Materials Matter

February 28, 2017

Continuing the thread started in our last post about taking a hard look at the clothes we wear and how we can take steps to become more conscious consumers, let’s talk about the environmental impact of our collective closets.

Our partner United By Blue’s philosophy is a great way to begin thinking about our footprint on the world: “We believe that products designed for enjoying the outdoors should also be kind to the outdoors. So we put a lot of thought into the materials that make up each piece and always opt for textiles that keep our oceans, air and soil a little cleaner.”

Here’s a run-down of some the materials you'll encounter in our apparel offerings, followed by a bit about why we think they’re such good choices and which pieces you’ll find each fabric in. 

100% Organic Cotton

According to United By Blue, “Conventional cotton consumes 10% of the world's pesticides and 25% of the world's insecticides, despite the fact that cotton only uses 2.4% of the total arable land. Organic cotton does not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or insecticides which prevent it from draining into our oceans and waterways.” It’s also one of the softest materials around for making clothing and a sustainable powerhouse.

Find it here: Murray Plaid Shirt Dress. A versatile throw-on-and-go dress that makes layering easy as the temperatures drop throughout the season.


A biodegradable fiber made from eucalyptus trees, it’s an extremely fast-growing resource that requires low water and virtually no pesticide inputs to grow. Tencel uses 100% renewable energy to minimize emissions and a "closed loop" manufacturing process with nontoxic solvents. Over 99% of the solvent is recycled and pushed back into the system instead of being flushed out as waste water.

Find it here: Avalon Tank. A loose draping fit with the flowing qualities of silk and the softness of cotton.


A natural and renewable resource (since sheep are shorn annually), wool is also biodegradable, so it’s much gentler to the environment than oil-based synthetics.

Find it here: Wool Colorblock Shirt. Blended with 65% recycled polyester so you get all the warmth without the usual itch of an all-wool.

Recycled polyester

It’s no wonder that people who’ve gone green run from labels with the word polyester in it. Virgin poly is a man-made synthetic fabric that is resource intensive to make, involving tons of water, chemicals, and fossil fuels in the process to make a garment and leaves a lot of waste and by-product. Recycled polyester mostly shares the name: it uses PET, the same material in plastic water bottles by diverting them from landfill, recycling them, and at least giving that plastic a second shot at a useful life! It actually uses 35 – 50% less energy to produce as well. 

Find it here: Blue Hyde Stripe Swing Dress. Made of 95% recycled content, which is one of the highest around we’ve found. And did we mention it has pockets?

Eco-Fleece (and Eco-Jersey)

By combining organic and cotton materials together, blended fabrics can achieve the softness, look, and ease of care that most people seek from garments made from virgin materials. And importantly, eco-fabrics commit to using less water during the production process.

Find it here: Color-Block Eco-Fleece Pullover. Knit on vintage machines using a blend of organic and recycled materials.


As a natural fiber, it’s a better choice than petroleum-based synthetics. It’s renewable and biodegradable after its useful life, as well as lightweight and durable. Not for vegans though, as an animal has been directly involved in the production. Look for products with wild silk that allows the moth to emerge unharmed.

Find it here: Blue Waves Silk Shibori Scarf. 

Recycled canvas

Recycling previously used threads (especially cotton!) to make new fabric is definitely a good way to extend the lifespan of materials. 

Find it here: Waxed Ash Rolltop Backpack. Ok, though not technically apparel, we’re still talking about fabric choice.

What other considerations should you watch out for?

Dyes and other fabric treatments

Not only are some incredibly toxic to the earth and water sources, the workers who handle these chemicals can develop debilitating health conditions from handling them. Look for non-toxic, natural dyes. These dyes do not contain any heavy metals or toxic substances, nor are they petrol-chemically based. Alternative Apparel notes: “The absorption (or fixation) rate for these dyes averages 75%, which means we are able to use less dye to produce our colors and less water to rinse them in the process.” Not only good for keeping chemicals away from your skin, it saves the workers who are in contact with the dyes in much greater quantities.

Find it here: Legacy Garment-Dyed Tee-Shirt Dress. Hi-lo hemline is rich navy blue.

Down to the Tagua Buttons

Besides the organic cotton chambray we’ve already talked about, sustainability is all about the details like the Corozo buttons. Also known as tagua nut, this sustainable nut is sometimes called vegetable ivory, for its ability to be carved easily and still maintain its strength.

Find it here: Bryce Chambray Shirts, an everyday classic button down shirt.

Now, make a mental note of these better raw materials to choose from when selecting your next outfit of earth-friendly clothes!


This post was developed by The Good Buy in connection with Conscious Magazine, and adapted from its original published form.


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