Organic fabric comes in many varieties, and they are not always sustainable. Here, we look at the different kinds of organic fabric, their benefits, and how sustainable they can be.
Let’s start off by talking about sustainable fabric. I wrote a whole other article on sustainable fabric. It’s basically fabric that considers the environmental, economic, and ethical impacts of said fabric in regards to how it is produced, advertised and sold.
That being said, just because a fabric is not fully sustainable does not mean it isn’t worthwhile. Many fabrics and clothing take into account issues of social justice by paying their workers a living wage. Others lessen the impact of climate change by using renewable resources.
So What Exactly is Organic Fabric?
Organic fabric is slightly different than other types of sustainable fabric. Organic means that a product did not use pesticides while making said product. That’s pretty much it.
Yes, there is an Organic certification process, and yes, many organic fabrics meet other awesome sustainable milestones: improved environmental health, encouraging biodiversity, reducing the impact on climate change. Though it will not always meet the other factors and we must remember that when shopping for sustainable fabrics.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can talk about the different kinds of organic fabric and their sustainable impact
Types of Organic Fabric
If you ever see something that says organic fabric, most of the time what they are saying is true. If it is certified, even better. Though, every now and then you might have to check the brand validity to see where it comes from.
Cotton is my comfort zone when it comes to organic fabrics. It’s relatively cheap compared to the other types of sustainable fabrics. It’s relatively easy to grow and is pretty omnipresent in the realm of sustainable fabrics. The conventional cotton fabric is easier to grow in monocultures, which cuts down on the cost of production. As time goes on will become even less expensive because of newer, cheaper, sustainable methods of production.
Bamboo is a fabric that is starting to become more popular for its cooling properties, and it increases in production, making it more affordable. Most of the time, it will be organic by default, but as production gets larger, there may be an increase in pesticide use.
Hemp is not grown on a massive scale, yet, but it’s expected to grow drastically within the next 20 years. Since it’s not grown on a massive scale yet, there isn’t as much of an issue with monocultures and pests that require pesticides.
Silk is super luxurious, but also super expensive in relation to other fabrics. It is spun using the secretions of the silk worm, primarily produced in East Asia. If you want to go the silk route and want to save money, you’d be better off practicing minimalism on key wardrobe pieces instead of switching your entire wardrobe.
Wool is an unsung hero for sports wear. As a mild back-country expert, I rely on wool to last over a week without being washed. When it comes to outdoor adventures cotton = death, and wool = bae. Wool may be a little bit more expensive to handle but overly is a pretty sustainable fabric.
Some people may be worried about animal welfare rights. I’m concerned as well, but not as much as I value balancing the efficiency between animal rights, people’s rights, the planet, and affordability. Sustainability is not about ONE ANSWER IS THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING, but incorporating as many possible options for as many people as possible. Therefore, wool may not be for you, but it might be for someone else, and that is okay.
Fabric that is TECHNICALLY Organic Fabric
Okay, I like being a little cynical: polyester is technically organic. Why? Because it doesn’t involve any pesticides. Is polyester a sustainable fabric? Maybe. Not always. Most of the time no. Sometimes it is the complete opposite of a sustainable fabric, which is why I like pointing it out.
Virtually anything that doesn’t require pesticides to make is technically considered organic.
It’s like using the word “Natural” – naturally made in a lab by natural humans. The term alone does not guarantee its safety or impact on the environment.
But all that aside, I put together a list of sustainable businesses that meet or exceed at least one of these categories. You can download the resource for starting a sustianable fashion business for free by checking out the button link below.