The latest fashion trend isn't about a particular color or a must-have style. The fashion world's current trend revolves around the concept of sustainable, ethical, and eco-friendly clothing. Though most of us only think about shorts as something to wear on hot summer days and lazy weekends, since most of us work from home these days, you could even consider wearing a comfy pair of eco-friendly shorts to work. So, what's up with this eco-friendly clothing trend, and why is it gaining such momentum?
When it comes to negatively impacting the environment, the clothing industry has been flying somewhat under the radar. The unfortunate truth is that the fashion industry produces a whopping 10% of the world's carbon emissions. That's more greenhouse gasses being emitted than long-haul international flights and maritime shipping combined.
The conventional textile and fashion industry is considered one of the world's top polluters and is wreaking havoc on the environment. The industry is also one of the biggest consumers of the earth's natural resources. If that weren't troublesome enough, a staggering 85% of all textiles wind up in landfills each year. Even the act of simply washing clothes sends 500,000 tons of microfibers into our oceans every year, which is equal to about 50 billion plastic bottles.
As consumers worldwide buy more clothes, the insatiable desire for newer and cheaper styles is taking a tremendous toll on the planet. Remember those microfibers being released in the ocean? That's not their final destination. Those fibers are often inadvertently ingested by a variety of marine species. And where do many of those fish end up? On our plates as food.
For the health of both the planet and your body, it's essential to know not just how your clothes are manufactured but also what they are made from. Once you are empowered with this knowledge, you can make better choices for yourself and the planet. While picking an eco-friendly clothing fabric might seem like a tiny decision, it can have a huge impact.
What Is Eco-Friendly Clothing?
The eco-friendly clothing category is comprised of a combination of different facets, which include minimal impact policies, ethical business practices, supply chain transparency, give-back programs, and, most importantly, the use of sustainable materials.
Eco-friendly clothing considers the complete lifecycle of the product — from the sourcing, design, and production — and looks at everyone and everything affected by it, from the environment, to the workplace where it's produced, to the consumers who purchase and wear it. It's a complex issue that also takes into consideration water usage, hazardous chemicals, agriculture, and waste. Eco-friendly clothing is a term that refers to goods and manufacturing considered to inflict little or no harm to the environment.
What Materials Are Eco-friendly Clothing Made Of?
Sustainable and eco-friendly fashion starts with the fabric.
Thankfully, environmentally friendly fabrics — and the clothing brands that use them — are pretty easy to find. The following list contains some of the sustainable fabrics that brands are using to make the fashion industry more environmentally-friendly:
1. Recycled Materials
The most sustainable and eco-friendly fabric is one that's made with recycled material. Clothing made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, like these eco-friendly shorts, helps keep the oceans clean from plastic waste while giving you peace of mind that you're doing your part to help the environment. Recycling is one of the most sustainable practices to live by, whether it's throwing your recyclables into a recycling bin, reusing shopping bags, or wearing clothes made of recycled materials.
Environmentalists love hemp because it's such a versatile and useful plant. Hemp has incredible nutritional value, can be used to make cleaning products and building materials, and is stronger than cotton. Even better, hemp requires way fewer pesticides and herbicides when grown on a large scale.
3. Organic Cotton
There's a big difference between regular cotton and organic cotton. Your typical cotton is filled with pesticides, which are not good for the environment. With organic cotton, there are no pesticides used, making this fabric easier on our planet. Added dyes can take some of the credibility away from your organic cotton shirt, so be sure to buy pieces closest to the shades the cotton is grown in, such as cream, beige, and light green.
Linen is created from cellulose fibers that are derived from flax plants. Linen is a durable fabric, but it's also very comfortable, light, and flexible. Flax plants don't require much water or energy to produce, and the entire plant is used when making linen, leaving no waste. Linen clothing is also naturally recyclable and biodegradable. As with organic cotton, try to go with natural, non-dyed colors.
5. Soy Silk/Cashmere
Soy isn't just good for your body; it's also pretty good on your body. Like hemp, the soy plant is extremely versatile in its uses. Not only is it an eco-friendly and cruelty-free alternative to animal-derived silk and cashmere, but the material is also machine washable and wrinkle resistant.
Does Eco-Friendly Clothing Fade?
The dyes used in eco-friendly clothing are just as long-lasting as the harmful dyes used on conventional clothing. However, they will likely begin to fade if harsh detergents or bleaching agents are used to clean them. One common misconception is that saltwater causes the color in eco-friendly shorts to fade, but this couldn't be further from the truth. While prolonged sun exposure may cause materials to fade with time, saltwater can actually protect your eco-friendly clothing from fading. The reason? The chloride found in salt helps seal the color into the fabric, thus keeping it from fading.
When it comes to particular articles of clothing, like eco-friendly shorts, that will be exposed to sunlight for extended periods, consider fabrics blended with polyester, acrylic, and nylon, or a natural fabric like cotton. If fading is your biggest concern, avoid selecting fabrics like linen and silk as they are more prone to fading.
How To Keep Eco-friendly Clothing from Fading
The best way to keep the colors in your eco-friendly clothing from fading is to wash them as little and as gently as possible. The water, friction, detergent, and drying all contribute to pulling out that vivid color out of your clothing. But since hand-washing and line-drying are rarely practical, there are a few tips you can use to minimize fading when you machine wash and dry your eco-friendly clothes.
- Separate lights from darks and wash similar colors together
- Wash heavy and delicate fabrics separately
- Zip up all zippers to reduce friction
- Read the label and wash and dry according to the directions
- Turn clothing inside out before washing and drying to reduce visible fading from friction
- Don't overstuff the washing machine for better cleaning and less friction
- Wash clothes in cold water, which keeps fibers closed and traps dye inside
- Use the machine's permanent press or gentle cycles
- Use a mild, eco-friendly laundry detergent
- Add vinegar or salt to the washing machine to hold in colors
- Remove clothes from dryer before they are completely dry
Typically, clothing stops releasing dye after just a few washes. But, if you use these tips to minimize fading, you'll get even more life out of your beautiful, sustainable, eco-friendly clothing.