Today’s post is on “eco” upholstery fabrics. I’m not going to go into overwhelming details on the potential dangers of using non-eco fabrics for upholstery, but just outline some of the documented evironmental concerns of traditionally manufactured fabrics. The intention of this post is not to scare anyone into buying only eco-fabrics. The fact is, we all would like to do more to protect the planet and make things a little healthier for our loved ones, so if there is a more eco-friendly option available, there certainly is no harm in looking into it.
Most upholstery fabrics available today are made of either cotton or polyester, or at least have a high percentage of those materials in the fabric. Although a renewable resource, cotton fabrics are not, generally speaking, considered to be eco-friendly. This is mostly due to the use of herbicides and pesticides used in cotton farming. On a worldwide scale, for a relatively small percentage of the farming market cotton farming uses a disproportionate amount of herbicides and pesticides. In addition, the manufacturing of the fabric from the cotton itself, uses a lot of water. Not great for water conservation. Polyester fabrics aren’t any better, as they are synthetic and made from petroleum by-products. In addition, the manufacturing processes used to make polyester are rigorous and cause a lot of pollution.
There are some eco-alternatives, but what does it mean to be “eco-friendly” or “green” when it comes to fabric. Of course we like to see a product labeled or marketed as “eco-friendly” or “organic”, because it gives us a sense of comfort. Just like we like to see “light” and “low-fat” on food products…..only to realize there are 8 cups of salt per serving. The point is, it’s important to look at all aspects. A fabric may use cotton grown on an organic farm, but the manufacturing process might negate those benefits. I have done a little research on what constitutes an Eco-friendly upholstery fabric. The best explanation I found was in an article by Mairi Beautyman called “11 Eco Upholstery Textiles Revolutionizing the Global Market” on Treehugger.com. The article outlines 7 basic question you should ask when evaluating an eco-fabric or textile, which are as follows:
- Is it recyclable?
- Is it made of recyclable materials?
- Is it easily biodegradable?
- Is it produced using green manufacturing processes without harmful chemical byproducts?
- Does it follow McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC)’s Cradle to Cradle principals?
- Does the finished product off-gas harmful chemicals having a negative effect on indoor air quality?
- Does the manufacturer have a company-wide sustainability policy?
In addition, there are also third-party certifications, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SmaRT), as well as MBDC noted above. If the fabric is certified by one of these organizations you can bet it has been thoroughly vetted.
So, what companies are offering eco-fabrics and using innovative technologies to do so? There are many, but there are a few companies to note are O Ecotextiles, Oliveira Textiles, Knoll Textiles, Mod Green Pod and Q Collection. These companies either specialize in eco-fabrics, or have a large portfolio of eco-fabrics available. Most of these companies are based in the US, though they can be found in some Canadian stores or be ordered directly. In my research, I didn’t find many Canadian companies that are manufacturing eco upholstery fabrics, with the exception of the Victor Group which is based in Quebec, however, its manufacturing is done in the US. If anyone knows of any please add the infomation in the comments section!
Below are a few eco fabrics that I found that I thought were lovely options for eco-fabric.
Have a great day!