More and more people, from professional designers to DIYers are increasingly looking for environmentally friendly, sustainable upholstery that has a minimal impact on the earth. They want their space to look good, but not if it comes at the expense of the planet. So, they are moving toward more natural fabrics that are also recycled, repurposed, not carbon, water, or energy-intensive, nor use toxic dyes, or chemicals, in either the processing or the finishing.
Here are some popular eco-friendly, Mother Nature ‘approved’ upholstery fabrics:
Cotton is a natural, plant-based textile. It is the most well known for its comfort, breathability, and widespread availability. Organic cotton is a more ecologically sound option than traditional cotton, as it is grown without toxic, or synthetic chemicals. Both, however, have many different weaves and weights suitable for a variety of fashion and home décor applications.
Linen is a natural, flax-based textile. It is predominantly used for homeware applications. Linen is a sturdy fabric that has inherent antibacterial properties and is also biodegradable. Linen is also less water-intensive than most other fabrics.
Bamboo is a natural, tenacious textile, and is a highly renewable plant. It has inherent antibacterial properties, breathes well, and is also biodegradable. Bamboo growth and regrowth are astoundingly high so it is considered a very eco-friendly option, however, in order to get the soft, supple hand it is known for, it must be processed with chemicals.
Hemp fabric is made from the fibers in the herbaceous plant of the species Cannabis Sativa. It’s a high-yield crop that produces significantly more fiber per acre than either cotton or flax. It is a renewable resource that can be cultivated in as little as 100 days and is the world’s most versatile fiber. Hemp is also 10 times stronger than cotton and is hypoallergenic.
Wool is renewable, fire-resistant, and doesn’t need chemicals to process it. Look for chlorine-free wool from ethically treated animals to reduce your impact on the earth and the animal. Organic wool is increasingly more popular because it certifies the eco-friendly conditions in which it was both raised and processed.
Silk is a natural protein fiber, which is woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. Silk is breathable, light, elegant and a high-end textile used in both apparel and upholstery.
This synthetic fabric is made from other cast-off polyester fabric, broken down into fibers that are reused to create new polyester. This process creates less waste and less energy needed to manufacture any new fabric. Recycled polyester fabrics can be part (a blended %) or wholly (100% PET). Check the label for clarification.
RPET takes plastic that would otherwise end up in the landfill, breaks it down, and repurposes it into a wearable or useable fabric. This process greatly reduces waste, and energy and rids the environment of a major contributor to ecological pollution.
Recycled leather is leather, but the second time around – and given a second life. The original leather is put back into the supply chain, by being broken down and repurposed into a new leather by-product. Reducing the amount of new fabric or leather is considered an “ecologically friendly” practice in general because it reduces overall energy consumption comparatively.
Vinyl is a synthetic fabric as it does not contain any leather, which is derived from animals, and has a large carbon footprint to raise. Vinyl or ‘faux leather’ is also Vegan and animal friendly – so it is a beloved, humane alternative for eco-conscious consumers.
Regardless of which fabric you choose, if you treat and maintain your upholstery well, it will guarantee its longevity and lifespan – reducing your consumption in the long term. And when you choose to reupholster a couch, rather than buy a new one, you automatically reduce your carbon footprint.