The Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibres compares the environmental impact of the most commonly used fabrics in the garment industry.
Made-By has created this guide to help encourage the adoption of sustainable practices in the fashion industry. Is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable fashion.
28 different sustainable and regular fibres are ranked in the Made-By benchmark according to 6 criteria: greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, eco-toxicity, energy, land and water.
Each of the fibre types is given a score, with the highest scoring materials ranked A grade. These are organic hemp, recycled cotton, mechanically recycled nylon or polyester, organic wool and organic linen.
E grade fibres are viewed as the least sustainable in this clothing fabric guide. It’s recommended where possible that you try to avoid these and opt for higher scoring alternatives.
Several fibre types have been ranked ‘unclassified’. This is because there was not enough data available when the classification system was run.
It might surprise you to see a material like virgin polyester given a higher ranking than conventional cotton in the Made-By guide to clothing fabrics. This is where it’s important to remember the entire lifecycle of the fabric.
Virgin polyester is energy intensive to create, and made from non-renewable resources such as oil. It also sheds microplastics and does not biodegrade.
Conventional cotton requires huge amounts of water, taking up precision resources in often drought prone areas. It also requires vast amounts of pesticides that are harmful to the environment and the health of farmers. When dying the fabric, harsh chemicals are used to ensure colours fuse. To make matters worse, cotton is also linked to forced labour camps in Xinjiang, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
It becomes clear that conventional cotton has a wider impact across human toxicity, eco-toxicity, land and water.
Since the creation of the Made-By Benchmark in 2018, there have been important developments in the fashion industry.
Plastics have risen in importance, with considerable attention paid to microfibres shed from synthetic clothing when washed.
There have also been new technologies developed that promise to help with recycling old fabrics, along with the creation of new innovative materials.
Since the release of the Made-By fabric review, there has been no revised scientific assessment of the impacts of these and other more recently developed fabrics.
At Cariki, we have been asking what the environmental impact of textile fibres really is. With so many new and different fibres on the market, it’s hard to know what is the best material for clothing.
That’s why we have put together this guide to clothing fabrics. We want to make it more transparent to review sustainable fibres in one simple guide.
If there are materials you would like us to review, please let us know in the comments below.
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