Ecotextiles weaves from the most luxurious fibers available, including extra long staple cotton, Belgian linen and long-fiber hemp that are organically grown and processed in compliance with the Global Organic Textile Standard and Oeko-Tex Standard 100.
Bamboo is now recognized as one of the ultimate green fibers for home textiles. In addition to being soft, light weight and highly absorbent, bamboo grows quickly (up to three feet a day) and requires no irrigation, fertilization or pesticides. Shown here: Bamboo Dreams’ Dreamsacks collections.
Read the Label
Here are few of the standards to look for with eco-fabrics:
- Global Organic Textile Standard: Products with the GOTS label are made from materials that have been grown, harvested and manufactured in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100: An international testing and certification system for textiles that limits the use of toxic chemicals and certifies that textiles have been tested for harmful substances at each stage of production.
- McDonough Braungart Design Certification: This indicates a closed loop product design paradigm called Cradle to CradleSM, eliminating waste by recycling materials.
- Sustainable Materials Rating Technology: The standard employed by the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which certifies home furnishings are manufacturered with environmentally and socially sustainable practices.
Eco-Friendly Fabrics: From Organic to Gorgeous
Learn how to select fabrics that are as earth-friendly as they are beautiful.
- by Nancy Robinson
In an era when everything from food to fabric is touted as organic or eco-friendly, it’s sometimes difficult for shoppers to know exactly what these terms mean or how reliable such claims are. It’s precisely for these reasons that there’s been a major push to establish standards to certify that so-called green goods are really eco-friendly. That includes home furnishings fabrics.
What Makes a Fabric Eco-Friendly?
There are a growing number of organic, environmentally friendly fabric choices available, including linen, hemp, abaca, cotton, wool and bamboo. Experts stress, however, that just because a fabric is made from a natural fiber, it isn’t necessarily organic or conducive to human health.
For fabrics to qualify for organic labeling under any bona fide textile certification standard, the production process must be green—from start to finish, literally. Fabrics must be woven from organically grown fibers, meaning that no pesticides or other harmful chemicals were applied during cultivation. Green certification also requires the use of natural or low-impact synthetic dyes and finishing processes that are free of toxic chemicals.
O Ecotextiles founder Patty Grossman, whose company adheres to the most stringent organic manufacturing standards, compares the process of converting organic fibers into cloth to that of making organic apples into applesauce. If chemical dyes, preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers and flavorings are added to organically grown apples, the end product isn’t organic. The same is true of textile manufacturing. Natural fibers may be organically cultivated, only to become chemically treated during the weaving, dying and finishing stages. Residual chemicals can then leach into the water supply, evaporate in the air and are absorbed by the skin.
Identifying Eco-Friendly Fabrics
So how do you know if you’re actually buying a healthy and environmentally friendly fabric? Look for labels, hang tags or other evidence of certification based on any of the following. Products bearing any of these certifications have passed rigorous vetting:
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100
- Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SMaRT)
- McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC)
“If a company is claiming to sell organic cotton, look for certification that the cotton is organic,” advises Susan Inglis, executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which is working to establish criteria to gauge the sustainability of home furnishings products and practices. “Organic is described by the Federal Trade Commission, which has guidelines for eco labeling. The GOTS certification also covers a lot of issues, not just whether the fabric was grown organically. If a fabric is GOTS certified, you can really feel good about that.”
How Do Synthetic Fabrics Fare?
Don’t rule out synthetic fabrics when looking for sustainable or green materials for your home. Synthetics, especially polyester, can also achieve green status. “Most people think that sustainable fabrics are only organic fabrics like cotton and linen,” says interior designer Bernadette Upton, ASID, and a partner in the North Palm Beach, Fla., interior design firm Eco Décor. “In fact, in our commercial projects, we use a lot of recycled fabrics that can be reclaimed and made into new fabrics again. This creates what is called a closed loop cycle, so that they don’t end up in a landfill.”
Regardless of whether they’re natural or synthetic, fabrics that meet green certification standards are available and becoming increasingly popular.