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10 Eco-Friendly Fabrics for Sustainable Fashion

10 Eco-Friendly Fabrics for Sustainable Fashion

April is Earth Month! A special time that acknowledges global sustainability and focuses on how we can take action to make our world a better place to live.

In honor of Earth Month, Zulily has launched its first-ever Sustainability Shop to bring awareness to families of how they can have a big impact over time if we make small changes at home. So as Zulily is doing our part, we want to help other shoppers shop smart by giving you the power to shop ethically sustainable pieces. As the fashion industry is one of the leading causes of pollution on the planet, sustainable fashion begins with fabric that we purchase. Here are 10 sustainable fabrics that support eco-friendly fashion.



 As one of the world’s largest denim manufacturers, Levi’s has apparel in more than 100 countries worldwide. They too have chosen to spearhead the movement towards change and progression by promoting eco-friendly and sustainable practices like recyclable denim made from cottonized hemp and organically sourced cotton. Basically, they use a special type of hemp that has been “cottonized” to feel like cotton. They also design clothing using recycled water bottles in order to keep waste out of landfills. Plus, they have made great strides to reduce water use in the process of denim production with the Levi’s Water<Less innovations since 2011. Levi’s has and continues to make a major impact one step at a time.


Recycled Cotton

Recycled cotton is the process of converting cotton fabric into cotton fiber that can then be reused into a product. Many brands are recycling post-consumer scraps from going into the landfill by repurposing them. From T-shirts to blue jeans and beyond, look for materials that are made of recycled cotton as they are sustainable alternatives in textiles. 


Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is processed without chemicals, pesticides, and with ecological practices like promoting soil health. Unlike the growth of normal cotton which is chemical-intensive and creates water waste, organic cotton has a much lower impact on the environment. It also has a much softer feel than regular cotton fabrics. Many companies are now using organic cotton in garments as they are known for being eco-friendly to the environment.


Organic Linen

Linen is derived from the flax plant and is very similar to hemp in terms of sustainability. Its growth requires very little pesticide or irrigation. Linen is a great material for anything from pants to bedding. It’s also a fabric that will keep you cool as it lowers your body temperature in the summer, unlike cotton. The look of linen is also great because even if this fabric wrinkles, that’s how it is meant to look. It gives you that effortlessly chic look while also being eco-friendly.


Recycled Polyester

Many major retailers are now producing ethically sustainable leggings and sustainable travel bags that come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and prints that are made from recycled plastic. Their recycled polyester is made from plastic water bottles in and around areas in China. Fishing nets, which would otherwise end up at the bottom of the ocean destroying an innumerable amount of sea wildlife, are turned into nylon. Both materials combined make an ideal combination for workout gear. The recycled polyester and Lycra blend that many sports bras contain, ensure lightweight comfort along with moisture-wicking technology to keep you dry during a high-impact workout. Recycled plastic is so versatile it can be used for light activewear to cozy sustainable fleece. Patagonia is probably the most well-known brand for pioneering the movement when they created the fleece jacket out of recycled plastic water bottles back in 1993. Since then others have followed in ethical outdoor wear and jackets can now be found in recycled down, polyester, and wool. Simply put, there’s a lot to love about eco-friendly jackets that will keep you warm and feeling good about it. Take your impact to the next level by wearing eco-friendly materials like recycled polyester to reduce your carbon footprint.



Enconyl is regenerated nylon that begins with removing waste from our landfills. Dresses and swimwear are another great eco-friendly way to stay cool this summer. Look for materials like recycled Enconyl (recycled nylon from plastic) mixed with blends of natural silk for dresses. Also, Enconyl is made from recycled fishing nets, ocean plastic, and its production doesn’t require much water.



TENCEL is also referred to as Lyocell that is also very well-known in the sustainable fashion world. It is produced from sustainably sourced natural wood and known for its softness. A button-down shirt dress for the summer is a super cute, lightweight, and cool option. You can now “dress clean” in fabrics such as TENCEL, a silky fiber made from wood pulp grown on specialized tree farms. The motto here: minimal footprint and maximum comfort.



Modal is another luxurious fabric that is so soft and silky. Similar to TENCEL, modal is made of pulp from trees, specifically beech trees. Given its super soft feel, modal is used mainly in pajamas, underwear, and sheets. Tops and tanks are also an ideal way to wear modal as it’s lightweight and breathable. You just might find this to be your new favorite material.



Bamboo is a natural fabric that is made from bamboo plants that are known for their high quality and sustainability. Bamboo textiles are also recognized for being ultra-soft and breathable hence why it’s a popular fabric in bed sheets and pajamas. Don’t sleep on adding bamboo fabrics into your wardrobe and bedding too.



Alpaca wool is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly wools as they are raised in their indigenous areas more humanely than most animals shorn for their coat. Other naturally derived fabrics from animals include merino wool, sheep wool, and cashmere. Hoodies, pullovers, sweaters, cardigans socks, and the like (including loungewear sets) are great everyday options for when the temperatures start to drop and are also made using sustainable and comfortable materials.

Upcycling your own clothes is a great way to transform items that appear worn or outdated, new again! Here are a few tips to try to upcycle your clothes:

  • Some fabrics like wool tend to form pill balls after regular wear. Shave off those pill balls from sweaters and sweatshirts by using a fabric shaver or depiller. This is one way to upcycle your clothes to make them feel like new again. 
  • Turn an old pair of jeans into jean cut-offs that can be worn all summer. All you need is a pair of scissors to add an entirely new item to your collection.  
  • I also want to point out that how you care for and wash your fabrics/laundry is just as important. The “Laundry Footprint” is a thing after all, a.k.a. the carbon footprint of laundry. So try to do your part by following these easy steps to reduce your carbon footprint when you do your laundry.

The one message that I hope to get across is the importance of shopping sustainably. Even if you are just starting out, pay attention to the materials that are on the labels of the clothes that you are purchasing and how they were sourced. Also, by bringing awareness to the brands that are doing their part for the greater good and their retailers for highlighting them.

Here’s to a better tomorrow. For a better future for our children. To better the environment and do good for our planet. After all, we only get one, and we can all do our part to do better for Mother Earth. One step at a time.

About The Author

Bailey Stuvland

Bailey Stuvland is a California girl who loves talking about all things fashion. With more than ten years of styling experience for personal clients and with brands like Stitch Fix, she enjoys helping others find what they love to wear. Her mission is to help people not only look good on the outside, but feel good on the inside by having fun with outfits, accessories and beauty. You can find her blog at .

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