South Central WI Archive
  • South Central Wisconsin
  • April 2011
Written by  Gwen Seidl

Understanding what eco-friendly fabric means

The trends of the future pay homage to the past by echoing Lois Sullivan’s expression "form follows function" circa 1896. Right now there is an explosion of popularity in all things environmentally friendly. As the trend is quickly becoming a lifestyle choice, there are some questions to be answered about the textile industry. What makes a fabric eco-friendly? How eco-friendly is the fabric? Do these fabrics and practices follow the current design trends? What does this mean for consumers who are looking to be green?

The less damaging the process of producing a fabric, the more eco-friendly it becomes.

Design for the Environment ( is a concept aimed at reducing the overall impact a product has on the environment by following it from raw material to its disposal (either being recycled or refurbished) deeming it eco-friendly. The materials and processes used must not harm the environment or the people involved in the process. There is minimum usage (if any) of chemicals and pesticides, conservation of water by reusing it, and the use of recycled materials. Once produced, the fabric is ready to be packed and shipped. Being mindful of all usable packing space and the use of packaging materials is key. As the life of the fabric ends, thinking shifts to how to reuse or recycle it. If the fabric has few materials when it was being produced, the more likely it is to be recycled or biodegrade.

There are many variations on what makes a fabric eco-friendly or organic. Organic fabrics must use sustainable farming practices. The field used to grow cotton, for example, must be free of any chemicals or pesticides for at least 3 years before the first organic crop is planted. There are also barriers put in place around the field to protect it from the runoff of neighboring fields. Be sure to check the green statement on the fabric. There are many factors that make the fabric comply with the industry’s green standards.

Not that long ago, when we thought of organic or eco-friendly fabrics, we thought of plain or un-dyed fabrics and fibers. Times are changing. Today, organic and eco-friendly fabrics come in an array of colors, patterns and textures that parallel the current market trends. Organic cotton, silk, and linen are beautiful, they feel great and have a place in many rooms of a home.

The current interior design styles project an earthy feel, achieved by adding color and texture through the use of draperies, shades, pillows, bedding, and furniture. By adding a new color to your existing pallet you can update your room. We are seeing a trend to both warm and cool grays with bold pops of color (greens, yellows, blues, to name a few) against a neutral backdrop. Silk drapery panels are classic and in a bedroom with a new cotton duvet cover and bright vibrant pillows, your room will be transformed. Tans are being paired with gold, brown or gray with purple, and burnt orange for color and interest. The warmth and texture of a bamboo shade on a window would add dimension to this color palate.

Whatever you are dreaming of doing in your home, eco-friendly and organic fabrics have a place in it. Incorporating the use of color and texture through draperies, shades, pillows, bedding and furniture is ideal. It is economical and a great way to start going green.

As we head into the future, our world is becoming more conscious of the carbon footprint we create. The impact each one of us has on this earth is real. Being aware of the environment and how to protect it is a step in the right direction. By using and purchasing products that adhere to the standard of green living, we are making our world better one footprint at a time.

Gwen Seidl, an interior design consultant, has been working in the design field for the past 8 years. She began her career creating window displays and selling high-end furniture. Presently she is expanding her resume to include designing custom window treatments and choosing fabrics for furniture re-upholstery. Gwen loves the challenge of small spaces and incorporates current furnishings to create a new look.

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