When doing research on fabrics and materials, I wanted to find the ultimate fabric that ticked off all the boxes: durable, comfortable, and most importantly, sustainable.
I always knew that linen and organic cotton were more "sustainable" than other fabrics, but I didn't really find out why until I started Pom & Chi.
I never stopped to think about it, but most fabrics that we use today (think polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex, etc) are made from petroleum. Not only is the extraction of fossil fuels wreaking absolute havoc on our environment, but synthetic fabrics do not break down over time, and contribute to waste in landfills all over the globe. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, each time a synthetic fabric is washed, it releases tiny micro plastics which end up in our oceans and even our food chain. Scientists are now confirming micro plastics are no longer limited to just the oceans - humans are full of them as well.
Are Synthetic Fabrics All Made Equal?
At first, I thought there was no way I was going to make a dog bed with a synthetic fabric. I knew both linen and cotton stemmed from renewable resources (plants) so therefore must be better, right? Well yes. And no.
In order for a dog bed to be sustainable, it also has to be durable. A dog bed that won't last will just be thrown into the trash and contribute to landfill. On the other hand, there are a lot of progressive companies doing some really cool things with recycled plastics. One company I came across is taking plastic water bottles out of our oceans and repurposing them into fabric. Now how cool is that?
I thought a fabric that stemmed from a recycled plastic could be a good choice as I really liked the idea of repurposing plastic that would have otherwise polluted our oceans and landfill. I also thought it would be much more durable than a naturally derived fibre. The downside, however, is that it would still contribute to micro plastics in our oceans every time they went through a wash cycle. And, well, it would still be derived from oil.
Natural Fibres to the Rescue
Despite my original belief that synthetic fabrics must be more durable than natural fabrics, I'm glad to say I was wrong. Choosing linen and organic cotton was an obvious choice. They both come in a range of different fabric weights (the heavier the weight, typically the more durable the fabric), colours, textures, etc.
The more research I did on linen and organic cotton, the more they were set apart from any other fabric choice. There's so much to get into, so let's break down each fabric.
Linen has been around for centuries and has even been dated back as far as 30,000 years ago!
Linen is derived from the stem of the flax plant which is mostly grown in Europe and Asia. It can grow without the use of pesticides, herbicides and is drought tolerant, which means it doesn't require a lot of water to grow. This crop is also incredible at absorbing CO2 from the air.
Sustainable advantages aside, linen also has some additional benefits like the fact that it's moisture wicking, temperature regulating and is hypoallergenic. Linen's moisture resistance also helps lessen chances of bacterial growth (which is perfect for a dog bed).
With a fabric so amazing, you might be asking how there could possibly be any downsides to linen!
While they are minor, linen does have the tendency to wrinkle, as well as shrink if not washed correctly. So proper care is important to maintain this fabric. You can find more information in our care guide here.
100% Organic Cotton
It's important to discuss the differences between 100% organic cotton and conventionally grown cotton.
Conventionally grown cotton is actually considered one of the dirtiest crops on earth, as it requires a lot of insecticides and pesticides to grow. These harsh chemicals pollute our soil, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
100% organic cotton is grown without the use of these chemicals, which then contributes to less pollution and greenhouse gases. In addition, a study found a massive 91% reduction in water consumption for growing organic cotton crops compared to conventional.
In addition to its reduced impact on the environment, organic cotton is a durable, fuss-free fabric that's easy to care for and maintain. It's easier to wash and wrinkles less than linen. So combining both of these materials into one fabric was an obvious choice!
It's impossible to make a perfect item that has zero impact on our environment and is 100% sustainable. All we can do is our best to try and create a product that fits our values.
At Pom & Chi, we still have sustainable goals that we want to meet, such as finding a more sustainable pillow insert option and more organic fabrics for our dog bandanas. Unfortunately, a lot of sustainable materials are not as accessible to small businesses, as they need to be bought in bulk or in high MOQs (minimum order quantities). But with more consumers demanding sustainable options, the possibility for small businesses to access those materials becomes easier and easier every day.
I encourage you to do your own research next time you buy a product and learn about the fabrication process and the materials involved. And if you learned something new, don't hesitate to share it with us in the comments below!