Beyond Organic Cotton: Other Eco-Friendlier Textiles and Linens

Lisa Sykes

First, let me say that I love organic cotton–I use it for my bedding at home. However, some spa professionals have shared with me that they shy away from it because they feel it’s expensive, takes a while to dry, and doesn’t hold up well to stains. They’ve asked me for some other recommendations, so in this post I am presenting  a few other choices to fit a variety of budgets, needs, and levels of spa greening.

Extend the life of your existing linens. Wash fabrics in cold water so they will retain their color and strength longer. Use an eco-friendly spot remover or presoak to help loosen grease or stains.

Bamboo is a bit controversial. While it is rapidly renewable, doesn’t require pesticides or fertilizers, and features natural antibacterial/antifungal properties, it involves harsh chemicals to make it into fabric. Further, because most bamboo is grown in China, the ecological cost of transporting it is high.

Hemp is twice as durable as cotton and requires less chemical processing for the appropriate feel and texture for linens.  It’s also inherently antibacterial/antifungal and very breathable. However, hemp has to be imported from other countries because it is illegal to grow it in the United States.

Soy is made using a by-product from soybean oil production.  Soy fabric has a soft feel that drapes well, and like bamboo, it is resistant to bacteria and UV rays. However, do note that the raw materials could come from genetically modified crops.

Microfiber. Yes, that’s right—microfiber! This soft “peachy” fabric dries quickly, resists stains, and is completely recyclable. Microfiber is also extremely durable, which means it won’t need to be replenished as frequently. Bonus: It’s inexpensive!

Eucalyptus. Soft and sustainable, eucalyptus fiber sheets absorb moisture and release it away from the body, creating a cool, dry feel. Eucalyptus blends are labeled as Tencel +Plus™ Lyocell. (More about manufacturing below.)

Tencel® or lyocell is made from wood pulp cellulose. It’s very smooth, similar to the feel of rayon. The manufacturing process to transform wood pulp into lyocell fiber is a “closed loop” method and no bleach is used, which means there’s minimal environmental impact. However, to create fabric from lyocell fiber, chemical processes are used that might not be so eco-friendly.

Third party certified manufacturing processes. The fabric may not be organic cotton or lyocell, but it could be manufactured under strict safety and environmental standards such as Öeko-Tex® or the ISO 14000 series.

Öeko-Tex® (pronounced echo-tex) was developed by the German Textile Industry in 1992. It uses analytical tests to determine the safety of textiles and their manufacturing processes. Its tests include the following: Standard 100 evaluates and screens textiles for their human ecology properties; Standard 100 Plus relates to the finished product which fulfilled the requirements of Standard 100 and was produced on sites carrying the Standard 1000 license; Standard 1000 concerns the production methods and the manufacturing site itself. It makes certain that the textile facility is following environmentally friendly procedures and does not use banned or harmful chemicals during the manufacturing process. 

The ISO 14000 series addresses environmental management. A company that is ISO 14000 certified takes the initiative to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities and continually improves its environmental performance. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that comprises of a network of national standard institutes.

Do you know of any other options? Please share.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>