Moving away from resource-intensive cotton and plastic-shedding polyester is feasible with these fascinating, eco-friendly alternatives.
Walk into a clothing store these days, and you’ll see that most clothes are cotton, polyester, or a blend of the two. Higher end stores might offer linen and wool, but for the most part, we’re fixated on a few select materials with which to make our clothes.
This will likely change in coming years. There are fascinating discoveries being made in the textile world. Designers and inventers are discovering methods for making fabrics that are more sustainable and do not involve vast quantities of water and pesticides (like cotton) or disperse plastic microfiber pollution with every wash (polyester).
This fascinating material requires no additional water or chemicals to make because it comes from waste products – the leftover leaves from pineapple trees. An estimated 40,000 tons of leaves are generated annually, most of which are burned or left to rot. Fibers are extracted from leaves and turned into a non-woven textile that’s an excellent leather alternative. One might argue it’s better than plastic-based vegan leathers because it’s biodegradable and not made from fossil fuels.
Designers like Pinatex because it comes in a roll, reducing the waste created by irregularly-shaped animal hides. It is strong, lightweight, easy to stitch and print on. Dezeen reported:
“Around 480 leaves go into the creation of a single square metre of Piñatex, which weighs and costs less than a comparable amount of leather.”
Several months ago, I wrote about shoes made from Pinatex, and since then I’ve seen the name popping up all over the online eco-fashion world. This is a material you’ll start noticing.
More peculiar than pineapple fibers, MycoTEX is fabric grown from mushroom mycelium. Mycelium is the “vegetative part of a mushroom, consisting of a network of fine white filaments” (dictionary). Dutch designer Aniela Hoitink came up with the idea of ‘growing’ a garment from the living product, after observing soft-bodied species that grow by replicating themselves over and over again following a modular pattern.
The resulting dress is built three-dimensionally, allowing it to take on the shape and fit that the wearer wants. It can be easily repaired, lengthened, or replaced; the mycelium can create extra patterns and embellishments; and just enough fabric is grown to be used, eliminating waste. At the end of its life, the garment can be composted.
From the NEFFA website:
"MycoTEX shows a new way of producing textile and clothing. Because we grow textile, we can skip spinning yarns and weaving cloth. The clothing is directly pasted and shaped onto the mold. In addition, this fabric has the potential of extra features like skin nurturing or (natural) anti-microbial properties. This environment friendly textile needs very little water for growing and chemicals are unnecessary."
3. Eucalyptus Yarn
Knitting company Wool & the Gang has launched a new yarn called Tina Tape Yarn, made from eucalyptus trees. Fibers are harvested, pulped, and turned into yarn, which home-knitters can now purchase. The resulting yarn is technically Tencel, a.k.a. lyocell, in deconstructed form.
Tencel tends to have a good environmental reputation, as it’s made in a closed-loop system that recycles water and solvent, but there’s been relatively little study. The New York Times had very little to say in a recent article on sustainable fabrics:
“Another type of rayon fiber, known as lyocell or Tencel, is often made from bamboo but uses a different chemical that is thought to be less toxic [than viscose rayon made from bamboo], though studies are scarce.”