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Eco-friendly Fashion: Environmentally Sustainable Materials and Their Uses

Originally published on my blog Select Wood Watches.

Taking care of our planet is just one important part of what it means to be human. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to contribute to unhealthy, earth-destroying companies by purchasing products that are notenvironmentally friendly. The majority of products you’ll find in your local supermarket are made withharmful plastics or plant-based products that have been grown with harmful pesticides. However, there is a way to break the cycle. In this post, you’ll find several eco-friendly, natural materials that are used to make everything from buildings to clothes to lotion. If you want to make environmentally friendlychoices, begin educating yourself here.

Click the super awesome infographic on the left all about eco-friendly fashion.
Bonus: At the end of this post, check out what celebrities are doing to save the world.

Wood products: Wood is a popular building material, and once it has served its purpose for a particular project, it can still be used for something else. Using reclaimed or recycled wood requires less energy from production and construction, putting less toxins into the air.

Reusing wood products also protects from deforestation. The more wood we reuse, the less new wood we require.

Fashion items made from recycled wood:

-glasses/sunglasses, watches, jewelry, bowties/ties, lapel flowers


Image result for bambooBamboo: Bamboo plants grow at a very rapid pace, sometimes three to four feet per day, without the use of fertilizers or chemicals. Bamboo groves give off a large amount of oxygenand can be replanted sooner than a tree grove (7 years as opposed to 30), allowing for a larger yield.

Bamboo is very strong, some say stronger than steel, and will last longer than some hardwoods. Unlike wood, bamboo can be used in a wide variety of products, see list below.


Popular items made from bamboo:

-glasses, jewelry, clothing, bedding, umbrellas, hair products

Alpaca: Alpaca fiber is eco-friendly for many reasons.

One, alpacas are raised on small, sustainable farms in the Andes Mountains (South America) and the United States. This means a smaller impact on the environment and support of family-owned farms.

Two, alpacas cut the grass they eat with their teeth, unlike other farm animals, such as cows, that pull up the grass, root and all. Alpacas also eat less per pound than most other livestock.

Three, alpacas are said to be the oldest domestic livestock, and they have a thick annual growth of fur every year that can be shorn without injury to the animal or the environment.
Four, alpaca fur does not contain allergens like sheep wool.

Common Items made from alpaca fiber:

-clothing, bedding, toys

Organic Cotton: (Muslin, Calico) Cotton is generally viewed as eco-friendlybecause it is a natural plant. However, organic cotton is the real eco-friendlymaterial because it is grown without pesticides or fertilizers. It is biodegradable, compostable, and totally recyclable.

Calico (or muslin) is fabric made from unbleached, not completely processed cotton.

Common Items Made From Organic Cotton:

-clothing, bedding, bags

Hemp: Hemp plants are a strand of Cannabis that does not contain THC. It grows quickly without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Hemp plants alsoreplenish the soil with nutrients, so hemp farming is sustainable agriculture (it was illegal to grow hemp plants in the US from 1937 to 2014).

Another eco-friendly aspect of hemp materials is the materials needed for production – making hemp fiber into paper or cloth does not require chlorine, so it does not produce dioxins like wood paper processing does. A hemp crop can be harvested in 90 days, and generally produces a higher yield than trees (also takes a much shorter amount of time to regrow).

Finally, hemp based fabrics block more UV rays than other fabrics. Hemp has been used to make fabric for thousands of years.

Common Items Made From Hemp:

-clothing, lotion, body wash, jewelry, belts, shoes, wallets, bags, paper products

Soy Silk: Soy silk is made from the residue of soybeans during tofu manufacturing. So there is no waste from tofu production. The soy protein is liquified and extruded into long strands of yarn.

Because soy silk is a natural product it is biodegradable and compostable. Soy silk does not shrink when washed, it contains natural anti-bacterial agents, and has the same moisture absorption as cotton.

Products made from Soy Silk:

-clothing, pet collars, jewelry, candles

Tencell/Lyocell: Lyocell is a fiber made from eucalyptus trees.


Tencell is the brand name for Lyocell products. Eucalyptus trees are fast growing, requiring less water than other trees and a very small amount of pesticides. After harvest, eucalyptus trees are soaked in a non-toxic solution that is reused. The cellulose that is extracted from the wood pulp is used to make Lyocell. Lyocell is totally biodegradable and is wrinkle resistant (throw out the iron, save energy!)

However, production of Lyocell is energy intensive and there are people looking for renewable energy sources to complete the production process.

Products made from Lyocell:

-clothing, bedding

Photo Cred: (

Organic Wool: First of all, what is organic wool? In order to be considered organic, the sheep that the wool is harvested from cannot be exposed to synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, or synthetic pesticides/parasiticides; and feed must be organic.

Once the wool is harvested it must be washed to remove grease, dirt, and other contaminants. Any detergents used to wash the wool must be certified organic. Organic wool products have the same texture as un-organic wool products, but they lack the chemicals, making them healthier for the environment and the wool wearer.

Products made from organic wool:

-clothing, bedding

Jute: Jute is a plant that is grown primarily from natural rains along the Ganges delta of India and Bangladesh. It only takes four to six months for a jute plant to reach harvest size (twelve feet).

Fertilizers and pesticides are rarely used to grow jute. After the plants are harvested they are soaked in water and the fibers are stripped from the plant. Jute fibers are biodegradable, recyclable, and can even be eaten! Most people recognize jute fibers as hessian fabric or burlap.

Products made with jute:

-boot and shoe lining, bags, aprons, handbags, clothing

Ingeo: Ingeo is made the from dextrose found in field corn. It can also be made from other dextrose sources such ascellulosic raw materialsagricultural wastes, and non-food plants.


 Ingeo fiber is made from renewable resources, is hypo-allergenic, and requires less energy to produce than polyester or nylon. Pesticides and fertilizers are not used on crops producing ingeo.

Products made with Ingeo:

-clothing, bedding

Recycled Polyester: Recycled polyester is generally fabric made fromrecycled polyester plastics. Plastic is not a biodegradable product, so reusing it to make a new product, such as clothing, keeps the plastics out of landfills and so keeps our soil and earth cleaner. It also takes far less energy to make recycled polyester fiber than it does to make virgin polyester.

Common Products Made From Recycled Polyester:

-clothing, table linens, bags, hats

Organic Linen: Organic linen is made from plant fibers instead of synthetics, and the plants that are used are grown without the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Traditionally, linen is a yarn or fabric made from flax fibers (flax plants). However, today the term linen refers to fabrics made from flax fibers, cotton, hemp, or synthetic materials. Linen made from flax fiber is the most eco-friendly. Flax needs little water to grow and it takes less energy to process than other fibers. Organic flax is grown without fertilizers and pesticides.

Products made from organic linen:

-table linens, clothing, bedding, towels

Nettle Fiber: Nettle fiber is made from stinging nettle. The fiber is fire retardant, strong, and soft to touch (with none of the characteristic nettle sting). Nettles require little to no maintenance as they are a weed. Pesticides and fertilizers are unneeded, and only small amounts of water are required. Nettle fiber is similar to flax linen: processing the plant into the yarn fiber takes very little energy; the vast majority of the process is conducted by natural elements (retting).

Products made with nettle fiber:

-clothing, bedding, cloth products

Ramie: Ramie is a plant native to eastern Asia. It has been used to make fabrics for thousands of years. It can be up to eight times stronger than cotton. It is expensive to produce, so it is not widely used. Ramie is part of the nettle family, although it doesn’t sting. It grows easily and can be harvested up to six times a year.

Products that can be made from ramie fibers:

-clothing, curtains, bedding, canvas, table cloths/towels

Recycled Materials: Nearly any material can be used to make clothing, bags, jewelry, etc.

Examples include, but are not limited to, old clothing, plastic bags, old wood products (flooring, cupboards, etc.), paper/plastic wrappers, aluminum, and general paper products.

Image result for recyclables

A few examples of, and facts about, recycled material products:

  • 25 2-liter plastic bottles will make a medium size fleece pullover.
  • Reusing fabric from old clothes (stained, ripped, it doesn’t matter!) to make new clothes, quilts, etc.
  • Use candy wrappers to make earrings!
  • Make a dress from old newspaper or magazine sheets.

 According to an article by Momtastic Web-Ecoist, the modern green movement in the United States began with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. But it seems the fight for eco-friendly lifestyles has skyrocketed in the last twenty years, as we have seen catastrophic weather and environmental decay.

And it’s not just the common man who’s concerned. Many celebrities have taken active steps to help curb environmental decay and raise awareness. You’ll find three celebrities below who are actively trying to make an environmental difference, alongside the eco-friendly companies they work with.

Studio 189, Rosario Dawson

Dawson founded this fashion line with the help of Abrima Erwiah. All items found on the website are handmade by African artisans. The majority of materials used to make the products are recycled. For example some bead necklaces are made from old glass bottles that have been crushed into fine powder.
Recycled plastics are also used, along with natural cotton and linen.

lpanema, Gisele Bundchen

Ipanema is a company that makes beautiful sandals out of 100% recyclable PVC, a material that can continually be recycled. Brazilian model, Bundchen has partnered with Ipanema since 2002.

Red Earth Collection, Angie Harmon

Red Earth Jewelry is handmade by artisans from around the world. Many pieces are made from recycled materials. Handmade items require no large scale production plants, making them better for the environment. Reused, or upcycled materials, are also great for the environment because the landfills are emptier and there is less production cost. Angie Harmon supports this company, but is not one of the founders. Red Earth Jewelry was founded in 2010.

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Comment by Daniel Morris on July 3, 2019 at 6:15am

Thanks a lot for the useful post, especially for few paragraphs about hemp. I recently discovered for myself cbd vape , my therapist prescribed me medical cannabis from anxiety and panic attacks, didn't know it can be so effective. By the way, hemp cosmetics for hair and skin is great, too.


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