Recyclable materials are difficult to make

Ethical materials

What are actually sustainable fabrics?

Here, sustainability not only stands for the long-lasting quality of textiles, but in particular for the material and energy used in their manufacture and the effects of the various processes on nature and the environment. In addition, other moral considerations come into play when we take into account the manner in which animals are kept using animal fibers and the working conditions for people in the textile industry.

The central question is always about that raw materialthat is used. The further processing can vary from fabric to fabric, while the basic material can already be a clear indication of how sustainable a fabric is. Accordingly, this has a natural or a synthetic origin:

There is a tendency to say: the less the fabrics are treated (finished or lavishly dyed), i.e. ever more natural and more natural the materials are and the shorter the transport routes, the more sustainable the material itself is. In the case of raw material cultivation and extraction as well as in the processing industry, it also comes down to the No toxic chemicals and on if possible natural dyeing, tanning and cleaning processes at. The credible one gives a clear clue Certification of fabrics along the entire value chain through the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or IVN Best, which set the highest standards for natural materials.

Currently almost 60% of world fiber production is in synthetic fiber sector to locate. In fact, that means: we carry a lot of petroleum-based plastic. The mixture of natural and man-made fibers too Mixed fibers or in a mixed fabric often has a practical function, but is neither degradable nor compostable, nor can it be easily recycled. It is particularly worrying that of the 70 million tons of fibers that are produced and consumed around the world every year, the raw materials that are considered sustainable alternatives (such as linen, hemp, organic cotton, organic wool, etc.) are negligible. The fast conventional mass production mainly uses cheap, unfairly traded and environmentally harmful raw materials for cost reasons.

There is never the perfect choice and it depends on the requirements - every material or raw material has its advantages and disadvantages and its peculiarities. In order to do justice to the complexity of the question of ethical substances, we are gradually introducing each material in a detailed article, which is linked on this briefly summarized overview page. Generally ours is Focus on the more sustainable alternatives to conventional cotton and to synthetic man-made fibers such as polyester and acrylic, which are made from petroleum and are not biodegradable.



Linen is a robust and long-lasting product of the bast fiber flax and therefore a natural cellulose fiber. Flax can be grown in the European climate, is not very demanding as a plant and is more sustainable than the popular cotton.

PROPERTIES: crease-prone, inelastic, insensitive to lint, robust, tear-resistant, hard-wearing, durable, not susceptible to dirt and bacteria, antistatic, little air inclusion (summer fabric), natural shine
MAINTENANCE: Hand wash with little friction and iron with a damp cloth or hang dry, do not machine dry
MORE SUSTAINABLE VARIANT: Organic linen from controlled organic cultivation (k.b.A.)


Hemp fibers are cellulose fibers obtained from the bast of the hemp plant. For a long time, the robust, long-lasting fiber played a key role in clothing production, until it was supplanted by cotton and other natural fibers. Hemp can be grown in the European climate, is comparatively less demanding and a sustainable fiber in itself.

PROPERTIES: robust, durable, inelastic, rather coarse, tear-resistant, pest-resistant, dirt-repellent, possibly waterproof, susceptible to friction, low impact on the environment
MAINTENANCE: preferably liquid detergent, do not machine dry
MORE SUSTAINABLE VARIANT: Organic hemp from controlled organic cultivation (k.b.A.)


The cotton plant is a cultivated plant from the mallow family. The popular and most widely used natural fiber comes from the plant's fine seed hair. It only grows in subtropical and tropical areas. Particularly problematic is the high water consumption (in each case related to the cultivation areas), as well as the high susceptibility to pests against which pesticides are used.

PROPERTIES: versatile, easy to care for, susceptible to dirt, slow drying, somewhat elastic, easily inflammable, susceptible to microorganisms, durable, relatively robust
MAINTENANCE: depending on the fabric; usually unproblematic, hot washable up to 90 degrees
Organic cotton from controlled organic cultivation (k.b.A.)
CRAiLAR Flax (flax fibers, haptically similar to cotton, but more environmentally friendly)


The protein-based animal hair from sheep is produced worldwide through breeding. There are large farms mainly in Australia and New Zealand. The space requirement is very high in relation to the shorn wool. In addition, the methane emissions from the animals should not be underestimated. Yet the properties of wool are unique. Depending on the quality and processing, wool is versatile and very durable.

PROPERTIES: durable, elastic, long-fiber, malleable, not susceptible to creasing, feltable, not very tear-resistant, light, warming, heat-insulating, air-enclosing, easy coloring, quick-drying, dirt-repellent, non-flammable, odor-repellent, self-cleaning, neutralizing (sweat), prone to pilling, can scratch
MAINTENANCE: airing instead of washing is often enough; sensitive to heat when washing; Gentle cycle with wool detergent (dry knitwear as flat as possible)
SUSTAINABLE VARIANT: Organic wool from controlled organic animal husbandry (k.b.T.)


Animal hair from mohair or cashmere goats, yak cattle or camels cannot be obtained in large quantities, which is why it is more likely to be found in exclusive and high-priced areas. The animals need grazing land and emit methane, but this often only happens in relatively small farms and in areas that are especially suitable for this and that can only be used for other purposes to a limited extent. Depending on the fiber, the animal is shorn or even combed out. Angora, in particular, has fallen into disrepute, as rabbits are plucked under catastrophic conditions in China.

PROPERTIES: light, warming, soft, high quality, durable, feltable, protein-based, easy to color
MAINTENANCE: Hand wash, special detergent if necessary, dry knitwear lying flat if possible, do not machine-dry
Animal hair from controlled organic animal husbandry (k.b.T.)
Alpaca (camel from South America)


The thread is unreeled and spun from the cocoon of the silkworm.
The protein-based fibers are extremely long, fine and natural. The main country of origin of the very high-quality material is China. As a rule, the caterpillars are killed during harvest so that they do not eat the long thread when hatching (except for the Peacesilk, since here they are allowed to hatch before harvest).

PROPERTIES: extremely long fibers, fine, soft, light, firm, insulating, little susceptible to creasing, particularly brilliant color fastness, sensitive to heat, versatile, low impact on the environment
MAINTENANCE: Hand wash, silk / mild detergent, rinse well, if necessary rinse with a little vinegar, do not wring out, do not iron with hot iron
Organic silk from controlled organic animal husbandry (k.b.T.)
or non-violent silk, also known as Peace Silk
Wild silk / tussah silk

LEATHER or fur fur

The natural material used and popular for various products is animal hide that has been chemically preserved through tanning, the natural fiber structure of which is largely preserved. The production of leather is one of the oldest crafts of mankind, but in modern, conventional mass production it is very questionable and problematic - in many ways: Not only are the end products often contaminated with toxic chemicals, but also the environmental and health pollution in the manufacturing countries, especially in Asian low-wage countries are serious. In addition, the moral question of animal welfare is largely neglected and vegans generally answer by renouncing shoes and accessories made of leather. As long as there is industrially supplied meat consumption, animal hides also arise as waste products that still have a use.

PROPERTIES: supple, tough, relatively (tear) resistant, durable, versatile, relatively water-repellent, yet breathable, warming
MAINTENANCE: Careful leather care (cleaning, greasing, polishing, impregnating) in order to keep the natural water and fat content in balance, if necessary seek advice
Vegetable-naturally tanned / dyed organic leather (exclusively from waste from the food industry) from controlled organic animal husbandry (k.b.T.)
Salmon leather (from waste from the food industry) from sustainable fisheries
Piñatex ™ (material with a leather look / feel made from pineapple leaves) by ananas anam

VISCOSE - Chemical fiber made from natural polymers

The innovations in cellulose-based synthetic fibers are numerous and difficult to overlook. Basically, the materials are based on the chemical dissolution of cellulose from various trees or plants, such as beech or bamboo. So-called filaments (continuous fibers) are then spun from the spinning mass, which are then processed into textiles. There are more and more attempts to make energy-intensive production more sustainable, but every fiber will have to be analyzed and questioned individually in the future as well. Bio-based polyester, for example, is being developed, but unfortunately there is still no alternative to petroleum-based elastane, which is used for the flexible stretchability of skinny jeans, underwear, swimwear and socks.

PROPERTIES: versatile, feel depending on the material between silk and cotton
MAINTENANCE: Laundry generally unproblematic, machine washable at 30 °, machine drying possible
Soy viscose
Eucalyptus viscose
Bamboo silk
Lyocell fibers such as Tencel® (made from FSC-certified eucalyptus and European beech wood) from Lenzing or Monocel® (made from FSC-certified bamboo) from Monocel AS
Modal fibers such as Modal Edelweiß® from Lenzing
Seacell ™ from Smartfiber AG
Milk fibers


These terms mean fabrics made from recyclable and / or recycled fibers. At best, these can be returned "from cradle to cradle" as biological substances in biological cycles or continuously reused as technical substances in technical cycles. The ideal type would be, for example, a shoe that is manufactured in such a way that a new shoe can be produced from it as a whole. The prerequisite for this is the purity of the material. A mix of materials leads to so-called 'downcycling', whereby a completely different and rather inferior product is created from the original product. The opposite of this is called 'upcycling', with which a higher-quality end product is often created from scraps of material or waste through craftsmanship. There is still a lot to discover in this relatively new area of ​​innovative and sustainable product design. For example, it is relevant how high the energy consumption is in processes of fiber production from used PET bottles and whether they actually do not cause any further environmental damage or the question of whether plastic should not be banned from our earth as a matter of principle.

Tyvek® (100% recyclable, breathable and easy-care nonwoven made of polyethylene)
infinito® yarns and reworx® textiles (biodegradable mixtures of natural and synthetic polymers) from Lauffenmühle GmbH & CO. KG
BOOMETEX® Recycled Polyester Fabric by Formosa Taffeta Co., Ltd.
Bionic DPX (100% Recycled PET) from Return Textiles, LLC
Use PET from Christian Fischbacher Co. AG
Eco Intelligent® (from Victor Innovatex)
Returnity® (from Dutch aWEARness)
YKK NATULON® zippers
ECO CIRCLE ™ Fibers / Closed-Loop recycling system for polyester fibers from Teijin in Japan
Climatex® / Dualcycle (web technologies from Gessner AG)
Econyl® (Recycled Fishing Nets)
Regenerated fiber Re: newcell (Lyocell process)
Dutch aWEARness (sustainable textiles for reincarnation)
antimony-free materials
Bionic Yarn / G-Star RAW Denim made from recycled plastic from the oceans