Understanding The Damages of Unsustainable Materials

Originally published in June 2020.

The world of fabric and material, and just how sustainable they are, may be something that doesn’t cross your mind when buying a new top or dress. As the world of Sustainability can be a little confusing, when you delve further into what a garment truly needs to be, to be fully ‘sustainable’. The notion of ‘Greenwashing’ is so rife amongst fast fashion brands (the act of a brand plastering buzz words and making customers believe they’re sustainable when they’re in fact far from it), that it’s easy enough to be drawn in and believing an item is really ‘green’.

It is in fact a minefield, as well as a difference of opinion whether fashion can ever truly be Sustainable. As in reality, the entire of the western world most probably has enough clothes to last a lifetime. But, today I wanted to talk a little about Sustainable fabrics, and go further into materials that really should be avoided; the likes of Viscose and Polyester and delve further into their environmental impact..
What has spurred me on to write this post was a recent online course I completed on Sustainable Fashion, by Fashion Revolution – a organisation who campaign to transform fashion into a transparent, ethical industry (compared to how it is currently). During this course it covered a vast amount, with some information I knew already and some I was absolutely appalled at learning. 

When it comes to the fabrics and the clothing we wear, it tends not to be one of the first actions we do, checking what material it’s made from, and it’s this that should be the most important. As certain fabrics are made from something called micro plasticmeaning the fibres of the material are actually man-made plastics. With each wash of these fabrics, these tiny fibre shred and ultimately end up in our oceans.  300 million tons of plastic is created each year with 8 million tons ending up in our waters and polluting our planet. Now when you delve further, this plastic can affect whole eco-systems in our waters, with these tiny fibres being consumed by fish amongst others.  So, it’s an incredibly lot deeper and important when you read the facts, on choosing the specific material you buy your clothes in.


“Every time you spend your money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” – Anna Lappe”

The most popular types of these synthetic materials (materials made of micro-plastics) found on the rails, up and down the high street include:


They are all made using an incredible amount of energy, water and even tree pulp to create and thus slowly destroy our planet bit by bit.

Of course, this post is not to make you feel guilty for your £20 Zara dress you bought the other day, it’s simply to educated and make you aware of each purchase you make. As fashion brands are continuously ignoring the need to move towards more sustainable fabrics, this partly down to laws still being incredibly vague. But, for fashion brands, the consumer is at the heart of everything they do, so if consumers continuously reject clothing made of these man-made fibres, it then forces change.  Materials to look-out for would be more natural materials, that aren’t as polluting or damaging to the planet. These include:

Organic Cotton
Recycled Materials
(amongst many others)

I plan to write a more in-depth post on the Importance of Sustainable Materials, so to grasp even further the need for change. But, in the meantime, if you are out shopping (at a social distance) for your next new dress or coat, give a couple of minutes thought (or even research) into the materials and the brand in general.  I could go a whole lot deeper into this subject, but I fear it may end up not-to-shy of a dissertation (& I’ve only just submitted one of those). Instead take this post as more of a taster of what is needed. As now more than ever we need to be considering the clothes we wear on our backs, because quite simply the planet cannot currently cope with the sheer amount of unsustainable fabrics we are purchasing, and that needs to be brought to a stop..


Further Reading: https://www.condenast.com/glossary/glossary-introduction

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