The impact of fabrics on our planet

Why is it important to opt for ecological fabrics?

Brands have at their disposal various fabrics from different origins, each with either very little or a lot of impact on our home, The Earth and on our health.

What are the different types of fabrics?

Fabrics with organic origins: Fine fiber comes directly from a natural source without any additional chemical transformation. Within it we find fiber with vegetarian origins: cotton, linen, hemp… and fibers that originate from animals: wool, alpaca, satin, angora, mohair….

Bio synthetic and artificial fabrics , are obtained when the fiber comes from a vegetarian or animal origin, and this time it has been chemically processed: modal, tencel, cupro, viscose…

Synthetic fabrics , are produced when the fiber originates from petroleum and has been through a chemical transformation or polymerization: polyester, polyamide…

Despite this multitude of fabrics available for fashion brands, there are only two of them that are used with the most frequency: conventional cotton and polyester, they are the cheapest and easiest form to produce. According to Oerlikon´s presentation during the ITMA in 2019, polyester only accounted for almost 52% of the global fiber production in just 2019, with 55 million metric tons produced at an annual rate.

Ok but…What impact does the production and use of said fabrics have?


Conventional cotton has been recognized as the most polluting crop in the world for the following reasons:

  • It uses 25% of pesticides and 1 % of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by it.
  • It has a severe impact on the quality of water, biodiversity and human health.
  • It has a severe impact on the quality of water, biodiversity and human health.
  • It consumes large amounts of water: 2,700 liters of water is needed in order to produce a 250g T-shirt and 6,800 liters of water to produce jeans.
  • The instability of their prices harms farmers due to their dependency.

Moreover, conventional cotton is at times combined and mixed with other synthetic fabrics such as, acrylic, nylon or polyester, which have further impacts mentioned further on.

The solution for those who love cotton garments would be to exclusively use products made with organic or recycled cotton.

Organic cotton holds various benefits, it isn´t only more respectful to our environment (requiring 71% less water and 62% less energy than regular conventional cotton), but also it is free of fertilizers as well as free of toxic and non-toxic chemicals that usually harm the skin.


Polyester is a material used very frequently in the fashion industry due to its low price and anti-wrinkle composition.

Polyester has negative impacts due to the following reasons:

  • It is a scarce non renewable source
  • It´s production generates high CO2 emissions whilst consuming and contaminating high amounts of water.
  • When washing synthetic garments, microplastics and synthetic fibers get released that eventually end up into our rivers, seas and oceans. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources approximately 1.7 million tons of microfibers end up in the sea, threatening our most fragile species and ecosystems like the coral reefs.
  • Because it is a non-biodegradable material. Its destruction causes many issues. In a landfill, the material releases heavy metals contaminating the soil and groundwater. If it’s burned, the toxic substances are then released into the air contaminating it.

Polyester can be given a second life by melting it down and recycling it (as long as it’s not mixed with other different fibers). It would be also possible to mix it with other recycled fibers, an example would be fibers from PET plastic bottles.
However, this is only a partial solution. The production with polyester will always cause harmful particles to be released into the ocean along with high emissions and energy consumption to produce the recycled fabrics.

Fortunately, these two fibres are not the only ones available. And the good news is that there are both sustainable fabrics and bio synthetical fabrics that are produced under controlled environmental impact. But we will cover that in a future post….