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Quick Reference Materials Guide

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

by Alex Berryman

The world of sustainable material is wide and ever-changing! But not all materials are created equal. Some are more sustainable than others and there are many ways to evaluate sustainability in material cultivation and production.

We compiled this list of sustainable materials outlining the pros and cons of the raw material cultivation, processing, production, and end-of-life disposal of the material. By no means is this list exhaustive, just a quick reference guide to get the conversation started!

Let's dive in!

Sustainable Material - organic cotton

Organic Cotton

With its farming accounting for 2.5% of the world's arable land and many toxic agents used in its cultivation and production, conventional cotton has the potential to be highly toxic to the land, workers, and consumers. Organic cotton is steadily reintroducing both modern and traditional practices to clean up the supply chain.


  • Organic cotton cultivation uses toxic-free alternatives for pest management and harvest preparation such as sulfur dust; and citric acid, nitrogen, and zinc sulfate respectively.

  • Cultivation techniques incorporate ancestral farming methods such as crop rotation to prevent soil depletion.

  • Cotton can be composted as long it is not blended with any nonbiodegradable materials - once blended with synthetic materials it will have to be recycled or thrown into landfills.


  • Organic cotton cultivation requires A LOT of water - due to a lower yield, organic cotton actually requires more water than conventional cotton.

Things to look out for:

  • GOTS certification on the supplier or product - GOTS was established to ensure safety throughout the cotton supply chain.

Sustainable fabric - linen


Linen is widely considered one of the most sustainable materials on the market. Derived from finely brushed and spun flax, linen is breathable and durable - no wonder humans have been using it since 8,000BC.


  • Flax cultivation consumes 60% less water than traditional cotton, requiring only rainwater for cultivation.

  • Flax can grow in poor soil quality, utilizing land that is too poor in nutrients for food production.

  • Flax has a high rate of carbon absorption, with 2.1 tons of carbon is absorbed per 1 ton of flax produced.

  • Widely produced as 100% linen, the final product can be recycled or composted very easily at the end of its life.


  • Harsh chemicals and bleaches are required to achieve a white color.