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Understanding Sustainable Textiles

Fast fashion got you down? We’re here to bring you a dose of inspiring innovation from behind the scenes of the fashion industry.

It’s 2019. We’re still hearing horror stories of unfair labor practices. Millions of tonnes of synthetic clothing are still ending up in our landfills. Consumerism is at an all time high. There is limited access to affordable and quality fashion items made from sustainable materials...

...but there is a lot of innovation and small sustainable brands starting to flourish as you, the consumer, continue to make better choices when you shop.

So, pat yourself on the back. You are making a difference with every dollar. Every little step you take in your sustainable fashion journey is making huge impact. You may not be able to see your efforts right away, but they do cast a ripple across the world.

What is still lacking in the industry at the moment is accessible and authentic information about the impacts and changes happening behind the scenes, and information about what exactly makes a “sustainable textile” sustainable.

Although there are tons (literally!) of new innovations being introduced to the industry every year, we wanted to clarify the process of making some of these big selling sustainable textiles. 

Empower yourself to take ownership of the change you want to see by understanding the facts about the textiles you’re buying. Here are 6 sustainable textiles that we want to showcase and help you understand before your next shopping experience.

Organic Cotton

We were all a little fooled by the whole “fabric of our lives” campaign, but this important step in the history of cotton, going organic, is a huge leap for mother earth. 

On average, around 1kg of mainstream cotton needs 10,000 litres of water. This number is a little higher and a little lower depending on where the cotton is being grown in the world, but the fact remains the same: it’s a freaking lot of water! Organic cotton uses approximately 71% less water and 62% less energy than conventional cotton, with much lower impact on the environment.

The process of organic production helps replenish and maintain soil fertilization therefore, eliminating the need for pesticides and fertilizers that harm our agriculture, our water and our skin (yes! What we put on our bodies is absorbed into us as well!). There is also a restriction on genetically engineering organic seeds which is a huge win for the future of cotton: just organic cotton.

Organic cotton is found in almost all our women’s and men’s products online, from jumpsuits to tees, to pants.

Recycled PET

We love this textile and are seeing a lot more of it used in the brands we are working with here at Alma Boa. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a form of polyester. It is a plastic resin found within plastic packaging and water bottles across the world. The material is super strong and lightweight. It’s also extremely inexpensive which is how we got to this point of overconsumption of PET in our disposable culture.

The great news here though is that PET is now being recycled, or upcycled, to make items that are not disposable. Rather, it is being made into extremely useful and reusable items we can wear consistently instead of having products that are made for a one time use, followed by being tossed aside to rot in a landfill.

After going through the conventional recycling process, including being melted down into particles known as “flakes”, the particles are melted and extruded through a shower-head like device to create strands. These strands are then stretched out extremely thin and woven into various textiles, such as organic cotton, to provide garment with strength and durability. You’ll often see this textile used in athletic wear, bags, or homeware.

Cork

We love cork. It’s a renewable, raw material and comes from cork oak trees, most prevalent in the Western Mediterranean. 

The cork comes from the middle of the bark making it quite the process to extract, but never harms the tree. As a natural material, it most often comes in its natural color state ranging from dark to light brown and beige tones. 

The textile is extremely durable and is used to strengthen fashion accessories, such as bags, shoes and jewelry. It’s water-resistant and doesn’t soil, making it the ideal textile for long-term use.

TENCEL

Although made from lyocell and modal fibres, TENCEL is a sustainable textile sourced responsibly from natural, raw material wood. The textile is very versatile, which is why you’re seeing more and more of it used by up and coming sustainable fashion brands, and mainstream brands.

Lyocell helps TENCEL with it’s durability and strength, as well as water absorption. You’ll most likely see a lot of lyocell in athletic wear mixed with nylon and polyester. Modal is what gives TENCEL its gentle properties. The soft and lovely textile is often blended with a mix of various synthetic and/or natural textiles to increase comfort of garments.

TENCEL is a trademarked textile that can often be priced quite high due to its long-term durability and gentleness. This is where affordability comes into the sustainable fashion equation. As more innovation comes to the forefront of textiles being used in the fashion industry to increase sustainability efforts, price does play a major role. That being said, investing in such textiles will 100% make its return on investment as you won’t be needing to replace your clothing as quickly as you would with polyester and nylon-based products.

Linen

Linen is made from flax plant. The plant is found in cooler climates across the globe, from Western Europe to Pakistan. Although easily accessible, harvesting, processing and spinning flax into woven linen is a lengthy process. This is why the price of linen is often quite higher than even organic cotton products.

Linen is also one of the oldest textiles, dating back to over 10,000 years ago when Egyptians would use the durable textile to wrap mummies! It’s an extremely breathable and durable textile (it can absorb up to 20% of its own weight!). It’s also hypoallergenic, which makes it a great go-to textile for anyone struggling with skin irritations. Linen products are popular among bedding, and light t-shirts and pants in tropical regions, such as West Africa, the Caribbean, and India.

Hemp

Yes, it is true, hemp does come from cannabis, but a specific strain of it: cannabis sativa fiber. Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly crop and grows much faster than cotton. It can produce up to 250% more fibre than cotton and 600% more than flax with the same amount of land!

The process of harvesting and spinning hemp into textile is quite similar to cotton but with added benefits. After planting and harvesting hemp, it actually leaves your soil in incredible condition for growing any other crop. It’s roots anchor and protect the soil from runoff, preserving top and subsoil.

Our hemp products range from bags to apparel, and make for one cozy, sustainable outfit!


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