What Fabric Is Really Best For the Environment?


When you consider building an environmentally-conscious lifestyle for yourself, you usually begin in the kitchen. By using reusable cups and recycling your glass, you’re actively reducing waste and minimizing landfills.

But did you know you could do the same thing in your closet?

Building a wardrobe of sustainable and organic clothing will ultimately help reduce the 251 million tons of waste produced each year in the United States. In fact, the EPA estimates that textiles, rubber and leather makes up nearly 10 percent of U.S. waste.

Here’s what you need to know to create a sustainable closet.

Understand your impact

Experts estimate that more than 10 million pounds of clothing go into landfills — and once they’re in there, they take decades to decompose. Start by asking yourself what kind of impact your clothes will have on the planet.

This will likely lead you ask a few questions, like is cotton biodegradable? It technically is, but it takes at least six months to break down. And those wool socks you never wear anymore? They’ll take up to five years to decompose. Leather shoes and nylon fabric can take up to 40 years to break down.

As you look in your closet, ask yourself if what you own is worth the long term damage it could cost. Do you really want clothes that will pollute landfills for decades to come?


Transition to eco-friendly fabric

Now that you have an idea of how long it would take for your wardrobe to break down naturally, you might decide to switch a more sustainable fabric. The good news is: You have options.

Organic clothing is becoming much more popular among retailers — and it takes much less time to break down than other manufactured textiles. Production of organic clothing requires less time and resources, as well.

Look for companies that specialize in materials like bamboo, which is made without the use of pesticides or harmful finishes, and it breaks down quickly because it’s plant-based. Plus, it’s more breathable than traditional cotton.


Be creative with your old clothes

If you’d like to transform your closet into a more eco-friendly dressing room, you should consider the options you have considering your old clothes.

Donating is always a good idea, it keeps the clothing out of landfills and helps others find affordable attire. Depending on what kind of clothes you plan on donating, you can look at Goodwills, local shelters and job placement programs.

You can also compost most materials and help speed up the decomposition process, all while giving your garden a helping hand. Starting by shredding the fabric and use a hot compost if you can — then incorporate into your soil. If you can, add worms to help break down the material even faster.

Finally, find creative ways to repurpose the clothes you no longer wear. By turning that old t-shirt into a reusable grocery bag, you give it a more sustainable purpose and prevent the overfilling of landfills.