Behind The Style: The Environmental Price of Fabrics

Welcome to a new series on Style section: Behind the Style. One might think that this article is misplaced. I mean, most people come to the Style section for style tips, yet here is a post about the environment. I feel like knowing what goes on during the processes is a tip in of itself. This is because it might help you narrow down your choices. Thus, your purchases may become more meaningful as they align with your values. Personally, knowing how a product is made satisfies my innate curiosity, and makes me more conscious of my choices. With that said, I hope that this series can give you answers to your unasked questions and help you make more informed choices. To start the series off, here are some common fabrics and summarised facts about them.

Polyester

Polyester fabric.
Source: Apparel Resources

Made of petroleum, polyester is most commonly used in fast fashion as a cheap substitute for natural fibres. It is wrinkle-free and has quick drying properties. However, most of the polyester garments on the market are of poor quality and barely last a few wears before completely losing their shape. Another common complaint when purchasing polyester products is that they have a scratchy and hot feel (even though the material itself is thin). Furthermore, polyester is also notorious for releasing microplastics into the water supply when washed. 

Cotton

Cotton plant.
Source: Phys.org

Cotton is the most common natural fibre used in the textile industry. It’s also probably the most common fabric you’ve worn in your lifetime. However, due to its fragile and light characteristics, producing a large sum of them requires tons of fertilizers and pesticides. This contaminates any nearby water supply. It is also one of the largest users of water in agriculture. Nevertheless, it is one of the most common fabrics in the industry, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t find alternatives.

Viscose/Rayon

Viscose fabric.
Source: Pinterest

Viscose is made from heavily processed wood pulp and is a cheaper replacement for silk and velvet. Good viscose is lightweight and breathable. Thus, it is commonly used in athletic wear. The origins of the material seem sustainable, especially when compared to polyester. But due to the harsh chemical treatments involved in spinning the wood pulp into thread, many consider it unsustainable.

Linen 

Linen fabric.
Source: LoveToKnow

Linen is made of flax fibres. There are many benefits to linen fabrics. These fibres are two to three times stronger than cotton, degrade less in sunlight and is also very breathable. However, linen is prone to wrinkling. Thus, many different processes are involved to negate the issue. Did you know that linen is present even in Egyptian tombs? This historic material is slowly regaining popularity for its sustainable potential. This is mostly due to the versatility of the flax plant itself. In fact, the farming of it to has multiple uses commercially. 

Not all fabrics are created equal. With the rampant rate of industrialism, us average consumers are oftentimes left in the dark when it comes to the manufacturing of everyday products. Legally, companies have the right to not disclose them. That said, it is also our rights as consumers to seek knowledge of the products we are financially supporting.

I sincerely hope that my efforts will help you in making better purchases in the future. It’s worth mentioning that it’s not my intention to guilt you for your past decisions. My only aim is to share summaries of trusted sources as I’m fully aware that not everyone has the time to do their own research. It is never too late to make better choices.

By: Nara Ruslan

Check out my last article here !

Sources:
Polyester 1 2 3
Cotton 1 2
Viscose/Rayon 1 2
Linen 1 2 3