Hemp is the textile material with the most ecological potential. Hemp grows quickly and densely, without weeds, and is pest resistant. This eliminates the necessity of environmentally harmful fertilizers and pesticides. It flourishes with average rainfall, thus eliminating the need for irrigation. Other eco-fibers include soy-silk, organic cotton (regular cotton is the culprit behind 22.5% of pesticides globally), bamboo, Ingeo Corn Fiber, which is made by extracting the sugars and starches from corn, and Fortrel EcoSpun, which is a polyester fleece made out of recycled plastic bottles.
Three things to look for when shopping for eco-friendly clothing are organic cotton, which is not grown with the use of toxic pesticides, hemp, which is very strong and sustainable, and bamboo, which grows very rapidly and has antibacterial properties.
Clothing is tricky, as most fibers require an incredible amount of processing. While bamboo indeed grows very quickly and is in that sense, renewable, imagine how much processing it requires to make clothes from it. I would suggest that the traditional materials–wool and leather– require the least amount of energy for production and cause the least amount of harm to the planet if harvested appropriately. If low density sheep herds graze on marginal land (land that otherwise couldn’t be cultivated) they turn materials that people cannot eat into fibers that keep people incredibly warm, last a long time and are essentially water resistant. Similarly, leather is a by product of food production and should be put to use if people are going to eat meat. Please keep in mind that the process I am describing for wool and leather production are not necessarily the predominant way in which most leather and wool on the market now are produced, and could not necessarily be produced in massive quantities without causing harm to the animals or the environment in which they live. So truly ecological fibers goe hand in hand with a smaller population size and less clothing in general.
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