top of page

7 Alternative Sustainable Fabrics

by Sonja Kraft

The damages inflicted by the garment industry, both environmentally and socially, cannot be ignored. At Purnaa, we are committed to working on our long-term sustainability strategies to ensure we do not use materials harmful to people or the environment. Here are seven different types of sustainable fabric that you may not have been aware of before.

Bamboo as a sustainable material source


Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, it requires less than 1/3 the amount of water to grow than is necessary for cotton with one acre of bamboo yielding 10 times more than an acre of cotton. Bamboo fabric is said to have many positive attributes, which make it a popular alternative to cotton; among them antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties.

Organic Cotton sustainable material source

Organic Cotton

Conventional cotton uses around 16% of the world’s insecticides; it takes around 20,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of cotton making it incredibly harmful to the environment and puts pressure on the earth’s natural resources. Organic cotton on the other hand is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment; it is grown without the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. This means that it is safer for farmers, their families and communities as they are not exposed to harmful substances. Organic cotton is 80% rain-fed; it conserves and uses water more efficiently than traditional methods.

Sustainable Leather

Chrome-Free Vegetable-Tanned Leather

The chromium salt tanning system is the most popular way to tan leather, around 90% of the world’s leather is tanned using this process, yet this traditional method is very harmful to the environment. This type of tanning produces chromium waste, which if not treated properly, can end up polluting water sources for communities in developing countries. Added to this, chrome-tanned leather is not biodegradable. Vegetable tanning is the traditional way of tanning leather, it is more time and labor-intensive than chromium tanning and therefore is more expensive. Being an entirely organic material, vegetable-tanned leather will change over time, it will grow softer and darker and will eventually be bio-degradable.

Hemp as a sustainable material source


Hemp fiber is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant species; it makes an incredibly durable and versatile fabric that can be used in all kinds of products. It uses around half the water needed to produce conventional cotton and yields twice as much fiber per acre as cotton. Similar to bamboo, hemp doesn’t require pesticides or chemicals to grow. Hemp fabric actually softens over time and is stronger than cotton. Un-dyed it can have a natural and earthy texture; alternatively it can be blended and dyed for a smoother finish.

Pineapple as a sustainable material source


Pineapple fiber, also called Piña, is a strong cobweb-like fiber taken from the leaves of the pineapple plant that can be used as an alternative to leather. It is usually white or cream in color. The fiber is stripped from the leaves, sun-bleached, hand knotted and spun. The recovery of this fiber is very minimal so it can take several months to gather enough to produce just a few pounds of Piña.

Milk as a sustainable source


To create milk fabric, liquid milk is dried and the proteins are extracted. The proteins are then dissolved into a chemical solution and put into a machine that spins the fibers together. After this the fibers can be spun into yarn or woven into fabric. Milk fabric has many benefits including, it holds dye well, is breathable and captures moisture to make skin smooth after wearing it.

Banana as a sustainable material source


Banana trees have been used for making fabric for many years. Banana fabric, or jusi, is made from the stem that is left in the garden after a banana harvest. Different layers of the stem create different fibers. The outer layers are mainly used for items such as tablecloths, whereas the inner layers create fine, silky fabric. Banana fabric is made in only a few places in Southeast Asia.


bottom of page