Think about sustainability this year when choosing your winter wardrobe. Most landfills consist of about 40% clothing, which means that a lot of people regularly throw away their clothes. This might be because they get sick of them, they fall apart or just because they didn’t perform well.
Fleece, sometimes called polar fleece, is not a natural fabric. What makes it special, however, is that it is made from recycled plastics and petroleum. It’s hard to believe that incredibly soft and warm fleece fabric comes from a chemical reaction that heats and hardens the raw materials so they can be spun into thread. These fibers somehow become soft and their warmth comes from the ability of fleece to retain body heat in its airy fibers. Even better, it can be dyed into beautiful colors and wears very well.
Wool is an excellent choice for outwear, sweaters and blankets. It is shorn from a sheep’s coat as the weather gets hot each summer. Some people see sheep shearing as animal cruelty, but in fact, sheep would overheat and die if their coats were not removed each year. When done properly shearing does not hurt the sheep. After cleaning, the wool is spun into fiber. These fibers can be turned into yarn for knitting. They can also be woven into fabric for items like coats. Wool is great at blocking wind and as an added benefit, the lanolin in the wool helps rain and snow bead up instead of soaking through. Best of all, wool is highly sustainable since it is replenished naturally every year. It is also extremely long-wearing.
Most people think of silk as a luxurious fabric for special garments. It is that, but it is also a great first layer in cold weather due to its heat retention properties. The trick of silk’s superior insulation is that although tightly woven, it’s very breathable as many manufactured products are not. It does a great job of retaining heat while wicking away moisture. Silk is sustainable since it is regularly produced by silkworms. The unfortunate part of the process is that the silkworms are killed after spinning their cocoons to obtain the silk fibers. That is why vegans and other animal rights activists will not wear silk.
Linen was one of the first fibers to be spun and made into clothing. It comes from the flax plant and has remarkable qualities. It is very versatile because in summer it can keep you cool, yet in winter it can keep you warm. Additionally, linen is antibacterial and has been used to bandage wounds for centuries. There is even some evidence that it repels insects. Linen is an excellent choice as a first or second layer when bundling up for cold weather. Linen is certainly sustainable since fields of flax are grown all over Europe and in some northern states in the US. Most of the linen from northern Europe is grown organically if that is important to you.
Cotton has long been a favorite for summer, but it can also be used as a cool-weather layer. Rather than wicking moisture away and getting rid of it, however, cotton tends to absorb it and might make you feel wet and chilly so don’t use it as the layer next to your skin. Although cotton is sustainable, you should only buy organic cotton. A lot of cotton is grown in developing countries and unfortunately, use of insecticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers is common. Often, cotton growers and their families become ill from being exposed to these chemicals. If you don’t want to contribute to this, choose organic cotton. An additional benefit to organic cotton is that it will not pass any chemicals along to the wearer.
Sustainable clothing is the obvious choice for anyone concerned about the environment. Put a little thought into your clothing purchases this season and it will benefit both the world and you.