Sustainable Clothes: How I Compare Different Fabrics In 2021

The word “sustainable” is getting thrown around a lot in the marketing world.
When you google the word, the following oxford definition is the first thing that pops up.
  1. able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
    "sustainable economic growth"
  2. able to be upheld or defended.
    "sustainable definitions of good educational practice"
Now take from this what you will but unfortunately this leaves a lot open for interpretation, confusion, and exploitation. Inherently I believe we all want to do good but sometimes it is not always easy and often it is not clear what the best option is.
Relate this to the clothing space and it can be a mind field figuring out where to start?
Especially as there is no magic bullet…

Here is a quick guide to fabrics I prefer for my clothes:

Organic Cotton 
  • Grown without harmful chemicals, that damage the people growing it, wearing it and the land
  • Uses far less water and energy than regular cotton
  • More durable 
  • Try + ask to buy Global Organic Standard Textile Standard (GOTS) certified products. Means that the organic content is traced and ensures it is processed socially and sustainably too
  • Alternate standard is Organic Content Standard (OCS), this ONLY traces the organic content
  • Items I own: Tees, Shirts, Jeans, Trousers, Socks, Shoes


Recycled Polyester 
  • Reduces the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill, waterways + ocean
  • Significantly less water, carbon footprint, + energy is used in making recycled polyester versus new fibres
  • Can use sublimation printing process, which offers quality, vibrant finish without nasty dyes
  • Look for the Global Recycled Standard (GRS). It applies to tracing the full supply chain and addresses traceability, environmental principles, social requirements, chemical content and labeling.
Items I own: Sportswear, Activewear, Caps, Hats, Shorts, Socks, Soft Shell Jacket, Mask
  • Fast growing plant
  • Low usage of water compared to cotton
  • No chemical pesticides or fertilizers 
  • High yield + soil health
  • Zero waste 
  • Usually blended with cotton
  • Most of the world’s industrial hemp is currently grown in China therefore  certification is still a bit of a challenge. Often is blended with organic cotton so can look for standards referred to in the above section or search through the individual companies sustainability/transparency policy
Items I own: Tees, Shirts, Socks, Cap
  • Potential to be one of the world's most sustainable resource
  • Currently the process to turn it into fabric uses strong chemical solvents that are potentially harmful to workers, consumers, and the environment
  • Therefore have stayed away from Rayon + Viscose
  • One good process I am hearing about is Lyocell operating under the brand name "Tencel". I bought some underwear a couple of years ago made from this fabric and they are best I have ever owned
Please be aware this is an evolving market with plenty of developments to come.
This is just my opinion from all the research I have done up to this point.
The two main points I take into consideration when choosing fabrics to wear are:
  • Environmental impact 
  • Social impact 
No product is perfect but if you buy less that is quality you can wear more, wash less and have less impact.
This a step in the right direction!                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Garth is the founder of LUCKE, an apparel company that is holistically innovating to be low impact on our environment, high-quality, and fully customizable.

He loves being on the water and is sick of seeing it trashed.

His mission is to prove that you can do business better by valuing empathy for our environment + community, whilst achieving economic sustainability. 

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