Is interest in sustainability growing in the quilting, home sewing, and crafting markets?

Interest in sustainability in the quilting, home sewing, and crafting markets continues to grow. Fabric stores devoted to zero waste by selling deadstock, scraps, vintage fabrics, patterns, notions, and more are showing up in force. Artists across the world see the need to help the environment and continue to offer clever solutions to the market. Ingenious makers are crafting buttons from plastic soda bottle caps, garment designers are creating patterns with zero waste in mind, and some designers are making clothing and art from textile waste. Many designers offer pdf patterns and some have moved to entirely online platforms. FSC papers and biodegradable “plastic” pattern bags are increasingly seen on artists’ pages, as well as designers that give money to environmental causes. Younger generations that are passionate about the environment have begun to sew more and more, especially on the heels of COVID-19, are looking to us to help heal the earth so generations to come can thrive. Sustainability is part of their identity.

Companies such as re:newcell, Worn Again Technologies, and Blue Jeans Go Green are recycling discarded textiles to produce new and different substrates using cleaner technologies. Consumer demand for organic materials continues to rise, and the number of certifications and standards available for companies to meet environmental and social measures continue to show up on sustainability pages on company websites worldwide. Consumers are engaged more and willing to support companies that are taking steps towards sustainability. In fact, according to a study at the NYU Stern Business School, “third-party certified sustainability-marketed products significantly outgrew sustainable products that had sustainable messaging, but no third-party certification”. 

Are textile certifications rising?

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) annual report shared a remarkable 35% increase in certified facilities and a 37% increase in website hits in 2019, further indicating the interest in organic cotton and the importance of sustainability. Organizations like the Better Cotton Institute, Cotton, Inc., and GOTS have been reporting a steadily increasing interest in product and certifications over the last several years.

How much has the sustainable cotton market grown?

The Better Cotton Institute 2018 Annual report shows a global 50% increase in production of Better Cotton in 2017/1. In part, this is because BCI has partnered with myBMP (in Australia), ABR in Brazil (managed by ABRAPA), CMiA or SCS in multiple countries in Africa (managed by Aid by Trade) and were thus able to move “more effectively towards promoting sustainability in the cotton sector”.

Better Cotton lint has grown from 73,647 MT in 2010/11 to 5,141,500 MT in 2017/18. In 2018, BCI retailers and brand members sourced 45% more Better Cotton than in 2017, indicating that sustainably grown cotton is becoming a mainstream commodity. In addition, millions of small farmers are able to improve their livelihoods by adopting sustainable agricultural practices.

The Textile Exchange Organic Cotton Market Report 2019 shared the following research:

  • Organic cotton production increased 56% in 2017/18
  • Voluntary organic certifications increased in 2019 including a 16% increase in OCS 100 certifications.
  • Organic cotton farming has the ability to reach all 17 UN SDG’s

How much polyester is being recycled?

Textile Exchange is forecasting that 10% of polyester will be recycled by 2030.

Polyester accounts for 60% of the world’s production of PET and over 6 billion metric tons of plastic is now in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter, with much plastic waste in our oceans. Recycled fiber technology will significantly impact global plastic waste, global energy, and resource requirements says American apparel brand, Nau. Companies that specialize in recycled fiber technology, like re:newcell, Worn Again technologies, and Blue Jeans Go Green are finding ways to recycle fiber and plastic waste and create new, sustainable substrates. In addition to retail partners, Blue Jeans Go Green has bins on 81 college and university campuses in the United States so students can recycle denim. Given that the Council for Textile Recycling states that the average American citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textile waste yearly, textile recycling is a prudent solution for textile waste. In addition to helping keep the 11 million plus tons of textiles that end up in landfills each year, recycled fiber technology also finds a way to use plastic that would otherwise end up in a landfill or the ocean.

How many tons of fibers end up in a landfill annually?
It is estimated that of the one hundred million tons of fibers produced every year, seventy million tons end up in a landfill. Additionally, it is estimated that of the 150 billion garments produced for the global fashion industry each year, 30% are sold at a discount and another 30% are never sold at all.