Eco-Chic - What makes fabric eco-friendly?

Jo Alcorn of Whitewash and Co is back with another one of her popular eco-articles.  This time we are talking about fabric, and what makes it eco friendly. It's no surprise this topic just opens up a can of worms, so let's get started!

I am back with another controversial green term, to determine what truly makes a fabric eco. After the question was raised from a viewer on my last post, I did some research on this topic to find the true meaning of green fabric. Now the obvious answer is, the less harming process to the environment is the most eco-friendly. However that can mean so much, as we have learned from so many other terms marketers throw around.  

Eco-friendly fabrics generally have three generic characteristics. One being, if any animals have been harmed to create the fabric. Fur and leather are clearly not eco fabrics. Second, if the fibers come from a plant free of chemicals or pesticides . And third, being produced under fair trade practices.  Now that is the simple answer but of course I love a good controversy! I'll break down what so many believe would be the responsible key words to look for in eco fabrics and I am here to play a bit of devils advocate on the above characteristics.

Now to go back to the first point, how would any consumer ever know if animals were harmed or not when they choose a wool fabric for their ottoman? You don’t know if they were free range or tied up in some windowless factory overseas and malnourished.  You have no idea except that the tag happily says 100% wool, yippee. Now my next question is what is the difference between Organic wool to 100% wool? It should just mean the same thing, but no. “Organic livestock management is different from non-organic management in at least two major ways: 1) sheep cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice, and 2) organic livestock producers are required to ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze.” Also the wonderful thing about Organic is it is mostly all produced in Canada and the U.S which means a lower carbon footprint. So the only true way we know if animals where not injected with chemicals and are treated correctly is if we buy Organic, due to the Federal guidelines they must follow.  So really if it doesn’t say Organic on it, we don’t know if animals were harmed or not.

Okay, so to address the second statement. I don’t know very many plant fibres that you could use without any type of a process added to it. So I don’t quite understand this one. Please don’t even get me started on Bamboo. If you truly want to be eco don’t buy bamboo. Yes it is a renewable source, however to actually breakdown the hard solid down to create a fibre, calls for a ridiculous amount of chemicals being used to create a single strand.  Which means a high level of VOC’s, also bamboo has a huge carbon footprint. Now the only way I think this second statement could work is it were rephrased to say organic plant fibers. A fabric can be classed as organic, if 95% of the fabric contains organic fibres.  Organic Cotton along with other plant manufacturing have guidelines to follow compared to those who don’t label their fabric Organic.  I get mixed up with 100% Cotton and now there is also 100% Organic Cotton. I think that is for another post. But no matter what, the plant fibre used to create the fabric, even if it is organic will still have a little bit of VOC’s, however it is very little. Keep in mind, if you add scotch guard to it you might as well go suck on a tail pipe for 2 minutes. That chemical is so far from eco-friendly, and something that you should never bring in your home if you are worried about VOC’s.  Just an extra side note.
Now the last point, fair trade practices. Fair trade, unfortunately, is still quite new to the main scheme of things.  Fabric abels do not advertise fair trade as you think they would. Really when it comes to fabric and the meaning of fair trade you really only have the word Organic to understand if it is or not. Also, if it states where it is from, i.e Canadian produced, you know if is fair trade deemed just on location in some cases.  Source

Knowing what eco fabrics you want to bring into your home is not an easy one. However no matter what you chose, you will not be completely free of all VOC’s. Also. it likely won’t even have a low carbon foot print. But your safest bet is to stick with Organic plant fabrics, which unfortunately is not always the most durable. Buy locally to lower the carbon footprint and to ensure the rules of fair trade has been upheld. That is your safest gamble when it comes to eco-fabrics. This is a huge topic and will be continued because there is a controversy behind polyester and a few other fibres, including the dies used within them. I would like to touch base on to, so,  to be continued…..
Keep asking questions and researching what your products are made of and where they come from, that is the true start to being environmentally friendly!
Stay Green my friends and until next time,
More Info: 
The Fabrics:
The following list includes fabrics and textiles that are common for eco-friendly clothing: Hemp, Jute, Ingeo, Calico, Hessian Cloth, Organic Cotton, Recycled Polyester, Bamboo Fiber, Tencel, Ramie, Organic Wool, Organic Linen, FORTREL, Milk and Soy Silk, Nettle Fiber, Spider Web Fabric. For more information on some of these fibers please click on each name.

To Dine For

Thought I would add these to my gallery of inspiring kitchens.  I am working on a fun kitchen project, and it is so easy to get sidetracked by all the beautiful cabinetry, hardware, lighting, natural stone tops and more.  Cheers to the heart of the home!

Images: Decorpad, Country Living, Decorpad, Pinterest, Enchanted Home

An English Manor

The Atlanta design community never disappoints!  This home that belongs to ex-Atlanta Braves Baseballer Jeff Blauser and his wife, Andee is absolutely exceptional.  They opted for a traditional English manor packed full of exquisite antiques. Opening up the layout to a center plan and adding some modern touches makes it a little more family friendly. I don't know about you but I love it! Some of the furnishings are totally over the top, like that canopy bed, but they are completely neutralized with soft pale colours.  The pretty turquoise accents bring the space to life. The architecture is also notable; the arched windows and rustic beams that trim doors and ceilings are magnificent!  You can catch the full story in Traditional Home Magazine.

Interior designer:  Huff-Dewberry      
Kitchen designer: Beth Barfield Designs

The Barn Party

I am not sure how many occasions in life we have to celebrate like this, but I think we need to start living it up a little more. Style Me Pretty featured this delightful gallery of this farm wedding that was filled with incredible decor and sentiment.  The farm is home to the bride's parents and the young couple have many memories on it.  As natural and simple this wedding appears, no rock was left unturned. This was an incredible amount of work. There was no place for the photographer to take a wrong photo.  Dangling chandeliers indoors and out. Breathtaking table settings with gold trimmed glasses, and pretty pink floral plates.  It was all American with a lemonade stand, rustic farm menu and delicious pies of apple and blueberry. Wouldn't it be great to gather everyone for a night of fun for no reason other than to celebrate life?

You can view the full gallery at Style me Pretty

Beach Beauty

Sometimes you just need to surrender yourself to the shores.  This delightful editorial is perfectly inspired by sea, sand and sky.  A pale palette of fashion from Louis Vuitton, Alexander Wang, Bottega Veneta, Dior and more compliment this mystic backdrop. It's a peaceful and contemplative tibute to the end of summer.

Hotel Des Bergues

It appears Switzerland wanted a little piece of France within it's borders. The beautiful and historic city Geneva can be found sitting along the country's edge as it were perched on the tip of a finger.  Rich in culture and extraordinary views lakes and mountains, as well as fabulous architecture, Geneva is a must stop for the European traveller.  The luxury rooms are of the Four Seasons Hotel Des Bergues, Geneva's very first hotel.  Now I may not be able to afford the $1000+ per night price tag, but I would pay good money to have breakfast in that blue dining room.

Brighten Up!

With a dose of sunshine yellow.  Not only are the furnishings and details of these images exquisite, but the generous dose of yellow is energizing. 

Image 1, 2 Mimi Williams and Images 3,4 Mary Douglas Drysdale

Modern Tradition

I have fallen in love with interior designer Betsy Brown. I have featured her here in the past, and she recently had an amazing spread in House Beautiful that was breathtaking; I'll have to share it with you soon. She has a great way of injecting colour and modernism into a traditional interior.  These images are a scattering from her portfolio.  Through furnishings, fabrics, form and space her interiors are bursting with visual simulation.  Her approach is actually very simplistic, opting for larger scale items over numerous smaller ones. I have always asked myself, who I would want to help me decorate my home, and I have to tell you this designer is definitely one of the front runners!

Coastal Calling

I am back after a 10 day adventure to the east coast.  It was a beautiful trip!  We drove through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine,Massachusetts and New Brunswick to finally arrive in Nova Scotia. The weather was perfect, and I have returned more inspired than ever by the natural beauty of land and it's treasures.  The ocean waters and the smooth rocks that line it's shores; the mountain chains, and the blanket of trees that cover the rocks.  It is no wonder that homes of this region take their cue from the colours and textures it's surroundings. 

This home originally designed to be a vacation home in Martha's vineyard took up year round status when the owners fell in love with it, and the island it is built on.  Featured in Architectural Digest June 2006, it is a perfect example of a home that was built with respect and adoration of the land it sits on.

Architecture by Hutker Architects, Interior Design by Jerry Twetten, Landscape Architecture by Michael Van Valkenburgh


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