Sustainable Fabrics: Making Smarter Choices for the Sake of the World

Fabric is everywhere, but what are the sustainable fabrics? We've detailed fabrics to avoid and fabrics to gravitate towards!

Fabric. It’s everywhere. Take a look around the room you’re sitting in and notice all the items that contain fabric. Your clothing, the blanket draped over a chair, the curtains, the cover for your couch, your shower curtain, your towels, the list goes on. Fabric is one of those items that we can’t seem to get enough of as it’s a part of so many items in our life.

Unfortunately, with all good things come consequences, especially for nonsustainable fabrics. Fabric manufacturing is causing disastrous effects on our environment. Some of the most commonly produced fabrics contain fibers that even after products continue to cause harm to the environment. It’s no secret that we need to take steps to preserve the earth as our resources are becoming depleted and the planet’s temperature rises. However, many don’t know which fabrics are sustainable fabrics and which are not. Thus, we’ve outlined the most sustainable fabrics and least sustainable fabrics, and how we’ve incorporated them into our product to create the most sustainable weighted blanket. 

Most sustainable fabrics and why

Overall, the most sustainable fabrics are those that come from natural fibers. This makes sense because natural fibers are biodegradable. In addition to looking for natural fiber-based fabrics, organic fabric is also a more sustainable choice because its production requires less water consumption and contaminates less water than its non-organic counterpart. Nonorganic fabrics use pesticides, which of course, pollutes water and impact the environment. Of the natural fabrics available, we’ve listed three of our favorites (that also happen to appear in our Truhugs’ Two weighted blankets). 

1. Organic Hemp

Hemp is a type of bast fiber, which means it is created from the stems of plants. The fabric’s properties have various advantages such as warming properties for the cold winter months or cooling properties for summer months. When blended with other natural fiber fabrics, hemp has a similar softness to linen and bamboo. It is a sustainable fabric choice because it returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil, requires a small amount of land, and has a much higher yield than cotton. As with other sustainable fabrics, we’ll detail below, it’s important to choose organic over non-organic fabrics because they do not rely on pesticides and harmful chemicals during the growing process, which reduces pollution. 

2. Bamboo lyocell

Bamboo fabric has three categories: rayon, viscose, and lyocell. We will detail below why rayon is falsely considered to be a sustainable fabric option. Conversely, bamboo lyocell is more eco-friendly because it uses fewer chemicals and water in its manufacturing. Bamboo lyocell is created from bamboo purple and when turned into fabric, it has a silky, smooth, and soft texture.

3. Organic Linen

Created from plants, linen is a strong and biodegradable fabric that naturally comes in ivory, ecru, tan, and grey colors. The more linen is washed, the softer the fabric gets, which is a plus for longevity. We’ve created a linen-weighted blanket duvet cover for those who like the earthy tones and soft fabric.

4. Organic Cotton 

Purchasing organic cotton is a far better option compared to nonorganic cotton, as nonorganic cotton is one of the most unsustainable fabrics. The manufacturing process for nonorganic cotton includes massive waste, pollution, and consequently, harm to human health. In contrast, most of the organic cotton grown 

Least Sustainable Fabrics 

1. Polyester

While one of the most popular, polyester is the most unsustainable because it is not biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to break down when placed in the landfill. The fabric is manufactured partially from oil (a major source of pollution) and its creation is an energy-intensive process. Additionally, every time polyester fabric is washed, tiny mini plastic pieces are emitted from the fabric into the environment and mini plastics are impossible to filter out. 

2. Nylon

When you hear about nylon, you probably think of world war II given that nylon was used in military products. Nylon has great strength and durability which is why it replaced silk in stocking and toothbrush production. Despite its impressive features, nylon is a plastic created from crude oil. The manufacturing process for nylon involves extensive chemical processing which causes the release of nitrate oxide, massive water consumption and contamination, and excessive energy use. 

3. Rayon

Rayon is a fabric created from wood pulp and can imitate properties of silk, cotton, wool, and other fabrics. Because of its imitation abilities and construction from wood, Rayon appears to be a sustainable fabric. However, there is controversy surrounding rayon and its sustainability properties and some experts have been accused of greenwashing the fabric (or making it appear more sustainable than it actually is). Unfortunately, the manufacturing of Rayon requires a lot of toxic chemicals, and the sourced plants result in mass rainforest deforestation. 

Stats on how non sustainable fabrics cause microplastics to enter into the ocean.
Plastics in the ocean.

Ways that fabric manufacturing pollute the earth

  The European Parliament wrote a piece on the consequences of textile production and reported alarming numbers. In 2015, the textile industry used 79 billion cubic meters of water for fabric production, and just one t-shirt took 2,700 liters of water to produce. The harsh chemicals used to produce fabrics commonly end up back in our water and wreak havoc on our marine life.  Additionally, washing synthetic fabrics (e.g., polyester) caused .5 million tonnes of microplastics released into the ocean in one year. 

While the water issues associated with textile manufacturing are severe, they are not the only issues. Some natural fibers cause mass deforestation. Fabrics such as bamboo rayon have caused rainforests to be cleared. Also, fiber that comes from animals (e.g., leather from cows) has caused deforestation as farmers clear land for their livestock. 

Psychological effects of sustainability 

Our blog primarily focuses on mental health wellness, as we dissect the therapeutic properties of deep pressure therapy. Newer waves of research have explored the link between the environment and mental health. There are a plethora of articles linking mental health concerns to various concepts of the environment. For example, there is an increase in self-reported anxiety about the future due to climate change, increased heat impacts mental health through heat stress, and there is speculation that environmental pollutants are linked to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, neurological conditions, and ASD.

The IEEP (2020) summarized various environmental detriments and their specific effects on mental health outcomes. The most common mental health effects resulting from climate change, pollution, and the destruction of natural resources are depression and anxiety. Though our world continues to modernize, consequences of urbanization include distress, agitation, and poor cognitive development.  

Mental health and physical health have a causal and reciprocal relationship, so as environmental concerns impact mental health, they also wreak havoc on physical health. There is also a documented effect on the environment and physical health. There is emerging evidence to suggest a relationship between cognitive impairment (i.e., dementia) and air pollution. Noise and light pollution have been linked to sleep disturbances, which are known to exacerbate cognitive impairments and psychiatric disorders. Additionally, air pollution can increase the risk for cancer, asthma, and heart disease. 

Needless to say, there are grave consequences with environmental harm. In today’s world, there are many threats to humans’ health and if we can take proactive steps to mitigate the harm, why wouldn’t we? Truhugs has taken the necessary steps to develop a weighted blanket created from sustainable fabrics. We’ve also developed a manufacturing protocol to reduce the impact on the environment from the production of our blankets. We use less water, reduced the harsh chemicals used, 

Veronica

Veronica is a mental health professional who is pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and now provides therapy to children and youth in the community agency setting. She has been a part of several studies withiфn the field of psychology, including cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and health psychology. Her current research interests revolve around utilizing mindfulness meditation techniques and how they can impact the health of individuals in various socio-economic settings. She also has research interests revolving around developing and implementing interventions to aid in recovery from substance abuse within the primary care setting.

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