Sustainable Textiles: Who’s Eco-Friendliest?

At Niche Interiors we are always looking for environmentally responsible products. This week I was on the hunt for an upholstery fabric for a custom sofa made entirely of sustainable and non-toxic products. The options were slim and confusing. Natural, organic, eco, green, friendly, conscious…Yikes!

Looking for an eco-friendly fabric is difficult especially since there is no explicit definition of the term. I looked at three fabrics in particular and explored how they are “friendly”. I found some great qualities in each, but their environmental footprints vary.

Brentano is a textile company that has a growing line of eco-friendly fabrics. They caught my eye because they are incorporating new fiber content such as wools and bamboo into their eco-line. Brentano also has an eco-friendly faux leather line, which is hard to find since most faux leathers are made of PVC. The faux leather shown here is made of degradable polyurethane, has a low level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the pigments comply with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and is made in an environmentally managed facility. Compared with other faux leathers, which are made from harmful PVC, this one pleased me in terms of degradability and consumer health but misses the mark on recycled content (overall life-cycle) and natural materials versus manmade.

Mod Green Pod enticed me with their fun patterns and vibrant colors, but at a closer glance I was especially pleased with their thoroughness in producing an overall healthy product for the environment and the consumer. They print with non-toxic pigments on 100% certified organic cotton, which is grown in the United States. Furthermore, the end product is not treated with any stain resistants or other harmful chemicals. Also, the location of the fabrics’ production should be a factor in its “friendliness” rating. A fabric traveling from far away uses that much more in resources to arrive at our homes. Mod Green Pod has appropriately incorporated this into the eco-friendliness of their products.

Calvin Fabrics has simplified the whole thing by speaking to the natural origin of its eco-friendly line. Their “Eco-Linen” is made from the flax plant, which is a sustainable resource with many purposes from fabric to insulation. Not only is it a natural resource, it requires no irrigation, is easy to rotate and the remnants can be repurposed for products such as fiberboard. Plus, Calvin’s mills are working to eliminate waste and use even less energy and water to produce its linens. The downside here is little variation: You won’t find an assortment of patterns and texture in this line, it looks like is sounds – natural.

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