Textile Alternatives for Sustainable Fashion

 If your favorite retailer designed and manufactured clothing made mostly from plastic, how many of you would buy pieces from them? Some of you? None of you? Whatever your answers were, I’d be willing to bet every penny in my bank account and then some that the answer is all of you. 

Why is that? Because that’s literally what most of you guys are wearing everyday (me included)! Polyester, Nylon and Acrylic are all synthetic fibers that I’m sure you all have heard of, and probably have somewhere in your closet right?

While everyone has heard of these materials, what a lot of people- unfortunately- don’t know is what they’re made from. 

 Synthetic, according to dictionary.com, literally means “not real or genuine; artificial; feigned” aka FAKE. In other words, it’s basically just plastic that’s made from Petroleum. If that’s the case, how long do you think it would take this stuff to biodegrade? Think HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of years. 

The Issue With Synthetic Fibers 


The “quantity over quality” or more for less mentality, made possible by synthetic fibers such as polyester, polyamide, and other synthetics is more damaging than helpful, both to your pocketbook and to the environment. Synthetic fibers not only take an exorbitant amount of energy to produce, they also shed microplastic every time we wash our clothes. These microplastics make their way into our waterways, our sea life, and our food.

As synthetic fibers made up 62% of fiber production in 2020 with polyester accounting for 52% of the total global fiber production, that’s a lot of microplastic. This also means that the textile industry accounts for a large portion of fossil fuel consumption. With all the obvious negatives associated with the current textile industry, why are we as shoppers not more conscientious 

The answer is “out of sight, out of mind”. 

Alternative Textiles

Rather than investing your money on well embellished plastic at the mall, here are some alternative fabrics that are better quality, and better for the environment.

Hemp. This is a plant fiber made from cannabis plants. It’s a renewable fiber that doesn’t require the use of pesticides to grow.  Not only is it great for summer or winter, it also provides UV protection. Best of all? It’s biodegradable. 

Cactus leather. This is a vegan alternative to animal leather that is made from nopal cactus, a plant that grows in Mexico and doesn’t need any water. It is organic, more sustainable than other vegan leathers, doesn’t use pesticides, and leads to a 32-42% reduction in plastic waste.

Deadstock. This is leftover fabric or scrap material from textile mills. These materials are typically sold to sustainable fashion companies and repurposed as a more sustainable alternative to virgin or unused fabrics.

Coffee ground fibers. Yes, coffee can be used for more than just to keep you awake at your desk. Coffee grounds are taken and recycled from large coffee vendors like Starbucks and added to recycled polyester. This textile has natural anti-odor properties, UV protection and dries 200% faster than cotton

Lotus fibers. This fabric, used in various Asian countries for centuries, feels like a cross between silk and linen. It is stain-resistant, light weight, and breathable.  

These are only a handful of the available textile options in sustainable fashion. The textile you choose to wear DOES have an impact.  And with new innovations coming out everyday, shopping sustainably has never been easier.