Regular materials vs environmentally friendly materials

Gabrielle Koster

Clothing is often made from fabrics such as cotton, nylon, polyester and acrylic. The raw materials and chemicals that are normally used for this can be damaging to the environment. That has to do with the production method. Synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are made from crude oil, which is a non-renewable raw material. In addition, these substances are often not biodegradable and they cost a lot of agricultural land and water.

Ecological clothing made from sustainable fabrics

Ecological clothing is made from sustainable fabrics and substances that have little impact on the environment, with little or no chemical resources and made from a sustainable source. Which fabrics are ecological?

Organic cotton

What is organic cotton? Organic cotton is an environmentally friendly fabric that looks like regular cotton, but the difference is in the way it is grown. Organic cotton is grown without the use of agricultural poison such as pesticides. And that makes the fabric environmentally friendly.

Wait a minute, pesticides are also used when making fabrics? Yes, cotton is normally grown using chemical pesticides that end up in the soil. And sometimes even in the skin of the workers, who can become very ill. Because a chemical defoliating agent is used in the picking of regular cotton, organic cotton is picked by hand.


Bamboo, depending on the production method, is also a ‘sustainable fabric’. The fibers that come from bamboo are spun into threads, thus creating bamboo fabric. Actually you can not speak of textile spun with bamboo, but it is rather viscose of the bamboo plant. During the growth and harvesting of bamboo no pesticides or other pesticides are used. Just like hemp, bamboo grows very fast, so little soil is needed. In addition, the growth of bamboo reduces CO2 in the atmosphere, because bamboo absorbs 35% more CO2 than similar plants. More benefits of bamboo?

• bamboo extracts more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,
• produces 35% more oxygen than a comparable tree,
• grows without the use of pesticides,
• is naturally strong, durable, antibacterial and water-repellent,
• it breathes better and is able to absorb more fluid than cotton clothing,
• contains antibacterial properties, which greatly reduces the risk of unpleasant odors.


For thousands of years, the hemp plant has been used to make paper, rope, canvas and textiles. For example, in 1600 the artist Rembrandt painted on hemp canvas. Today hemp is also a popular raw material for making clothes, because the hemp plant grows rapidly, so that little soil is needed and there is little need for pesticides.


Have you never heard of Lyocell? That could be right. This fabric is still a fairly new environmentally friendly material. It reminds us of silk, is very strong and absorbs even better moisture than cotton. It is one of the most environmentally friendly substances! How Lyocell is made? From wood chips from, among other things, the eucalyptus tree. In addition, 98% of the solvent that is used in the production process is reused. Lyocell is also known as Tencel.


Tencel is perhaps more familiar than Lyocell, but it is the same substance. Tencel is a brand name for Lyocell. More about Tencel can be found in the video below.


Love silk, but would you prefer an animal-friendly alternative? Then choose Cupro. Wait a minute, silk isn’t animal friendly? Well, generally not, no. For the production of silk, caterpillars in their cocoons are cooked in boiling water. Every year many millions of silkworms are killed: 2,000-3,000 caterpillars are needed for half a kilogram of silk. Cupro is a vegan alternative.

Viscose or EcoVero

Viscose is also more animal-friendly and environmentally friendly than silk. Viscose is a natural substance made from the cellulose of cotton or wood. In general, viscose is made in a not-so-sustainable way, but there is a sustainable variant of viscose on the market: EcoVero. This is a nature-friendly, new kind of sustainable viscose produced by the Austrian manufacturer Lenzing.  Want to know everything about EcoVero? Voilà, a video with all the details.


As you have read above, silk is not exactly an animal-friendly substance. There is silk that is actually animal-friendly, the cocoons that are used, are extracted from nature. In that case, there is a hole in the cocoon, where the adult insect has crawled out. The hard thing about this, is that the silk thread is in pieces. That makes it difficult to process into yarn.

Recycled materials

A substance is given a second life by recycling it. The reuse of materials is a sustainable way to produce clothing or accessories. Residual materials can thus be given a new life in a creative way and will not be lost in this way – making it environmentally friendly material. The sweater I’m wearing on the picture, is made of recycled denim!

Recycled polyamide

Part of those recycled materials is recycled polyamide, which is made from fishing nets for example!


Fairly new on the sustainable fabrics market is Modal, also called artificial silk. This substance is extracted from sustainably managed forests. Little water is needed for the production of Modal and is made from sustainably managed beech trees. The trees do not need artificial irrigation.


Wool, isn’t that animal-friendly? Not quite. Although the sheep stay alive during shaving, they are often treated in a very bad way. The sheep are mistreated, malnourished and often have serious injuries due to the careless shaving of them
coat. Because the sheep are placed in small cages, flies often get stuck in the ‘fur’, which damages the wool. To prevent this, many sheep farmers use a technique called mulesing, which means cutting away the skin around the hindquarters of a sheep – often without anesthesia. Why the skin is cut away? If no urine and stools remain, it will attract less flies. Fortunately, there are more and more farms that produce wool that must comply with the GOTS quality mark. Gots stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. More about GOTS-wool > 

This blog was written in Dutch for Dastoon, a sustainable webshop. Go check them out >