable and of high quality, go with modal. Modal comes from beech trees and has a similar manufacturing process to that unsustainable viscose rayon fabric. However, modal fabric production is closed-loop and uses less waste and chemicals.
Like lyocell, modal fabric from TENCEL is top-notch, and they reuse 99% of solvents. Also, the TENCEL modal is carbon-neutral and comes from wood harvested from only certified sources. So again, go with brands whose clothes have a TENCEL label.
Animal Derived Natural Fabrics
If you are not into sustainable vegan textiles, you might want to try animal-derived natural fabrics. First, however, we should point out that the materials listed here are primarily vegetarian, meaning they are collected from animals without taking their lives.
Below are our top picks.
Wool is a natural fiber and an excellent alternative to plastic and petroleum-based synthetics like polyester and nylon. Also, wool lasts for a long time and does not need any chemicals at the processing stage. Another great thing about this environmentally friendly fabric is that it can biodegrade naturally.
There are several different types of wool fabric to choose from. These include merino sheep wool, alpaca wool, cashmere wool, camel wool, and yak wool. Of the five, alpaca is considered the most ethical and eco-friendly wool.
Cashmere is quite soft, and thus understandably beloved by all. Yak wool is similar to cashmere in softness and warmth. On the other hand, camel wool is one of the most sustainable fibers and does not require dyes or chemicals during processing.
Clothing brands use wool to make different outfits. You can also get wool diaper covers for little ones.
We all love the way silk feels against our skin. But where does it come from?
Silk fabric comes from silkworms that live off mulberry tree leaves grown with minimal chemicals and pesticides, since those can harm silkworms. It is the only natural filament fiber, and a single cocoon can measure 1,000 yards.
Silk is also a more sustainable fiber with a renewable resource. It is biodegradable and requires less water, chemicals, and energy than many other fibers.
Go for Sustainable, Eco Friendly, and Biodegradable Fabrics
It is evident that sustainable fabrics are beneficial to us and help us make the earth cleaner. So, we recommend you choose eco-friendly clothes for yourself and your kids, and adopt other eco-friendly ways to accomplish your home tasks, like drying your cloth diapers. Remember to carefully read the cloth’s label before buying it to verify its eco-friendliness.
At Nicki’s Diapers, we offer different environmentally friendly diaper options for infants and toddlers. Check out our catalog here, and start your sustainable diapering journey today.