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Expert’s Corner – Organic Fabrics

O Ecotextiles – Hardy Hemp

Welcome to the first blog from the “Expert’s Corner”. What are the professionals talking about?

O Ecotextiles was generous enough to sponsor On the Green Road with upholstery fabric for our couch.  These 2 sisters know what they are talking about. Patty and Leigh Anne founded this company to make the whole world safer while making our personal environments more beautiful.

After forming O Ecotextiles in 2004, they began a world-wide search for manufacturing partners interested in a cradle-to-cradle process of creating no-impact, perfectly safe, incredibly luxurious fabrics.

Now back to our “organic” lesson.  When shopping, look for “organic” fabrics, not just fabrics made from organic fiber.  There is a big difference between an organic cotton bedsheet and an organic bedsheet.  What is the difference?  The fiber, organic cotton, may have been raised with regard to health and safety of the planet and people; but the production of the fabric made  from that cotton was not.

There are many steps in the production of fabric AFTER the fiber stage.  Textile production steps can include carding, retting, scouring, bleaching, spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, and finishing. These steps use a lot of two things: chemicals and water.  It’s like applesauce:  You can take organic apples, but if you  add red dye 32, stabilizers, BHT, etc., you do not end up with organic applesauce. One yard of organic cotton fiber conventionally processed into fabric contains 73% organic cotton fibers  and 27% chemicals, many of which are proven toxic to humans and animals.

Next – why is water treatment important?

Water is used at every stage in fabric manufacturing: to dissolve chemicals to be used in one step, then to wash and rinse out those same chemicals to be ready for the next step. It takes between 10% and 100% of the weight of the fabric in chemicals to produce that fabric.  The production of the fabric covering your sofa required between 4 and 20 pounds of chemicals.   The chemically infused effluent – saturated with dyes, de-foamers, detergents, bleaches, optical brighteners, equalizers and many other chemicals –  is often released into the local river, where it enters the groundwater and our food chain.  The textile industry is the #1 industrial polluter of fresh water on the planet, and this chemical degredation contributes disproportionately to dead zones in oceans, desertification and reduction of species diversity, to name but a few problems.

How can you make a difference?

1.  Choose fabrics that are “organic fabrics” not simply fabric made from organic fibers.

2.  If organic fabrics are not available, insist on organic fibers , and pay attention to the type of fiber used in the fabric. Buy “bast” or other more eco-friendly fibers – in their natural retted state rather than in regenerated cellulosic form – , not cotton or synthetics.

3.  Try to minimize your purchase of fabrics which are blends of natural and synthetic fibers  (i.e., cotton and polyester), or blends of two or more different synthetic fibers (polyester and acrylic) because they cannot be either composted or recycled.

4.  Search for a fabric or product that is certified by any third party, independent textile certification agency.

5.  Pay attention to the carbon footprint of the fabrics you buy. Currently, this can only be done at the most basic level, since there does not yet exist a credible method to evaluate a fabric’s carbon footprint.

6.  Keep yourself educated on the progress of the eco-textile community.

More info at




  1. This was well written and and very helpful. Thanks – now I know how to look for greener fabrics!

  2. This is a nice edition to the site – it will be good to read articles/opinions of the folks that sponsored you.. the pros. It’s all about educating people, right?

  3. Hi Joan and Josh –

    Thanks for your words… yes Josh it is about educating folks and putting good quality info. out there in people’s hands!

  4. Great post. I’m jealous, jealous, jealous. Love what you are doing – wish I could do it too. Great idea covering all these different topics too with info. from your sponsors. Good luck.

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