The world of textile manufacturing is a minefield of toxic chemicals, wage theft, and pollution. According to Green America’s Toxic Textile Report, staggering numbers—43 million tons of chemicals used, 20% of industrial water pollution—reveal this alarming reality and make it clear how crucial it is to prioritize buying sustainable fabrics.
First, Learn What to Avoid
The Toxic Textile Report will help enlighten the vast impact of this industry on both people and the planet, including:
- 43 millions tons of chemicals used
- 20% of industrial water pollution (and the second largest polluter of water globally)
- More carbon emissions than all international flights and shipping combined
Before you start shopping for materials for your next project, learn about sustainable fabrics, from natural to synthetic fibers, and find out how to source ethical and sustainable pieces like vegan leather.
It is also important to be aware of the various chemicals that are used in textile manufacturing and be on the lookout for those.
One of the most common dyes used in clothing manufacturing, for example, are azo dyes (used in 60-70% of manufacturing), which can release carcinogens.
If you’re not a sewer, but love clothes as a consumer, Green America’s Toxic Textiles Scorecard can help discern between clothing companies.
Next, Let’s Buy Sustainable Fabrics
Whatever you need for your next project, the Green Business Network has you covered.
Organic Cotton Plus started as a fifth-generation family cotton farm in Texas, becoming one of the country’s first certified organic farms in 1991. The business also became the first US fabric retailer to be GOTS-certified (Global Organic Textile Standard).
They now boast 100% organic fabric of all types and colors, from Barbie pink muslin to olive green thermal or orange silk/hemp blends.
They also sell the fiber itself (wool stuffing, shredded natural latex, and more) as well as yarn, crafting patterns, and other accessories.
For a smaller but just as mighty selection of sustainable fabric, Texture Clothing offers organic cotton jersey, including cotton jersey made with bamboo.
Texture Clothing also has tons of print fabric options and PDF sewing patterns.
For Crafting Pre-Made Products
Or maybe you want a blank canvas to work with, like a plain t-shirt or sweater, and you dream of painting or embroidering a design.
All The Good Tee’s clothing comes from an inspiring story of wanting to support cotton farmers in India, and the organic cotton from a sustainable supply chain, shows in the quality of shirts, leggings, and more.
At Maggie’s Organics, organic cotton comes in a variety of styles so you can enhance anything from a tunic to a fleece hoodie.
If you want to print your favorite Taylor Swift lyric or a personal design onto a shirt, TS Designs offers custom printing on their sustainable t-shirts, entirely grown and made in the US.
Eco-Bags offers the same on various types of bags, from drawstings to shopping totes, using organic fibers and ditching azo dyes back in the 90s.
What Else Can You Do?
As a consumer or creator, there are even more ways to support a sustainable and just world beyond shopping and sourcing sustainably.
It is also important to fight for the workers manufacturing these fabrics and clothing items. By supporting the FABRIC Act, recently re-introduced to Congress by Senator Kirsten Gillebrand, D-N.Y., you can put your voice behind legislation to stop worker exploitation.