Cotton is commonplace in our wardrobes, but it plays havoc in our environment because of the use of pesticides. Picture: Trisha Downing/Unsplash
Cotton is commonplace in our wardrobes, but it plays havoc in our environment because of the use of pesticides. Picture: Trisha Downing/Unsplash

7 natural fibres to consider if you want go green with your wardrobe

By Terry van der Walt Time of article published Nov 2, 2020

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Some things never change, like our need to always have the latest fashion, looking on fleek and feeling great when we go out, even if it does mean having to match or contrast our face mask, in these days of Covid-19.

Now there is nothing wrong with that, in essence, looking your best, making a good impression, but it does come at a huge cost, not just to your pocket, but the environment.

That is because the cost of clothing has gone down considerably over decades as more and more garments are made from synthetic fabrics, some of which do not break down.

There is also the issue of ethics and conscience, where child and forced labour is used at factories to churn out cheap clothing. If these firms treat people so badly, do you really think they’re concerned about the environment?

But there is no escaping the fact that huge tracts of land are needed to cultivate natural fibres, and then there is the water needed for growth as well as the production of fabric. Then throw in the use of dyes and chemicals, including bleach, which are used to achieve white fabrics.

You might have seen the photograph of a pair of denims which were placed in a compost heap to see if they would biodegrade.

Over time the cotton bulk of the jeans had disappeared, leaving behind a skeleton of elastic thread which had been woven into the fabric to make stretch denims.

So going green in your wardrobe presents some pretty interesting challenges of finding out what has been ethically sourced and produced, what is guaranteed to be organic and sustainable and eco-friendly.

Is all of this making you begin to despair that you don’t know what to wear? Are you worried about the added burden your threads place on nature? Well, take a breather, there are ways to zig-zag through the obstacle course of attaining a green life that looms ahead.

First off, here are five natural fibres which are used to make fabric

Silk, made from silkworms, is light-weight and long lasting, but does break down eventually. If you’re worried worms die in the process, source “Peace Silk”.

Linen, made from the flax plant, which is light on water and chemicals to grow, is also energy efficient to produce. It composts and can be recycled.

Hemp, made from the plant, which is hardy and fast-growing, can be used to produce denim, canvas and fleece, among other things.

Bamboo, which grows quickly and needs minimal pesticides, is great for thermal underwear, among other things, but lots of chemicals are used to make the fabric.

Lyocell, made from wood pulp from renewable trees that require little water and chemicals to grow, also produce less pollution than most others.

Alpaca, from the Peruvian grazer, similar to the llama, which is hardy and does not need antibiotics. Alpaca wool is similar to cashmere, but it does not come with the burden of deforestation caused by overgrazing Asian goats for their fleece.

Organic Wool, comes from sheep farms which don’t use chemicals on pastures or the sheep, relying on nature to nourish the earth.

The main thing is to shop around, do research and ask questions so that you know what you are buying.

It pays to buy something which may be more expensive than its cheaper eco-unfriendly counterpart, not just to save the environment, but also your pocket. Yup, you’ve heard the saying: “you get what you pay for”.

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