Get to know more about sustainable fabrics and certifications
The rising popularity of sustainable fabrics is mainly attributed to the global Green Movement. There is ongoing concern about the environment, climate change, and the role that the textile industry plays in causing environmental damage. On average, the textile industry releases between 1.22 and 2.93 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. These alarming statistics have encouraged both small businesses and large international corporations to start recognising the value of sourcing sustainable fabrics.
A fabric is usually considered “sustainable” if it’s made out of natural or recycled materials. The intent is to minimize environmental harm, either through the production process, fibre properties, or environmental footprint. The key sustainability markers are fibre standards, chemical control, labour and the means of production.
It helps to have a general understanding of fabrics that are better for the environment and some of the sustainable fabric certifications you should be looking out for. Keep on reading to find out more about these certifications and some popular sustainable fabrics out there, including organic cotton.
Sustainable Fabric Certifications
There are several textile certifications to have on your radar when sourcing fabrics. However, we find that the following three certifications tend to be most important for sustainable fabrics in particular. Sustainability certifications act as an assurance that manufacturers, producers, retailers, traders, and service providers are committed to good environmental and ethical practices.
Here are some of the most prestigious sustainability certifications:
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a widely recognised certification in the field of textile sustainability. This initiative helps companies across the globe follow specific practices that are considered environmentally friendly and sustainable.
GOTS was established in 2002 to establish a fixed set of rules for producing sustainable textiles. Since then, thousands of organic cotton producers, textile manufacturers, retailers, and consumers have committed to GOTS standards.
GOTS certified fabrics meet the following criteria:
- Made up of at least 95% organic fibre
- Not treated with bleach, formaldehyde or any other toxic substances
- Coloured with nontoxic dyes
- Produced in a mill or factory that enforces strict social and environmental standards
The GRS, established in 2008, is an international product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content, environmental practices and social responsibility. It’s a voluntary certification adhered to by companies committed to sustainability. The GRS collaborates with companies looking to verify the recycled content of their products, including all aspects of the manufacturing process.
The main goals of the GRS are to:
- Define recycling requirements
- Ensure the product is made under good working conditions
- Ensure environmental and chemical impacts are minimised
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is an international body that tracks recycled raw materials through the supply chain. It makes use of the chain of custody requirements of the Content Claim Standard (CSS). The RCS launched in 2013 and it’s voluntary for companies to comply with these standards.
The RCS strives to:
- Oversee compliance among products containing at least 5% recycled material
- Ensure every phase of production, from the recycling stage to the sale of the final product, meets certification requirements
- Regulate material collection and concentration sites, making sure they are compliant with document collection and on-site visits
The RCS standard does not consider social or environmental factors. This is why several textile and fabric-based companies strive for GOTS, GRS and RCS certifications. FabricSight supplies a range of fabrics that meet these standards.
Popular Sustainable Fabrics
There are plenty of sustainable fabrics on the market these days, especially since the sustainability movement has gained momentum in the last decade. Moreover, organic cotton, recycled wool and cupro have taken the industry by storm.
Organic cotton is known for being a soft and breathable sustainable fabric. The best part is that it’s grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic cotton production methods are designed to maintain soil fertility, reduce the widespread usage of toxic and persistent pesticides, and build biologically diverse agriculture. It’s truly incredible, right?
The characteristics of organic cotton fabric are:
- Light-weight and smooth to the touch
- Allows for breathable garments medium stretchability
- Commonly used for shirts, dresses, blouses, underwear, socks, sweaters, sheets, and bags
Most people don’t think of wool as a material that can be recycled like paper bags, aluminium cans and plastic bottles. Fortunately, it can be recycled! Recycled wool dates all the way back to World War II, a time when fabrics were rationed because wool was necessary for military uniforms. As a result, day-to-day garments were often made of recycled wool.
Recycled wool is exactly what the name suggests. It’s wool that’s been used to make one product and then reused for another product.
The characteristics of recycled wool are:
- Perfect for insulation, rugs, polishing metal, sweaters, blankets and more
- Slightly rougher than virgin wool, but sustainable and affordable
- Long-lasting material
The inside scoop is that recycled wool isn’t the best choice for clothing and blankets if you’re aiming for softness. However, if you’re aiming for durability, recycled wool is your best friend.
Cupro is a versatile, plant-based fabric made from cotton linter — a waste product of cotton. It’s also derived from recycled cotton garments, especially shirts and trousers. The fabric was first produced in Japan and Italy in the 1890s. These days, it’s widely known as a sustainability-conscious, recycled snd vegan alternative to silk.
The characteristics of cupro are:
- Silky smooth and perfect for high-end garments
- Durable, stretch-resistant and hypoallergenic
- Washable fabric and dries relatively fast
If you’re interested in operating as an environmentally conscious company, making sure you have the right sustainability certifications will definitely give you the upper hand. It’s also important to choose sustainable fabrics that allow you to create high-quality products while simultaneously reducing your environmental impact. In the long run, there are so many benefits that come with deciding to be a sustainable brand— they’re known for consistently choosing quality over quantity.