Posted on October 25 2019
The materials used and the production of textiles are often not very sustainable. With the aim of making sustainable fashion accessible and affordable for everyone, we work every day to find and implement sustainable alternatives to conventional materials for our products.
More and more consumers are realising that the thoughtless consumption of textiles means problems for the environment and people. With their consumption behaviour, customers want to make an active contribution to conserving the planet's resources and improving working conditions in the producing countries, often in the third world. The alternatives that seem to be available are organic cotton or recycled polyester. What can and can't organic materials do?
Organic cotton: why it protects the environment
Cotton, as consumers in Europe have now more and more understood, is a greedy plant. Cotton cultivation consumes huge amounts of water, and not only that: Herbicides and pesticides are used to make high harvest yields possible. They poison not only the soil and groundwater, but also the people who work in the textile industry and ultimately the consumer.
In the cultivation of organic cotton, on the other hand, harmful factors are consistently avoided. It starts with the seeds. Cotton seeds must not be genetically modified. Fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides are not used in cultivation, although manual weeding is extremely time-consuming. The result is impressive: if you buy only one T-shirt made of organic cotton, you get 7m² of soil free of chemical pollutants! The water consumption of organic cotton is also lower. While one kilogram of cotton in "normal" cultivation consumes more than 10,000 litres (!) of water, only a little more than half of this amount is needed for targeted drip irrigation in organic cultivation. An equally important factor is that the people who work in cotton cultivation and in the textile processing industry must not be exploited so that the finished fabric really deserves its organic label. All this has its price. Accordingly, a garment made of the soft, breathable fabric is more expensive than "fast fashion" made of conventional cotton.
What is recycled polyester?
Approximately half of the garments produced worldwide are made of polyester – and the trend is rising, especially in sports and casual fashion. However, the resistant, elastic fabrics are not sustainable because they are manufactured on the basis of PET, a by-product of the petroleum industry. Polyester, however, can be recycled. The material obtained in this way, known as rPET for short, is produced by melting polyester and spinning it into new fibres. The yield is good, five plastic bottles can be used to make fibres for a whole T-shirt! This naturally reduces the consumption of new synthetic fibres and helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the environment. However, PET cannot be reused unlimitedly. During each recycling process, the molecules are broken up and some of them are unusable. The "yield" of the recycling process thus becomes continually lower. In addition, the recycling process consumes energy and chemicals and releases microplastics.
Not perfect – but better
A "perfect" solution for textile production does not – yet – exist. Both the increasingly popular organic cotton and rPET-based garments cannot be produced in a completely environmentally and pollutant-neutral way. Nevertheless, they are of course preferable to conventionally produced textiles because they significantly reduce the impact on people and the environment. Consumers can make a significant contribution to reducing environmental pollution by consciously consuming, for example buying only a few high-quality pieces rather than constantly renewing their "fast fashion" wardrobe! Because here, too, it is not just the quality that counts, but also the quantity!