If you are looking for an easy way to do your part for the environment, opting to replace your clothes with items that are made from natural fibre could be a good way to do it. Now I am not for a minute suggesting that you go through your wardrobe throwing anything that contains man-made fibres in the bin. Clearly, doing that to perfectly wearable clothes would be counter-productive.
However, when it is time to buy a new coat, trying to replace it with one that is made from natural fibres is a good idea. There are several reasons for this, which I explain below
Generally speaking, clothes made from natural fibres are more environmentally friendly. They are made from plant fibre or are produced by animals, which are not harmed during the production process, so are genuinely made from renewable sources.
In addition, the production process is usually far less polluting than that used to produce synthetic fibres. Very few, if any, chemicals are used during the production process. Although the dye used to colour them may contain some chemicals, and most buttons and zips are not made using renewable materials. However, these days you can buy clothes that are dyed using plant derived dies, and feature buttons made from bone or wood, should you want to.
In addition, when you have finished with your natural fibre clothes they will degrade far faster than those made from manmade materials will. Fibres like cotton, silk, jute, wool, hemp and linen leave behind far fewer harmful contaminants than synthetic fabrics do.
Good for you
Natural fabrics are also good for you, as well as for the environment. They wick moisture away from the skin, and your body finds it easier to regulate your temperature when you are wearing fabrics like cotton or silk next to your skin. They keep you warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.
These properties mean that they are a particularly good option for people who suffer from skin problems. Some natural fabrics like silk are fungal repellent, which is important to those with sensitive skin, and other health problems.
Linen is a naturally hypoallergenic material, so it is potentially a good option for those who suffer from allergies. Bamboo also has this property, but the way it is manufactured means that some people do not categorise it as a natural fibre.
Many people automatically assume that clothes made from natural fabrics are more expensive. In fact, often the opposite is true. For example, there are plenty of affordable denim shirts available in the shops. Most are still made from 100% cotton, and are made to a high standard, so they last. It is common for people to wear their denim clothes for ten years or more.
In addition, as demand for naturally made products has grown producers have been able to take advantage of economies of scale to reduce their overheads, and drop their prices. Therefore, clothing that is made from natural fibres is becoming more affordable.
Image: Scott Robinson