5 Most Sustainable Natural Fabrics for 2024

5 Most Sustainable Natural Fabrics for 2024

Introduction: For thousands of years, natural fibers have been of service to man’s textile needs. Its utilization for textile materials started before recorded history, dating as far back as 36,000 BP. And throughout history, natural fibers held the top spot as the primary source of clothing materials until its dominance came to cease during the Industrial Revolution that resulted in significant changes in the world of textile production.

However, as we move forward to an era marked by environmental consciousness, natural fiber clothing has witnessed an upward trend in popularity. Two key elements in its resurgence is the increasing drive to lean towards the use of environmentally sustainable materials and the awareness of ethical consumption. Consumers in recent years have given higher regard to transparency and eco-friendly practices, hence the shift towards thorough purchasing decisions that helped drive fashion brands to adopt sourcing and manufacturing methods in a more responsible manner. This practice has paved the way for natural fiber clothing to transition from a niche market to a dominant trend option, with an augmented array of choices readily available across diverse price points and styles.

Being at the forefront of this movement, the growing popularity of natural fabrics is remarkable due to its promise of a greener alternative to conventional textiles. Here are the 5 natural fabrics that emphasize sustainability by offering renewable sources, biodegradability, and minimal environmental footprint:

1. Silk:
Labelled as a luxurious fabric because of its smooth threads and soft but not slippery texture, this natural textile is the strongest fabric in the world made through natural processes. When wet though, its strength decreases by 20%. This naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial fabric was discovered by an Empress from the East back in 2696 BC when a cocoon fell into her cup while she was enjoying her tea beneath a Mulberry tree. And as the years progressed, the use of this fabric has spread across the globe offering consumers not just a beautiful appearance but multiple benefits that lead for it to be dubbed as the Queen of all fabrics.

One of the most remarkable properties of silk is its ability to cool and warm simultaneously. Its paradoxical thermal regulating ability has made it an all-climate fabric. Other significant characteristics of silk is its lightweight and breathable, has 11% moisture regain ability, moderate to poor level of elasticity, shiny and has a dry speeding nature. It is commonly used for suits, ties, shirts, pyjamas, blouses lingeries, etc. The least expensive type of silk fabric, the Mulberry Silk, is used for comforters and sleeping bags.

2. Wool:
Sheepskin rugs are likely the first thing that crosses the mind when one would come across the word wool. Most people more than often would associate this type of fabric with sheep but it is not solely obtained from just the fleece of these animals. There are other distinct variants of this natural fabric derived from some other animals like from goats comes the cashmere and mohair; then there’s qiviut from muskoxen, rabbits give angora and camels provide guard coat and undercoat.

Sheeps though are the most prevalent producers of wool. The production amount of this natural fabric depends on the breed, shearing interval, genetics, and nutrition. One single sheep can produce 4.5kg of wool on an average per year. That is a little over 10 meters of fabric that can make around 12 different apparels. Products made from this fabric boast a long use phase aside from being notably renewable and recyclable. To add to that, they give positive impacts throughout their lifecycle.

It was back in the Stone Age that this natural fiber has been recognized by mankind as one of the most impressive forms of all-weather protection and the best natural rug. Then during the Middle Ages, the rise of a global wool industry began when its trading flourished in areas of Europe, particularly in the lands of Belgium, England, France, Italy, and The Netherlands.

This sustainable natural fabric has a low carbon footprint and known for its durability - retaining its shape and integrity over time; insulating property - highly effective moisture management ability; fire retardant quality - remarkably appreciated for being the most flame-resistant among all-natural fibers around; biodegradability - it has this striking nature to decompose after interacting with biological elements as it's made from renewable atmospheric carbon.

3. Cotton:
In the global textile industry, this natural fabric is the undisputed “king” of fabrics and has been around for well over 8,000 years. It does not have any synthetic compounds making it a chemically organic material.

One of the best advantages of cotton is its versatility. There is a wide range of applications for this fabric. It can be used from clothing to home textiles. In addition to that quality, it also has a longer lifespan that speaks volumes of its durability. The durable the fabric is, the less room there is for frequent replacements which in the process minimizes waste as well. Another interesting fact about cotton is that its production has lower environmental impact as it requires minimal energy-intensive processing and no harmful chemicals are released during its production process.

Other elements that made this natural fabric popular are its accessibility, affordability, and support for rural economies. Cultivation of cotton gives livelihood for millions of individuals across the globe most especially in developing countries.

4. Linen:
In prehistoric caves in Georgia, some 36,000 years ago, there was evidence that suggested the birth of this natural fabric and have been used as a textile then. Hence it is known to be the most ancient of fabrics.

Flax plants can be cultivated in a variety of climates to produce fiber crops for diverse uses. It thrives in regions of the world with cool, damp environments and can not put up with extreme heat. It is only for one growing season that this plant lives. The cellulose fibers are what made up linen fabric and since these fibers are harvested from the insides of the plant’s stalk, it makes linen a vegetable, technically. The highest quality linens are produced from hand-harvested flax as they are finer, more flexible and can be prized higher than machine-harvested ones.


5. Hemp: Also called industrial hemp, this originated in Central Asia and the main source of hemp fabric are the plant stems of Cannabis Sativa L. Europe’s Mediterranean countries practised.