The Evolution of Environmentally Friendly Materials
The clothing industry has always been an industry that prioritises profit over sustainability. The rise of ‘fast fashion’ over the past few years has led to an increase in poorly made, unsustainable clothes that get thrown away by consumers after a few months of wear and tear. This reliance on fast fashion is affecting our planet as a lot of the materials used to make the clothes are cheap and non-biodegradable, as well as being responsible for high carbon emissions, water pollution, and large amounts of landfill waste.
That’s why clothing made from environmentally friendly materials are so important, as they offer an alternative to still looking up-to-date and fashionable, whilst helping save the planet whilst doing so.
Sustainability in the Past
The end of World War II saw people change their mindsets towards clothing, opposite to that of the earlier years of rationing and frugality. Post-war consumerism boomed and the rise of this mentality led to a huge increase in factories and companies manufacturing and mass-producing clothing.
The 1950’s saw materials like polypropylene and polyester rise in popularity, as they complimented the convenience of plastic. It was easily cleaned, accessible and surprisingly cheap for an innovative material. Since plastic is non-biodegradable, almost all of the plastic from that era is still sitting in landfills and won’t decompose for another 400 years.
Despite the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s being turbulent decades regarding clothing, these times laid the foundations of consumer sustainability. These decades also pioneered Earth Day, which played an important role in sustainable fashion and spreading awareness for topics like pollution and the environment.
Many of today’s well-known sustainability brands can be traced back to the ‘80s, where brands like Burt’s Bees and The Body Shop debuted their greener, natural products. Fashion retailers Esprit and Patagonia weren’t just clothing brands that debuted, they were also two of the first industry leaders to research the environmental impact of fibres used to manufacture clothing.
The 2000’s was truly the decade that started off the current trend of sustainable clothing, and it has been on the rise ever since.
Nowadays, there are a bunch of interesting and ground-breaking alternatives to your standard cotton and polyester clothing, and examples of these will be below. You might not believe some of the materials that can be used to make clothing nowadays, it’s pretty cool.
Environmentally Friendly Materials for Clothing
Sheep's wool is entirely natural and an environmentally friendly material that can be regrown quickly. It is best known for being used for warm, cosy and fashionable blankets and sweaters. However, it also plays a role as a great home insulator - with its fibres forming millions of tiny air pockets that trap air. You can see sheep’s wool implemented in the ceiling, walls or attics.
Although it can be an expensive material, organic hemp clothing is not only excellent for the environment but also very absorbent, lightweight, resistant, strong, long-lasting, breathable, and anti-bacterial. However, if there was one disadvantage of clothing made out of hemp, it would be that they wrinkle easier than most other fabrics made from natural fibres, but it’s a small price to pay in helping to protect the environment.
Cork has left the wine bottle and made it onto our bodies. The material has become a popular one for vegan bags, as it is sustainably harvested from cork oak, by simply shaving away the bark. While the tree is regrowing the bark, it consumes more carbon dioxide than most types of trees. Once it’s been harvested (which can sustainably happen to mature trees every 9 to 12 years), the cork can be laid out in the sun to dry, and then just requires water to transform it into something suitable for fashion.
First developed by a Taiwanese company in 2008, the use of coffee grounds to make clothes has been on the rise ever since. Using coffee grounds has several benefits, especially for activewear and gym clothing. It is fast-drying, sweat-wicking, and de-odorising, all of which are hugely important for performance clothing. Not only that, it doesn’t require the high-temperature treatment that other materials require, reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. To make the clothing, the coffee grounds are processed in a low-temperature, high-pressured environment to make them into yarn which is then woven into naturally high-tech fabric. Our very own Evolution Hoodie is made from recycled coffee grounds and plastic bottles, and we have to say it looks, feels and is pretty fantastic.
In conclusion, there is a vast array of clothing out there that is sustainable, eco-friendly and stylish, that will you make feel good when you wear it.