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The choice of fabric at the design table strongly influences the environmental impacts of a garment over its lifetime. Fibers made from plants, such as cotton and bamboo, can require huge quantities of water and pesticides to produce, while animal-based fibers such as cashmere can have severe impacts on the environment where the animals are raised. Synthetic fibers are often made from petro-chemicals that require a lot of energy to produce, but sometimes can be recycled. Fabric choice also drives consumer care requirements, which themselves have large water, energy, and toxic chemical impacts.

alpaca

Alpaca

Alpca herds tread lightly on the land, grazing without damaging root systems and consuming relatively small amounts of water. Varieties of alapca fleece are comparable to soft Merino wool, angora, and even cashmere. Read more >>

bamboo

Bamboo

Bamboo has a reputation as a renewable, eco-friendly material. And processed responsibly, using mechanical means, it is. But chemical processing of bamboo can undermine the grass's naturally sustainable qualities. Read more >>

cashmere

Cashmere

Current supply practices for cashmere are proving unsustainable. Rising demand and larger goat herds grazing on already-fragile land are causing significant environemntal stress. Read more >>

cotton

Cotton

Substantial amounts of chemicals are used to maximize the production of conventional cotton, and it also requires immense amounts of water to grow. Organic cotton is a better choice for the environment, but its limited availability is driving the development of other ways to make a cleaner cotton. Read more >>

polyester

Polyester

The production of polyester requires high energy inputs and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions. Recycled polyester has emerged as a popular alternative, and there are substitute materials in development that are derived from renewable resources, rather than petroleum. Read more >>

last revised 1/12/2012

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