We want to be honest with you. Really. We’re not just saying that ’cause it’s a good line.

The last blog post in our Satya & Sustainability Series looked at the pros and cons of using different natural fibres in clothing fibres: cotton vs bamboo.

This time we’re continuing the open conversation about production with a concise run-down of the NATURAL vs SYNTHETIC debate. Here’s what we found…

Satya & Sustainabilty
FABRICS (ii) – Natural vs. Synthetic Fabrics

We’re so used to being led to believe that ‘natural’ means good: healthy, ethical, pure… that belief is great for marketing purposes, but sadly not the whole truth!

Like we mentioned last week when we talked about the use of ‘natural’ pesticides used in the growth of organic cotton, just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s the optimal choice when trying to minimise the environmental impact of clothing production.

Here’s what we’ve found…

We have to look at the whole life cycle of the fabric: through production, consumption (use) and disposal.

PRODUCTION:
Natural textiles can take a LOT of water to produce – you might remember from our last post that it takes a massive 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to just a single T-shirt and pair of jeans… right?!

Most of this is because it has to be grown on irrigated land. (Note, that also means a lot of land is taken up it the initial growth stage of these fibres.)

Synthetics, like polyester, use comparatively little water. However, their production conventionally involves nasty petrochemicals and oil extraction, which clearly has a negative impact on the environment.

Oh, but, on chemicals,  the production of natural fabrics can also involve loads of them, through the cleaning and dying processes.

Hmm…

 

CONSUMPTION:
Through their lifetime as a garment, natural fabrics generally use more energy than synthetics;

Cotton fabrics need washing more regularly and more thoroughly to remove stains or odours (more water again) and are more likely to be tumble dried and ironed, whereas polyester and nylon don’t need this – they’re easy to wash, dry fast, need no ironing.

Synthetic fabrics also keep their shape and are more durable, which means their life as a useful product is longer (theoretically, at least; human fickleness over changing fashions has a lot to answer for when it comes to land-fills full of clothes… Santosha, people!).

DISPOSAL:
Some natural fabrics are bio-degradable 
– like the bamboo fibre we use in our Zhu Boxers and Cobra Tee – which is great.

Synthetics, conventionally, are not. They end up in land-fills where they leach methane into the atmosphere (hello, global warming) and other harmful chemical bi-products into the land, contaminating both surface and groundwater.

Yep, you might just be drinking the chemical waste of your old, cheap Christmas jumper.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO?!

Well, here at OHMME, we’re using rPET.

Sounds like a cute office dog, doesn’t it?!

rPET is actually an industry name for recycled polyester. It is made of re-formed polymers gathered from post-consumer plastic bottles or post-industrial manufacturing packaging. It’s not that easy to get hold of yet, and it’s an exciting area of development that we’re very happy to be in the front row of.

How cool is that?!

Producing rPET consumes less energy than producing virgin polyester and keeps bottles and other plastics out of the landfills.

It’s highly adaptable in design, wears and washes well (less energy use in consumption). Certain functions can be added to the fibre directly during the extruding process, giving the garment targeted purposes such as sweat-wicking, anti-crease finish, or anti-bacterial properties.

All of that means you’ll feel (and smell) fresher in your sweaty practices, and the same clothes will last you longer.

Recycled polyester is comfortable, functional, and sustainable. That is why we are currently switching all of our synthetic fabrics to rPET.

We’re always on the look out for improvement in these production processes, so as things progress in the industry, so will we. We welcome your feedback and opinions on ALL of this – if you think there’s something we’ve missed, LET US KNOW!