June 21, 2023 8 min read

When it comes to choosing the best sustainable fabrics, the versatility of available options is actually quite impressive. But what makes something sustainable, and how do you know which sustainable materials are the best ones for you? Or & Zon is here to help you learn all about sustainable textiles and what to know before you buy so that you can be sure you’re making the best decision for your well-being, your home, and the environment. Read on to learn more about what makes something a sustainable fabric, and which ones you should know about, as well as some of the least sustainable fabrics on the market today.

What Makes Fabric & Materials Sustainable?

All sustainable textiles follow some important ground rules, so what are the three pillars of sustainability textiles? These three pillars focus on key things: the environment, the economy, and society. Conventional cotton and other non-sustainable materials focus on profit first, which means that these industries aren’t very concerned about what is eco-friendly.

Orezon linen packaging bag Sand Linen Sheets

Your circadian rhythm, AKA your internal clock, is famously responsible for regulating sleep patterns, but did you know it also controls your body temperature? As you wind down for bed, you begin to thermoregulate, which is a fancy way of saying that your core body temperature drops by a few degrees.

There is also quite a lot of textile waste during conventional cotton production, and most unsustainable fabrics use all kinds of toxic chemicals during the production process including bleach, dyes, industrial plastic, and softening chemicals that can be harmful to environmental and human health. The amount of post-consumer waste is also staggering, with almost 15 million tons of waste being produced in the United States alone.

If you’re looking for a sustainable alternative, what are the things that we need to consider in choosing and buying fabrics? First, sustainable material is devoid of any harmful chemicals, and all materials used to make these textiles are farmed without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This minimizes the harm to the ecosystem since these chemicals can get into the air, soil, and water. The use of recycled materials also helps to reduce excess waste.

The most sustainable fabrics also follow the global organic textile standard or GOTS protocol, which certifies that farms, manufacturers, and sustainable brands are following strict guidelines. These eco-friendly fabrics are always grown ethically, ensuring that farmers and workers are treated fairly and provided with a living wage as well as a safe, toxic-free work environment.

12 Sustainable Materials and Fabrics You Should Know About

Blue Linen Textile Light Grey Linen Fabric

Now that you know more about the difference between unsustainable textiles and sustainable textiles, there are several different sustainable alternatives you should know about. Ask yourself, what should be the first thing to consider in buying fabric cloth? Then, read this sustainable fabrics list featuring 12 of the most popular options to consider, whether you’re looking to buy more sustainable clothing, soft organic linen for your bed, or other products that you plan to use on a regular basis.


You’ve probably seen bamboo listed as a natural fiber that can be used to make a variety of products, including sustainable fashion products and bedding. The bamboo plant is highly sustainable, but only when it’s grown the correct way. Bamboo grows quickly, which means that using it instead of conventional options makes it a much more sustainable alternative. However, what really counts is the way that bamboo fabric is produced.

Some companies use an intensive chemical process to transform the plant into fabric, so the finished product ends up being closer to rayon, which is definitely not sustainable or organic. Make sure that the brand of bamboo fabric you choose is using sustainable practices, and that it’s GOTS certified.


This unique recycled fabric is made from waste that includes things like fishing nets and plastic bottles. When it’s finished, Econyl feels very similar to nylon but with significantly less waste thanks to the unique recycling process used to make it.

This environmentally sustainable fabric is a great alternative to many less environmentally friendly materials, but it’s important to note that this fabric can shed microplastics that can potentially end up in our oceans. If you purchase something made of Econyl, use a special washing bag that traps microplastics and keeps them from escaping into the water supply.


This extremely versatile plant is used to make a variety of products including food, cosmetics, building materials, and of course – fabrics. If you’re aiming to purchase sustainable hemp products, make sure that they are listed as organic hemp. Hemp is one of the oldest fibers used to make clothing and has been utilized for centuries.

Hemp is quite a durable fabric, and it tends to get softer the more that it’s washed. When grown, hemp needs very little water and energy, and it requires no pesticides, making it one of the best, most environmentally friendly fabrics available on the market.


Linen is grown from the flax plant and has some properties similar to hemp. When grown organically, this ultra-soft, eco-friendly fabric is not just a great choice for bedding, but linen clothing is also lauded for its soft, lightweight feel, which makes it a popular summer staple. And, when left untreated, linen is also completely biodegradable, and it’s also naturally moth-resistant.

One of the biggest benefits of choosing linen materials is that there is very little waste fabric during the manufacturing process. Because of its low environmental impact, linen is one of the most luxurious materials and the best sustainable choice. It’s also moisture-wicking to help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.


Modal isn’t completely organic, but it is a better and safer sustainable option than silk. Made from beech trees, modal fabric lends an elegant aesthetic to drapey garments like lightweight tops and dresses. While modal is better than some synthetic fabrics, it does require some chemicals to process. Always look for modal fabric that uses fewer carbon emissions, or that is completely carbon neutral to ensure the best level of sustainability.

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is one of the best and most sustainable fabrics available. Organic cotton farming never uses any form of pesticides or other chemicals that could harm the environment, farm workers, and human health as a whole. Instead, organic cotton production is completely natural from start to finish, including the seeds and soil. The natural fibers of organic cotton are soft, breathable, and durable, which makes this material an excellent choice for everything from clothing to bedding.


This unique earth-friendly fabric is made from wood pulp and pineapple, creating a unique leather alternative. Pinatex is made by a company called Ananas Aram and uses a food industry byproduct made from scrap pineapple leaves that would be wasted otherwise. This textile is one of the best sustainable fabrics available, and it also incorporates wood pulp and wood-based resins to make it more durable. This means that Pinatex is completely biodegradable, which makes it an excellent eco-friendly choice.

Reclaimed (Deadstock)

As you think about sustainable fabrics, what do you need to know about sustainable fashion? Using reclaimed or recycled material is one of the best ways to prevent excess waste that causes harm to the environment and ecosystem. Similar to other recycled fabrics, reclaimed fabric is a material that is exclusively used to make new garments using older garments and scraps, vintage clothing, and unsold garments called deadstock.

No processing is required to make reclaimed clothing since the dyes and patterns are already in place. This results in a much lower manufacturing imprint while also keeping clothes out of landfills.

Recycled Polyester

Recycled polyester is made from rPET, a type of raw material that is used to make plastic bottles. Once the raw materials are recycled into textiles, the polyester material is very versatile and can be made in different textures, ranging from thin and lightweight to heavy and substantial. Many activewear brands use recycled polyester instead of new, virgin polyester to provide consumers with more sustainable workout wear.


This luxurious, natural material is compostable and produced by wild or domesticated silkworms. Spider silk is produced by you guessed it – spiders. Another sustainable option is a material called peace silk, which is made by mixing yeast, sugar, and water and utilizes a humane method that is verified under the World Fair Trade Organization Guarantee system. For natural silk, the process must utilize natural breeding conditions for spiders or silkworms without any sprays or insecticides, so that the insects can live safely in their natural environment once the silk is harvested.


Tencel lyocell is trademarked by an Australian manufacturer, Lenzing, and is the most sustainable form of lyocell available. This material is sourced from naturally managed forests using a closed-loop production process. The process reuses almost 100 percent of the water and dissolving agents and is completely transparent about its sourcing and manufacturing processes.


Known for its exceptionally warm properties, wool is another of the most sustainable textiles on the market today. This material is heavy-duty, yet completely biodegradable in its natural form. And, whether it comes from sheep or yaks, wool is ethically sourced and actually helps animals live better lives. Professional farmers care for the animals and remove their thick wool coats, providing a highly sustainable material to make everything from coats and clothing to rugs and more.

Organic beige Bedding

The least sustainable fabrics

Now that you know more about the most sustainable fabrics, here is a list of some of the least sustainable common fabrics sold today.


Unless it’s made from recycled fibers or other recycled materials, true polyester is not biodegradable and can take as much as 20 to 200 years to break down when it enters a landfill. This material is partially derived from oil, a major source of the world’s pollution. It also requires a lot of water to cool the machinery used to make polyester fabric, and it’s often done in areas where water scarcity is also a major issue. Polyester also releases dangerous microplastics into the environment.


Nylon is often used to make stockings, tights, and swimwear, and this non-sustainable fabric is derived from crude oil. No type of nylon is biodegradable, and it can sit in landfills as long as polyester before it breaks down. Nylon is derived from petroleum, one of the most harmful industries and energy formats on the planet. It also releases microplastics both during use and during washing.


You might see acrylic used to make sweaters, gloves, hats, and even area rugs thanks to its warm properties. But acrylic production uses extremely toxic chemicals that harm factory workers, and the main ingredient can also enter the wearer’s body through inhalation and skin contact. Acrylic can also sit in a landfill for up to 200 years and accounts for a pretty big percentage of the world’s microplastics: from 20 to 35 percent.


Unlike organic cotton, traditional cotton uses quite a lot of water and harsh chemicals to grow and produce. While this material is exceptionally soft and breathable, it also causes a lot of issues for humans and the environment as a whole. Not only does it take excess water to produce a small amount of cotton, but the excess water is polluted with an assortment of dues and chemicals that often end up in waterways around the world. Whenever possible, choose certified, 100 percent organic cotton to ensure you’re getting a safe, sustainable material.


Also known as viscose, rayon is made by dissolving cellulose, which is the main part of plant cell walls, into a chemical solution. That solution is spun into threads, and the rayon fabric itself is technically non-toxic and biodegradable. However, how rayon is produced is what causes trouble for the environment. Making rayon releases dangerous chemicals into the air and water, leading to health issues for local communities and workers as well as a variety of animal species.

Blue Percale Organic sheets

Final thoughts on sustainable textiles: What to know before you buy

Remember these tips on sustainable textiles so you know what to look for when buying bedding and clothing. Use the list from this guide to help you select the best, healthiest fabrics for yourself and the environment. At Or & Zon, you’ll find a wide selection of luxurious, organic products including sheet sets and much more, all made with the environment in mind.