July Blog Post 'All About Fabrics & Microplastics!'


All About Fabrics

A Quick Guide to Eco Fabrics

Organic, Natural Fibres, Synthetics, Micro-plastics? What does it all mean and why its important to know the difference!
What are synthetic Fabrics & Why can they be harmful? 

Microfibres (Microplastics specifically) are often a cheaper alternatives to natural materials, and are much easier to produce & manufacture, although they derive from a petroleum base, meaning plastic. We all know plastic is hard on the environment, toxic for the workers (often women & children) and producing it has irreversible effects on ecosystems everywhere. Not to mention, synthetics are non-biodegradable.
 
“Earlier this year, scientists from the University of Plymouth found that each cycle of a washing machine could release over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres into the environment.”
 
“However, it is a huge issue, particularly as fast fashion continues to soar – online fast fashion retailer ASOS released today that its 2017-18 profit has risen by 28%. Often fast fashion is concurrent with cheaper clothes and materials, meaning they are often synthetic and a contributor to the problem.”

 
Synthetics 101
 
Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate) 
produced from crude oil and is used in making household items like ketchup bottles & single-use plastics. It requires large amounts of water & lubrication, and contaminates water sources.
 
Nylon
production produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310x times more potent than carbon dioxide.
 
Unsustainably Sourced Rayon
while rayon remains a natural fibre sourced from wood pulp – if not done sustainability, mass clearings of forests have can dire negative effects on the environment.
Harmful Dyes
Dye is another material used mostly for the production of garments. Most dyes being toxic to animals & the environment, are then washed into rivers and waterways, polluting the environment.
Micro-Plastic 

The microplastic (less than > 0.5mm) materials such as polyester & nylon make up 60% of the fibres used in the fashion industry. Plastic is plastic at the end of the day whether its in the form of plastic packaging, single-use plastic bags & forks or even that summer dress you bought for vacation. Plastic in landfills can take up to 400 years to decompose, and if we keep consuming the way we do, non-biodegradables will suffocate our oceans and eco systems.
 
The biggest place we can see the harmful effects of microplastic pollution is in our oceans (aka our life source and our biggest combatant in CO2 sequestering). Point is we need our oceans, and we need our oceans and all its creatures to thrive.
 
Microplastics are quite invisible to the eye, and its hard to see the immediate effects of its harmful nature.
 
The transfer of microplastics into water sources comes from washing our synthetically made clothing. “ A single polyester garment can cast loose more than 1900 plastic fibres per wash” (Environmental Science & Technology Magazine). 85% of all microplastic pollution in the oceans comes from textile production & wear.
Here is a short video on how the spread of microfibres go from our clothes to our water sources!
Natural Fibres 

Organic Cotton vs Non Organic 
“Cotton accounts for over 50% of all clothing produced worldwide. Of course, growing and processing this crop needs to be done responsibly, and this is largely down to farming practices.”  Cotton requires the most amount of pesticides compared to any other textile. Pesticides have been found to injure or even kill many people and animals each year. Cotton also requires a large amount of agricultural land, meaning more harmful herbicides. The toxins found in pesticides & herbicides remain in the fabric and are slowly rereleased throughout the garments lifecycles (which in fast fashion means a quick trip to the landfill) and adds to the toll on both the environment and human health. (GMO Cotton is even more water intensive)

Nomad's Hemp Wear on organic cotton:

"Organic cotton has all the benefits of mainstream cotton, and GMO cotton, without the serious downfalls.

  1. Organic cotton is pesticide free! With the amount of pesticides used in mainstream cotton production, it would seem impossible to grow cotton without it. Not so! Organic cotton farms use healthy resilient soil to bolster crop health. If they need to bring in the big guns, they use vinegar, garlic, neem oil, and hydrogen peroxide…really.
  2. Less potable water use. Organic gardening practices use less “blue water” in their crop growth, relying more on grey water, and water recycling. In 2013-2014 organic production of cotton found a 91% reduction in blue water use, saving the equivalent of nearly 95,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of fresh water compared to non-organic production according to the Soil Association.
  3. Genetic diversity. With organic gardening practices, seeds are developed slightly differently in every region. Seeds are collected and stored, and the strongest strains continue to develop and grow. With GMO production, more of the world uses only ONE type of seed. That means that if that crop ever fails, for any reason including some kind of pest or disease that has yet to develop, it could be a disaster. The more genetic diversity the better…for everyone.
  4. Fair trade. With organic cotton there are far more options for fair trade directly paid to smaller local farms. At Nomads we know where our cotton comes from, and that we are creating a sustainable local economy for that community. "

Nomad’s Hemp Wear talks about why they choose & love eco-farbrics such as Hemp:

Hemp is a thoroughly ecological crop: highly productive, easy to cultivate and pest tolerant, so needing few or no agrochemicals whilst at the same time binding and enriching the soil with its deep roots. It is a traditional fibre, that went out of favour in the 1930s for political reasons, rather than practical ones. It is now at long last undergoing something of a revival”
 
Bamboo 
Is a more recent addition to eco-friendly fashion. It is  hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast-drying and naturally anti-bacterial and comes from a very fast-growing plant. Compared to its cotton counter part, it is far less absorptive of toxins and requires much less land and water. 

Rayon 
Is made from wood pulp and must be produced and harvested with long-term sustainability in mind. Tree's require little assistance in growth in terms of water intensity & pesticides. Rayon is typically produced from Eucalyptus trees. 

Soy
Similar to bamboo, soy is anti-bacterial, super soft, hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast drying. Soaks up dye meaning it takes less. Can be sourced from food production by-product, making it a recycled fabric.

Linen 
is made from flax, another traditional fibre crop which needs few chemical fertilizers, and less pesticide than cotton.
 
Natural / Lower-impact Dyes
Low Impact dyes have a 70-80% higher absorption rate which mean less water needed in the rinse process in dying fabrics. They also require less toxins to make them stick to the clothing fibres. Although the most eco-friendly way to add colour to clothing is by using all Natural Plant Dyes. Natural dyes tend to be more susceptible to fading & changes from acidic foods or soaps but, they often give an all natural-worn-in look, making your pieces unique to you & your lifestyle.
Natural Dyeing Process

Grace Designs

A globally inspired fashion accessories brand founded by Canadian designer Alison Gledhill.  GRACE was started over ten years ago after Alison, having returned from India with a backpack full of sari silk, was looking for a unique way to share her experiences from abroad. Seventeen years later and Alison continues to scour the globe in search of unique materials to use for her designs.

From Marrakech to Kyoto, Oaxaca to Jaipur, these fabrics are storytellers, they speak of their history and traditions of craft, of adventures abroad, foreign marketplaces, culture and creativity. It is the stories that make our products unique and you'll find their inspiration woven into the fibres of each one of our designs.  Every GRACE product is designed and made by hand in our Toronto studio. GRACE is a celebration of diversity and it is with great reverence for and awareness of the cultures we draw inspiration from that we bring our designs to you.

Birch Jewellery

Our collection of whimsical, everyday pieces is inspired by Canadian nature, with a modern twist. From tiny pine cone necklaces to sparkly gemstone-inspired studs, there is something for every accessory-lover to discover.

Carefully curated and crafted by hand, each piece starts from scratch or is assembled with care in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

We started our journey in 2011 and have grown into an exciting and modern brand that is loved by Canadians and fashionistas worldwide.

Shop Now

Remeber to also...
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!


Often clothes donated to “charity” still end up in the land fill due to an over flow of donations, or are shipped off to the Global South and share a similar fate. Some great ways to extend the life of your clothing is to:
  1. take care of your clothing & value them           
  2. buy quality made items
  3. sell to second-hand stores (Plato’s Closet is an awesome one right here in Ottawa!)
  4. sell on Facebook market place (or any other Buy & Sell Groups)
  5. participate in clothing swaps!
  6. Find other non-wear uses for you old clothing…jean tote bags anyone ??
Sustainable lifestyles are on the rise and its so wonderful to see more and more people engaged and making changes to their own consumption patterns! Every little choice to be more green, pays off in the long run! 

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