Foul Fabrics

In my last blog I looked at sustainable fabrics. Now for the unsustainable nasties. What sort of fabrics do I avoid like the proverbial plague?

It isn’t hard to guess the answer. When considering a fabric, the equivalent of the scary soundtrack which signals the arrival of a film’s bad guy is hearing that the material is derived from petrochemicals. Polyester, nylon and acrylics for instance. They’re all made from artificial fibres, manufactured from petroleum/natural gas by-products.

These chemicals are absorbed by our skin, whilst the fibres never break down. The results are horrific. Plastic microfibres clog our land and seas. Production creates greenhouse gases. Forests are destroyed to plant pulpwood, which is then treated with hazardous chemicals to make products like rayon (viscose).

Such chemicals are often used in bamboo cloth, ruining what would otherwise be a sustainable source of fabric fibre. The good news is that bamboo clothing marketed as Tencel or Lyocel uses a kinder ‘closed loop’ process and is both comfortable and sustainable, so that’s the path to follow if bamboo appeals.

Now for the tough one. Silk. It’s the most wondrous of fabrics. When we say something is ‘silky’ we conjure up images of light cascades of gossamer material – beauty and strength combining to caress our bodies in ultimate luxury. We tend not to think of the thousands of silk moths farmed and killed to make this possible!

So with a heavy heart, I have to add conventional silk to the list of fabrics we won’t use. All is not lost though: there is an alternative called ‘Peace Silk’. Here, the grub lives on, having left the cocoon. The silk may not be as soft, but it is ethical.

However, if you’re looking for a kinder version of anything petrochemical, I’m afraid there isn’t one. Avoid such products at all costs – and aim higher, favouring hemp, linen, recycled cotton, sustainable bamboo or peace silk.

Your conscience – and the planet – will thank you!