Updated: Nov 25, 2020
I have been trying to find the most sustainable and environmentally friendly fabric for clothes for a while. It's another one of those eco friendly topics that does not have a simple answer.
I was given a free pair of bamboo socks a while ago and absolutely loved them. They were super comfy and still are...I think they may last forever. Much longer than than my usual cheap cotton blend socks. However when I looked into bamboo fabric I didn't think that the process used to make bamboo nice and soft to wear was particularly environmentally friendly.
I was chatting to my mum about it and it turns out she knows someone, the lovely Lois Pittman, who is a textiles expert and even has a PhD in it! So here is her take on eco friendly clothes;
It’s complicated and pleuralistic.....so let’s start with sustainability. This means finding a balance that doesn’t draw down resources, and the whole method of production and energy used in both making the item and producing the fibres need to be considered.
So here we go....
1. Organic cotton uses masses of water to grow it and masses of land rather than using it to provide foods so that’s not good.
2. Bamboo grows very quickly and uses less water but it mostly uses a viscose process which uses harmful chemicals and waste. So that’s not good either, however, some clothing producers do use a cycle that uses green chemicals and keeps reusing them but.....it is not easy to distinguish which products use which process...less good
3. Wool is expensive to produce and uses harsh chemicals but is a bi product from the food industry, and although it uses more energy to produce....does last longer and decomposes at a comparable rate so that’s better.
4. When deciding which is ‘better’ one needs to consider, fair trade and workers rights as well as global economics, air miles and employment conditions.
5. Milk fibre is one solution, as it is a bi product from waste milk, and it is biocompatible and uses white biotechnology in fibre production, but very hard to dye as like bamboo it’s wet strength is poor.....that’s why bamboo socks pill!
6. Finally! Finding a balance is a personal and individual decision, one should factor in performance of product, allergies, life cycle, cost, availability and comfort.....not to mention where it ends up and recycling. Some modern polyesters never end, but can be reused infinitely but that technology is expensive and time consuming....so it isn’t for everybody.
Enjoy the socks! But buy wool ones, darn them and unrove them! Keep them in the system for as long as you can, look beyond the label and get granny to knit you some more!
Tip: Don’t buy polyester or mixed fibres with angora and nylon!
Some good companies are BAM CLOTHING, GUDRUN SJODEN, and Marks & Spencer’s but always check the label for fibre content!
This took her 8 years of research before she had enough information to write it!
If you are interested in reading more on the subject take a look at her Thesis;
PHD TITLE: THE FABRIC OF WELLBEING: An Enquiry into Craft Practice Through the use of Biopolymer Fibres Using Constructed Textile Methods Found at: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/32997/1/LOIS%20PITTMAN%202018.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2LoGMAk7CFo0I7BVrKR3gIhsmzjPbaq9HHpLBW5bS95LUrfOqnLyBXgwE
She also runs classes and sells textile work so take a look and support her at https://loispittman1.wixsite.com/meiko