It is impossible to talk about sustainability without discussing fabrics. It is a complicated topic as there are many aspects to take in consideration from the whole production cycle, the durability until the end of life of a fabric. We researched and came up with the following simple rules. We favor natural, organic and recycled fibers and try to stay away from synthetic and mixed fibers. If we pick synthetic fibers, we favor sustainable and clean processes such as TENCEL® for lyocell. We mostly work with labels that use certifications such as GOTS for organic fabrics, Oeko-Tex for the regulatory usage of harmful chemicals and GRS for recycled content.
Cotton is a soft, fluffy fiber giving a soft, comfortable, breathable and easily washable fabric. Cotton is one of the most used natural fibers in the garment industry. In fact, each year 20 million farmers in 80 countries need to produce it to meet our yearly needs.
At thegreenlabels, we prefer organic cotton. It takes 2120 liters of water to grow one kilo of conventional cotton, when organic cotton uses 91% less water. Conventional cotton accounts for 16% of global insecticide release while with organic cotton there is none. Further, there is a social issue, because farmers often do not have a choice but to buy GMO seeds and pesticides from big agrochemical companies. This puts many in debt and they struggle to make a living.
Many of our labels do use GOTS certified cotton. GOTS is a standard that ensures the organic and fair-trade status of fabrics at every stage of the production, from seed to the garment. That is a step towards solving many problems listed above.
Air dry your cotton clothes. Lay them flat before hanging them. If you’re using a dryer, pick a short cycle to keep your garments still damp, it will be easier to iron.
Hemp is one of the most durable fibers. It is also known as one of the oldest crops used to create a piece of fabric. The crops are resistant to pests, so they can grow naturally without chemicals. It is also naturally antimicrobial, resistant to UV and needs only little water to grow. The hemp fabric is not as soft as cotton, but it is stronger. As hemp farming is limited, it’s difficult to find 100% hemp fabric. Hemp and cotton are a great mix, giving a high standard of quality fabric.
Air dry or tumble dry on a low heat setting until slightly damp then finish with air drying. Make sure to spread or stretch the fabric to avoid wrinkles as the fabric dries.
Linen is a versatile, durable fabric made from the flax plant. It grows organically, that is to say with a little attention and almost no fertilizers, as long as there’s water. Like cotton, linen can be knitted or woven with fine threads. Absorbent, light with a “cool” touch and drying quicker than cotton, linen is often the wise choice in hot weather. On top, it is biodegradable as pure natural fibers are.
The not so sustainable side of linen is the dying. The natural colors of linen are shades of beige and grey whereas white linen has often used heavy bleaching. Check for GOTS or Oeko-Tex for a better fabric.
Garments made out of linen should be air dry and should be ironed with a good quality steam iron while they are damp.
Viscose is derived from cellulose-based plant sources. It can be made from various trees, bamboo or even cotton. Viscose is the most known man-made fiber. It is cheap to produce, and called the first synthetic alternative to silk. From an environmental point of view viscose could be thought to be a good material because it is biodegradable. However it is not. The production of viscose uses huge amounts of toxic chemicals to transform wood into versatile cellulose. Some of those chemicals are sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and sodium sulfate. Moreover, the process involves the use of a great deal of water.
That is why innovators are looking to improve the production techniques to make it more sustainable. For example, the Lenzing company is famous for its TENCEL™ fibers and a new generation of viscose: LENZING™ ECOVERO™. These viscoses use less chemicals and less water leaving the planet cleaner. REFIBRA™ is a waste-reducing version that mixes upcycled cotton scraps with TENCEL™ to make a new recycled material.
Cold wash your items in viscose. When it comes to ironing, we recommend setting the temperature to the lowest. Spray your items lightly with water or iron them when they are still damp. Use a piece of cotton fabric as a press cloth between your garment and the iron to prevent shine. Ironing them turned inside out is also a good solution!
Lyocell is a fabric made from wood pulp. It is the improved version of viscose. Lyocell is stronger than viscose, making it less prone to shrink. Lyocell is often made from bamboo.
The more eco-friendly choice is TENCEL™. TENCEL™ is the label of the Austrian manufacturer Lenzing for its lyocell. It consists in an environmentally friendly production process, using less chemicals and less water. Organic Basics have a whole collection of TENCEL™ underwear.
Cold wash you items in lyocell. When it comes to ironing, we recommend setting the temperature to the lowest. Spray your items lightly with water or iron them when they are still damp. Use a piece of cotton fabric as a press cloth between your garment and the iron to prevent shine. Ironing them turned inside out is also a good solution!
Modal is another spin off from viscose. It is made from wood pulp, in this case often from beech trees. One of the many qualities of modal is to perfectly wrap a body, making it the right choice for creating dresses or tops. Conventional modal has the same environmental problems as viscose; high toxic chemical use and deforestation (if raw material comes from an unsustainable wood source).
TENCEL™ modal is a better modal fiber that has a certified supply chain to use less chemicals and water. And yes, we know it’s confusing that Lenzing decided to call both it’s modal and lyocell fibers TENCEL™.
Cold wash you items in modal. When it comes to ironing, we recommend setting the temperature to the lowest. Spray your items lightly with water or iron them when they are still damp. Use a piece of cotton fabric as a press cloth between your garment and the iron to prevent shine. Ironing them turned inside out is also a good solution!
The cupro fabric is well known to be the best vegan version of silk. It is made out of cotton linter, the fine and silky fibers attached to the seed of the cotton plant after ginning or recycled cotton pieces. The production process of cupro is similar to the production process of viscose. Unfortunately, that means high amounts of chemicals used. Look for Oeko-Tex certifications to get items with less harmful chemicals.
It is strongly advised to not bleach or tumble dry garments made out of cupro. It is better to air dry them and to iron them turned inside on medium heat.