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When can you call fashion garment sustainable?

If a garment should call itself truly sustainable, a few criteria must be met. A sustainable garment is arguably something that most fashion brands try to promote one way or another. For example, the mega retail brand H&M uses somehow the term “more sustainable” describing their effort to practice environmentally friendly textile fabrics in their garment production and retail sales. According to their well-known conscious action sustainability reports, they try to explain with asking the question; what is more sustainable cotton? Sorry, there is no such cotton that can be called sustainable, therefore is better to use another term than misleading the consumer (environmentally friendly, better alternative, organic or recycled cotton)The recommended post, The great H&M conscious fashion swindle?

How to define a sustainable fibre or textile fabric

To be clear on what a fibre must inherent to call itself truly sustainable is smart to start from the definition. By definition, sustainable living is taking no more potentially renewable resources from the natural world that can be replenished naturally and not overloading the capacity of the environment to cleanse and renew itself by natural processes.
Resources are sustainable if they cannot be used up; for instance, oil resources are not seen as renewable because of its slow and gradually decreasing whereas the wind can be harnessed to produce energy continuously. In terms of fibres, a sustainable fibre is one that ideally involves completely renewable chemicals in its manufacturing process and non-fossil-fuel-derived energy (renewable sources of energy only) in the production processes. This leaves us with few options when describing such a sustainable material and one of those alternatives is renewable sources of polymeric fibres, which offer an answer to maintaining sustainable development of economically and ecologically attractive technology. According to Vink* a number of factors that the ideal sustainable material should meet;

Factors to be meet

  • Provide an equivalent function to the product it replaces, and performs as well as or better than the existing product;
  • Be available at a competitive or lower price;
  • Have a minimum environmental footprint for all the processes involved, including those up and down-stream;
  • Be manufactured from renewable resources;
  • Use only ingredients that are safe to both humans and the environment;
  • Not have any negative impact on food supply or water.

These criteria manifest a substantially empathy with the need to address the environmental characteristics, and positive benefits are demonstrated that poly(lactic acid) could achieve, both in terms of the production process, Waste Management and disposal alternative at the end of a product’s lifecycle (LCA). A truly green fibre (textile fabric production) demonstrated in a fully green life cycle of the garment. This cover innovation and development of textile fibers from biopolymers and other renewable resources; the organic process of fossil-based raw materials; reduction of fossil fuels used in energy production. Volume decrease of waste; compostability in a natural cycle and fully biological degradability. Furthermore, protection against the climate to minimize carbon dioxide release and step down of harmful, hazards and environmentally damaging substances at any point in the life cycle.

The most useful tool to measure the environmental sustainability of a product is as mention earlier Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is an analysis of all inputs and outputs for a particular product (inventory) and commonly practices on a cradle-to-grave basis. One of the major benefits of such a practice using LCA specific product’s study is the opportunity to measure (or benchmark) performance against competitor garments, textiles, and processes in the marketplace. With elements further to consider; price competing, the sufficiency of large quantity’s textile production and a healthy solution for waste-disposal problems.


Lifecycle of A Sustainable Fibre (Click and Open)

Sources and Useful Information (Click and Open)
  • H&M Conscious actions sustainability report 2012
  • Vink, E.T.H., Rabago, K.R., Glassner, D.A. and Gruber, P.R., Polymer Degradation and Stability, 2003, Biodegradable and sustainable fibres R. S. Blackburn CRC Press
  • WOODHEAD PUBLISHING LIMITED Publishing Limited in association with The Textile Institute Abington Hall, Abington, Cambridge CB1 6AH, England www.woodheadpublishing.com

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