Fibers & Fabrics: Defining and Describing their Effects on the Environment




Greetings to all, and thank you for continuing your journey with us!


Karen: We provide listeners with practical and actionable nuggets of information to start initiating behavioral changes towards healthier and more sustainable living. Each episode has one eco-conscious topic and then we share three thoughtful options that you, our listeners, can choose that work for where you are in your conscious/sustainable lifestyle journey. Taking small and simple steps together will make a big impact. Let's show Mother Earth how much we love and appreciate her.


Hi, I’m Karen. I consider myself a newbie to conscious living. I’m excited about discovering this world and all that it has to offer. I look forward to not only learning more about how I can make a personal positive impact on the environment and world around me, but how I can help others find their path toward making conscious choices they can easily do and maintain.


Jenny: Hi, I’m Jenny. I consider myself an Eco-mom. Since the time my kids were little, and they are not so little anymore, with one of them just turning 18 and the other 15 ½!. It was my mission as a mom to learn all that I could about healthy food and safe products to give to my kids. In the beginning, I had the company of only a few, but a lot has changed since then. More families have become aware of the positive impacts of a conscious lifestyle; which has helped it become more socially acceptable to make Conscious Choices. I look forward to supporting each other one tiny Conscious Choice at a time.


Karen: How did Conscious Choice get started? Back in the Fall of 2019, Jenny and I met at a professional conference in San Francisco. It was there that we exchanged business cards and started following each other on FB. After a few weeks, I posted on my FB page something about stepping into a sustainable lifestyle…. Within moments, Jenny responded, asking if we could connect by phone.


Jenny: You know the feeling when everything just falls into place? That is what was beginning to happen with Karen and me. And as they say, the rest is history!


Karen: Our podcast can be found on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart, and on social channels - IG, FB, LinkedIn, YouTube...so go find us - Conscious Choice Podcast!


Jenny: Conscious Choice: The Podcast provides listeners with practical and actionable nuggets of information to start initiating behavioral changes towards healthier and more sustainable living. Each episode has one eco-conscious topic and then we share three thoughtful options that you, our listeners, can make that work for where you are in your conscious/sustainable lifestyle journey. Taking small and simple steps together will make a big impact. Let's show Mother Earth how much we love and appreciate her. With Hugs & Heart, let’s begin!


Here is a summary of our three Conscious Choices for our topics:


  1. Buy less new petroleum-based products/synthetic fibers, like polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex. If one needs something petroleum-based, buy it secondhand, first.

  2. Rather than tossing or donating clothing, try repairing or re-purposing your items. This is a great way to keep the garment out of the landfill.

  3. Resist purchasing from Fast Fashion retailers. Start by resisting for 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and then 6 weeks. Before you know it, you’ll have set your mind to a new behavior!


To better understand we’re working with, let’s first establish the difference between a thread and a fabric.


According to Kade & Vos (kadevos.com), a thread or filament from which a vegetable tissue, mineral substance, or textile is formed.


Fibers naturally occur in both plants and animals. More than half of the fibers produced are natural fibers, and include cotton, hair, fur, silk, and wool. Other fibers are manufactured, and those two types are regenerated fibers and synthetic fibers.


Regenerated fibers are made from natural materials by processing these materials to form a fiber structure. Also called cellulosics, regenerated fibers are derived from the cellulose in cotton and wood pulp. Rayon and acetate are two common regenerated fibers.


Synthetic fibers are made entirely from chemicals, and are usually stronger than either natural or regenerated fibers. Synthetic fibers and the regenerated acetate fiber are thermoplastic, meaning they are softened by heat, therefore allowing manufacturers to add shape at high temperatures, including pleats and creases. Synthetic fibers will melt if touched with too hot an iron. The most widely used kinds of synthetic fibers are nylon (polyamide), polyester, acrylic, and olefin.


Fabric is the cloth produced by weaving or knitting textile fibers. Some well-known examples of fabrics are:


  • Denim

  • Rib Knit

  • Fleece

  • Velvet

  • Lace

  • Jersey Knit

  • Satin

  • Crepe

  • Chambray

  • Organza

  • Taffeta


To dig into the subject of how the manufacturing and use of these fibers and fabrics affect our planet, we found an incredible resource, The Carbon Cycle (carboncycle.org)

This institute explains that he Earth’s carbon cycle is the biogeochemical exchange of carbon between the earth’s five main physical “spheres”—atmosphere, biosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.


Human activity—including burning of fossil fuels, but also the “mining” of our soils—has radically altered carbon’s movement between these spheres, resulting in large net increases in carbon in both the atmosphere and hydrosphere, with consequent negative impacts on global climate and biological systems.


We kept looking for information on the carbon cycle, and found Carbon Cycle Science: “Carbon flows between each reservoir in an exchange called the carbon cycle, which has slow and fast components. Any change in the cycle that shifts carbon out of one reservoir puts more carbon in the other reservoirs. Changes that put carbon gases into the atmosphere result in warmer temperatures on Earth.”


To translate that info to how the fashion industry is affecting the planet, we landed on a Wikipedia page, Environmental impact of fashion, which stated that the fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion all contribute to differing forms of environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil pollution. The textile industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world. Some of the main factors that contribute to this industrial caused pollution are the vast overproduction of fashion items, the use of synthetic fibers, and the agriculture pollution of fashion crops.

When textile clothing ends up in landfills the chemicals on the clothes, such as the dye, can cause environmental damage by leaching the chemicals into the ground. The excess waste also contributes to the issue of using so many sites just to store waste and garbage. When unsold clothes are burned, it releases CO2 into the atmosphere. As per a World Resources Institute report, 1.2 billion tons of CO2 is released in the atmosphere per year by fast fashion industry. In 2019, it was announced that France was making an effort to prevent companies from this practice of burning unsold fashion items.


Fast fashion brands are not necessarily creating pieces to last a long time, with over 60 percent of the fabric used being synthetics. These synthetic fibers end up in landfills, with 85 percent of textile waste in the United States unable to decay.



Karen: to address our 2nd option, mending or repairing items, I’d like to mention a great book, Conscious Closet, by Elizabeth Cline, along with a quote (quote by EC on theCut.com):




You’ll notice that the book is not really geared toward buying. It’s about recognizing quality. It’s about building a wardrobe and loving what you’ve got. It’s about mending your clothes. It’s about sustainable laundry techniques. There’s space between individual actions and structural change, and I think it’s culture that’s in the middle. The culture is these habits and rituals and customs that we develop, that need to exist outside of buying.”


I am seamstress, and have been one for as long as I can remember. Before anything gets permanently removed from my closet, I look for some way to preserve, repair or change it. Ripped seams are the easiest, lost buttons can be replaced, even if I have to change them all. I can even replace a zipper, but that’s a little more difficult.


And if you think you don’t have time to deal with any of that? A movie on Netflix (or binge-watching shows, like I do), takes at least 90 minutes. You can make a lot of repairs or changes in that time, just by sitting and relaxing.


I also recognize that mending lost its appeal starting in the late 70’s and 80’s…and then in the 90’s and 2000’s when fast fashion took over the scene, it became almost unheard of. I fell prey to it - even making my clothes became more expensive then replacing them. I wasn’t yet aware of the impact that all of this was having on the environment, but I do now.


A fun new trend in mending now is to not even be concerned with it looking perfect. Using a contrast color thread, or adding a patch some sort of adornment to facilitate the repair, has become en vogue. One such example is Visiblemending.com- they turn garments into new pieces of art with repairs, and it’s beautiful.


Tailoring can bring a garment back to life. Trends change, and many pieces can easily survive with a minor shape modification, removal of adornment, or maybe even a major change - so find yourself a talented tailor, and you’ll be set.


There’s also the utility of mending and the creativity from mending. Sashiko is a traditional Japanese embroidery. The style is comprised of geometric and linear patterns, which viewed from afar look complex and intricate. This style of visible mending was mostly used in Japan to repair kimonos. The embroidery served two purposes: to reinforce the worn area of the clothing and to make the area attractive. It’s a simple technique that doesn’t take any special tools.



Jenny:As a Review/Summary - our 3 Conscious Choices in response to our topic of “Fibers & Fabrics: Defining and Describing their Effects on the Environment”:


  1. Buy less new synthetic products, like polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex. If one needs something synthetic, buy it secondhand, first.

  2. Rather than tossing or donating clothing, try mending, repairing or re-purposing your items. This is a great way to keep the garment out of the landfill.

  3. Resist purchasing from Fast Fashion retailers. Start by resisting for 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and then 6 weeks. Before you know it, you’ll have set your mind to a new behavior!

We have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.” - Emma Watson


Emma is a an actor from the Harry Potter world, and a very vocal advocate of sustainable fashion, a supporter of a website called GoodOnYou.eco. I highly recommend that anyone who wants to purchase sustainable fashion products, this website has thousands of verified eco- and sustainable fashion brands. I’m going to go there and learn as much as I can, I love this concept, and it’s an all-in-one spot. If there is a brand you’re thinking about, just log it in and read where it stands in the sustainable platform.


Karen and Jenny: Thanks again for “listening”…tell 10 friends, and they’ll tell 10 friends…and sooner than we know, we’ll all be living more sustainable life!




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© 2020 by KAREN K. BANNISTER INTERNATIONAL LLC.