A Guide to Buying Eco-Friendly Textiles and Fabrics for Your Home
From the clothes we wear to the fabrics on our couch and curtains, there's often more to what makes a textile "sustainable" than you might think. For instance, buying a T-shirt made from 100% organic cotton sounds like an eco-friendly shopping choice, but cotton-even organic cotton-is a crop that requires a lot of water to produce. Then there are the dyes used to color that shirt, which requires copious amounts of water to apply and typically contain toxic ingredients that can harm waterways and marine life when dumped out during production.
So, what's an eco-conscious consumer to do? In an ideal world, we'd be aware of a product's entire process-from harvesting and manufacturing to production and shipping-and recognize the impact these processes can have on our health, our homes, and our environments before making a purchase. Of course, the trouble is that fully assessing and vetting every set of bath towels, bedsheets, and sweaters isn't always a quick or easy process. Just like shopping for the "healthiest" foods in the grocery store, the amount of information to consider before buying can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are several organizations that help do the vetting for you, certifying that textile and home goods manufacturers are producing their items sustainably, so you can stay sane while shopping. The next time you're on the hunt for fabrics-from a new pair of jeans to bedsheets for your kids-be sure to look for tags or seals of approval from these organizations, and know that your purchase could help make the world just a little bit greener.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
Setting the standard for how organic fibers are certified, this organization also focuses on environmental and social standards within the textile industry. It prohibits the employment of children and the use of genetically modified organisms and highly dangerous chemicals. Strict requirements for waste-water treatment have been put in place as well.
Fair Trade Certified
This eco-group aims to protect the lives of cotton farmers all over the world. It stands for fixed minimum prices for cotton and helps improve the living and working conditions of farmers.
GoodWeave aims to end the practice of child slave labor in the rug and weaving industries in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan. The organization helps rescue the children often employed in the production of these items, and give them opportunities to continue their education. Look for rugs with the GoodWeave symbol to ensure that you're purchasing a product that wasn't made using child labor.
Responsible Down Standard (RDS)
This animal-welfare organization certifies both independent and industrial farms in the feather-down industry. The certification ensures that geese or ducks aren't "live plucked" and that the conditions are humane for the animals. Consumers can ask their retailers about the tracking method of the down fill (pillows, comforters, etc.) or use their website to find companies that are certified.
Oeko-Tex uses a multi-point certification and independent vetting process to ensure that a particular textile has met their strict sustainable requirements. They score products based on laboratory tests that ensure the fabric is free from harmful, toxic substances. The number of certifications is vast, but fortunately, they have a search function on their site that allows consumers to locate specific brands with this label. If an item has the Oeko-Tex label, you can even use your phone to track where the item came from.
Cradle to Cradle
This sustainable-minded organization helps manufacturers realize the potential for their goods or raw materials to be reused and recycled when the product has reached the end of its use.
If you spot the "CO2-Neutral" label on a product, you'll know it's from a company that truly values sustainability (and isn't just greenwashing!). Aside from consulting with manufacturers to help them reduce their carbon footprint, CO2 Logic also offers donation programs that help offset any carbon that cannot currently be reduced.