These are the less sustainable fabrics. What do we do with them?
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Have you ever thought about the material that makes up the clothes you wear? There are fabrics that pack easily and are difficult to wash. Therefore it is important to always ask yourself how the fabrics we wear can influence the environment around us.
Over the years I have learned to have an increasingly sustainable vision of every little detail that surrounds me; in this case, I can say that there is no 100% sustainable fabric, but some fabrics we wear are much better than others. In this post we will tell you the worst of them –so you don't buy them anymore– and also what to do with pieces that you have to prevent to throw them away.
In the first place, Nylon, a fabric typically used in clothing items such as tights and stockings (you might even call them nylon stockings), nylon is a material derived from crude oil.
No form of nylon is biodegradable and, in fact, nylon can remain in landfills for 20-200 years. In fact, it is not surprising that it is partially derived from oil, one of the dirtiest industries. Nylon production creates nitrous oxide, greenhouse gas and uses large quantities of water and energy.
While you use and wash Nylon, it also releases microplastics, so avoid it as much as you can!
Polyester is similar to Nylon: surely at home, you have a large number of T-shirts, sweaters, blankets, and bottles made with this material, well if you think it's a positive thing, you're wrong! In fact, like his friend, nylon, polyester is partially derived from oil.
Large quantities of water are used for cooling in the energy-intensive process used to produce polyester. This can be dangerous in areas with scarce water, resulting in reduced access to clean drinking water.
Not to mention the damage it causes to animal and human plants, due to the excess of water that causes a large number of chemical dyes.
As a great supporter of calling out Greenwashing products or companies, it is my duty to defend this concept and go against another fabric that should not have space in your wardrobe: Rayon. It is the main culprit and has terrible effects on the environment.
Rayon is produced by dissolving cellulose –the main constituent of the cell walls of plants– in a chemical solution and then transforms it into threads. The fiber itself is biodegradable and non-toxic, but the way it is manufactured can cause harm to workers and the environment.
And so far may be nothing new, what you don't know is that many times the fast fashion industry often uses rayon to produce low-cost clothes using large quantities of water and energy, as well as high-intensity chemical processes. And it is precisely these processes that release dangerous chemicals into the surrounding air and waterways, which can lead to health problems for both workers and local communities.
What else? Many areas suffer from deforestation due to the harvesting of trees to produce rayon, including endangered and protected forests. The animals that depend on these trees for their homes are facing habitat loss, which threatens both endangered and endangered species.
I would say that we have more valid reasons to put a cross on rayon too!
And finally, we have Acrylic, a synthetic fiber that is often confused with wool. The key ingredient, acrylonitrile, can enter the body of the wearer through contact with the skin or inhalation. Be careful, because sometimes wearing a certain fabric could be harmful to health!
Even acrylic is not easily recycled and can remain in a landfill for up to 200 years before biodegradation, like its polyester brother!
And the worst part is that the production and use of acrylic are harmful not only for human health but also for the environment and animals since about 20% to 35% of all microplastics of primary origin in the marine environment are fibers deriving from the use of synthetic clothing.
At this point, I decided that, if fashion wants to regain value and credibility, it must first educate the consumer and explain how much an organic cotton shirt really is worth. It must know how to give up earning quantity.
The textile industry plays a crucial role at an environmental level because it significantly affects the global consumption of water and the emissions of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. For this reason, a new awareness on the choice of ecological fabrics and recycled fabrics that can reduce the environmental impact is important.
Every day interesting projects are born from innovative startups, in order to create new productions starting from waste materials.
From here I start with the idea of UPCYCLING, a concept to which I am particularly fond and dedicated. When it comes to upcycling in fashion, it is a question of taking dead-stock garments, or dismantling them in order to obtain fabrics to be used to make other garments. In terms of emissions, it is much more ecological than recycling, because in the latter the fabrics that make up the garments are reworked to obtain a new yarn. Both solutions look to more sustainable production processes, but upcycling is certainly the most environmentally friendly. Not only in the field of fashion of course!
Upcycling is seeing a waste, a refusal, as an opportunity to create something new and beautiful. For example, use nylon to repair or mend the elbow or collar of your jacket or. Or replace pieces of one jacket by transferring them to another. There are an infinite number of "cut and sew" solutions to have more original and vintage clothes.
In my opinion, the main problem is the lack of purchase education: you buy a lot and on the basis of the product hype, without giving value to the garment, without knowing its history. I would like people to start buying more consciously with my words and through my information.
A first step, for example, could be the purchase of my book, From Trash To Runway, in which I try to generate more awareness for the reader based on the total amount of clothes men and women buy and accumulate unused in their closets. In addition to many and various tips, the heart of the book is composed of 20 unique upcycling designs made by myself, including the reason behind the making and the inspiration, the materials used, the process, and drawings of the final pieces.
Do you want to know which are the 5 fabrics of the future? Stay tuned next week...