A few additional thoughts about natural, eco-friendly fabrics to take into consideration:
To dye or not to dye
Best practice is using natural, undyed fabrics, but who wants to live in a world without color? Look for natural dyes without the use of heavy metal dyes. Another eco-friendly option is a closed-loop system that used low-impact reactive dyes.
Rather than using chlorine bleach, which is a toxic pollutant, look for “next-to-skin” comfort from oxidizing chemicals such as ozone or hydrogen peroxide, which break down into oxygen and water.
Work with companies that restrict the use of flame retardants, man-made chemicals made from polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). PBDEs are often added to foam padding, plastics, or fabrics so that they won’t catch on fire or burn as easily when exposed to flame or high heat. They do not break down quickly, and remain in the environment for an indefinite period. If flame retardants are necessary, specify that they be free of hazardous chemicals.
For quick reference, here’s a short list of sustainable characteristics for sourcing natural fiber materials:
- Made from rapidly renewable and sustainable resources
- Made with minimal ecological footprint; land, energy, water, resources, waste, etc.
- Minimal processing toward end product
- Made with non-toxic chemicals
- Made with a closed loop cycle
- Reusable, recyclable and biodegradable
- Certified by Organic Trade Association (OTA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (iFOAM), SKAL, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), etc.
I love supporting textile industry eco-preneurs— O Ecotextiles, Q-Collection, Foxfibre Colorganic, Organic Plus and F. Schumacher & Co.—who create beautiful and eco-friendly materials that are nontoxic, sustainable and ethical. O Ecotextiles, for example, uses finishes made of beeswax, aloe vera, and vitamin A—what a great role model!
Enjoy exploring the wide variety of natural fibers that meet the environmental characteristics outlined above and help to restore a natural balance inside our homes and on our planet!
And if you know of any great sources, please share them with us!