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The Most Eco-Friendly Fashion and Packaging Materials

Sustainable fashion and packaging are big topics for consumers and businesses alike, with many businesses, such as ours, making the decision to be as eco-friendly as possible in order to look after the environment and the world we live in. 

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, “32% of consumers are highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle and 28% of consumers have stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns.”
A new study by Doop Toothbrush has revealed the most popular sustainable materials being used in fashion and packaging at the moment and have spoken to experts in these fields to reveal why sustainability is such an important topic.

Bamboo is the most popular sustainable material used in fashion

Fashion is ever-changing and reflects current attitudes and ideas. It was natural for the increasing awareness of our impact on the world – encouraged by David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg – to affect how we think about consuming clothing and accessories”, says Susannah Davda, from The Shoe Consultant.

A report conducted by McKinsey and Company suggests that the industry will “see more research into sustainable materials and technologies, as well as the circular economy. That’s great news for consumers and for companies that can make sustainability real. However, given the scale of investment required, it means nervous times for small and midsize players.”

Tencel was featured in eight out of the ten press articles analysed, with Pinatex coming in a close second place being featured six times. These are both newly emerging materials with Pinatex being a fibre created from the waste leaves of pineapple plants. 

However, Sarah Jordan, CEO and Founder of You Underwear warns: “Fabrics made from trees are really interesting, like modal and viscose. However - they can be polluting and bad for the environment if not manufactured sustainably and ethically (thanks to all the chemicals and water needed). We need more certifications and information than just ‘100% viscose’” suggesting there is still lots of improvements and research to be made before fashion becomes fully sustainable. 

 

Position

Material

Number of times featured in press articles

UK Search Volume 

Global Search Volume 

1

Bamboo

4

74,000

123,000

2

Silk

3

22,200

450,000

3

Linen

5

14,800

301,000

4

Tencel

8

5,400

90,500

5

Cork

1

40,500

368,000

6

Modal

3

14,800

368,000

7

Wool

3

27,100

246,000

8

Down

1

14,800

450,000

9

Lyocell

5

5,400

13,5000

10

Pinatex

6

1,000

9,900

At the lower end of the scale, responsible materials including Wool, Leather and Cashmere were all featured in the articles once, but have low search volumes, both in the UK and Globally. This could be due to manufacturers not advertising their materials as responsible, or designers not being aware of the impact these materials are having if not sources responsibly.

​​You can find the full ranking for sustainable materials used in fashion below:

 

Position

Material

Number of times featured in press articles

UK Search Volume 

Global Search Volume 

1

Bamboo

4

74,000

123,000

2

Silk

3

22,200

450,000

3

Linen

5

14,800

301,000

4

Tencel

8

5,400

90,500

5

Cork

1

40,500

368,000

6

Modal

3

14,800

368,000

7

Wool

3

27,100

246,000

8

Down

1

14,800

450,000

9

Lyocell

5

5,400

135,000

10

Pinatex

6

1,000

9,900

11

Cashmere

2

18,100

201,000

12

Denim

1

14,800

301,000

13

Organic Cotton

5

2,900

22,200

14

ECONYL

5

1,000

9,900

15

Recycled Polyester

5

720

5,400

16

Recycled Cotton

5

480

2,900

17

Viscose

1

14,800

20,1000

18

Organic Linen

4

210

1,300

19

Hemp

4

0

0

20

Organic Hemp

4

0

0

21

Cupro

3

2,600

27,100

22

Rayon

1

5,400

165,000

23

Qmonos

3

50

720

24

Merino Wool

1

12,100

74,000

25

Alpaca Wool

2

2,900

12,100

26

Chitosan

1

2,400

90,500

27

EcoVero

2

590

6,600

28

Recycled Nylon

2

260

1,600

29

QMilk

2

40

1,300

30

Squids ink

1

2,900

27,100

31

Ramie

1

1,000

27,100

32

Fruit Leathers

1

1,300

22,200

33

Sheep Wool

1

1,600

18,100

34

Spider Silk

1

1,600

18,100

35

Recycled Textile

1

2,400

9,900

36

Natural Rubber

1

880

14,800

37

Orange Fiber

1

480

14,800

38

Vegetable Tanned Leather

1

590

6,600

39

S.Cafe

1

110

5,400

40

Peace Silk

1

390

1,900

41

Yak Wool

1

320

2,400

42

Apple Leather

1

320

1,900

43

Seacell

1

210

2,900

44

Recycled Wool

1

320

1,300

45

Better Cotton

1

90

1,600

46

Bamboo Lyocell

1

70

1,000

47

Scoby Leather

1

70

880

48

Organic Bamboo

1

50

480

49

Sustainable Viscose

1

50

260

50

Wood Pulp Fiber

1

10

210

51

Brewed Protein

1

10

170

52

Responsible Down

1

10

170

53

Responsible Wool

1

10

110

54

Responsible Leather

1

10

50

55

Corkshell

1

10

40

56

Woocoa

1

10

30

57

Responsible Cashmere

1

10

20

These are the ways our experts say consumers can make their wardrobe more sustainable:

  • Buy second hand
  • Choose natural fabrics such as wool, silk and cashmere which decompose at end of life and don’t shed micro-plastic fibres when washed
  • When necessary for performance, such as buying sportswear, shop for synthetic textiles made from recycled fibres.
  • Select purchases based on long-term personal style rather than to fit a fashion trend.
  • Wear what is already in your wardrobe or try and upcycle what you currently own. 
  • Swap clothes with friends or family who have similar tastes and can give clothes a new lease of life.
  • If you are buying new clothes, look to small, sustainable businesses who are transparent and doing good in the world. 

Recycled cardboard is the most popular sustainable packaging material

Maya Burnard, Research and Development Lead at Green n White, explains that “Packaging is one of the most visible single use, sometimes unnecessary use of plastic that consumers see”. New EU legislation states that by 2030 all plastic packaging must be recyclable, 55% of which is recycled effectively, they currently recycle 40% of plastic. 

61% of UK consumers limit their use of single-use plastics as far as possible, with 43% saying they value sustainable packaging when it comes to buying products, according to Deloitte.

Recycled materials rank highly, with materials such as cardboard, plastics and paper already proven to be suitable for packaging. Following these trends, Doop Toothbrushes are made out of fully recyclable plastic and the packaging is biodegradable, created partly with plant-based materials.

Other materials that make the top 5 are biodegradable packing peanuts and mushroom packaging, both of which feature in half of the press articles analysed. One article explains the packaging is created by using: “cleaned agricultural waste which is fused with mushroom roots. As it uses waste in its production, it avoids the controversy that bio-based plastics face by being recyclable … it degrades very quickly – you can even compost it at home.”

 

Position

Material

Number of times featured in press articles

UK Search Volume 

Global Search Volume 

1

Recycled cardboard

7

2900

27100

2

Recycled plastics

5

6600

60500

3

Recycled Paper

5

3600

40500

4

Biodegradable Packing peanuts

5

590

4400

5

Mushroom Packaging

5

480

4400

6

Corrugated Cardboard

4

3600

27100

7

Bioplastics

4

1900

40500

8

Seaweed Packaging

4

320

1900

9

Corrugated bubble wrap

4

110

1000

10

Organic Fabrics

2

2900

33100

The bottom three materials, starch-based biomaterial, plant-based biomaterial and algae-based agar were all featured in one press article but received no search volume. Despite being relatively unknown, starch-based biomaterial has “properties similar to those of plastic, cornstarch-based packaging derives from corn and is much eco-friendlier than plastic packaging”.

A report conducted by Trivium Packaging revealed that 73% of respondents are willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging, with 20% of these willing to pay an extra 10% or more.

Despite the changes in mentality with many more customers now opting for sustainable packaging, Maya believes that the packaging industry will never be fully sustainable: “It is time consuming and difficult to sift through the information to try and figure out which packaging options are the least damaging to the environment.” 

Take reusable pouches for example, that can be sent back to the company creating a private closed loop; this relies on customers being 100% efficient at sending them back. Also, they need to be sent back using fuel. Then they need to be washed to a certain standard which requires plenty of water.

​​You can find the full ranking for sustainable materials used in packaging below:

 

Position

Material

Number of times featured in press articles

UK Search Volume 

Global Search Volume 

1

Recycled cardboard

7

2,900

27,100

2

Recycled plastics

5

6,600

60,500

3

Recycled Paper

5

3,600

40,500

4

Biodegradable Packing peanuts

5

590

4,400

5

Mushroom Packaging

5

480

4,400

6

Corrugated Cardboard

4

3,600

27,100

7

Bioplastics

4

1,900

40,500

8

Seaweed Packaging

4

320

1,900

9

Corrugated bubble wrap

4

110

1,000

10

Organic Fabrics

2

2,900

33,100

11

Cornstarch Packaging

2

320

1,900

12

Eco-friendly Plastic

2

170

1,600

13

Air pillows made of recycled materials

2

10

140

14

Sustainable forest paper

2

10

20

15

Bio Plastics

1

1,900

40,500

16

Packing Paper

1

2,400

27,100

17

Bagasse

1

1,300

27,100

18

Polylactic Acid

1

1,000

14,800

19

Plant fibers

1

590

12,100

20

Corrugated Paper

1

590

9,900

21

Reusable plastic

1

390

4,400

22

Compostable mailers

1

260

3,600

23

Plant-based plastics

1

260

1,900

24

Upcycled plastics

1

210

1,300

25

Biodegradable plastic packaging

1

140

720

26

Refurbished products

1

50

1,900

27

Post-consumer recycled plastics

1

70

590

28

Areca Palm Leaf

1

50

720

29

Bio poly mailer

1

40

90

30

Inflatable air pillows

1

20

260

31

Mushroom-based packaging

1

10

140

32

Reusable plastic totes

1

10

40

33

Starch-based biomaterial

1

0

0

34

Plant-based biomaterial

1

0

0

35

Algae-based Agar

1

0

0

Find out how we ensure our toothbrushes are sustainable here

Methodology

We reviewed the top 10 articles when it came to relevant google search terms for fashion and packaging, including “Sustainable Materials Fashion” and “Sustainable Packaging Materials”. We then compared the list of eco-friendly materials on each article to choose the ones that are more repeated, creating a seedlist which we then used google search data to reveal the materials which have been searched for the most, and are therefore deemed more popular.

Sources

  • https://www.bbcearth.com/news/six-fashion-materials-that-could-help-save-the-planet
  • https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-fashion/sustainable-fabrics/
  • https://www.curiouslyconscious.com/2019/12/which-fashion-fabrics-are-most-sustainable.html/
  • https://goodonyou.eco/most-sustainable-fabrics/
  • https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/sustainable-clothing-fabrics
  • https://www.eco-stylist.com/a-guide-to-the-most-and-least-sustainable-fabrics/
  • https://www.zayahworld.com/sustainable-fashion-design-needs-sustainable-materials/
  • https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/fiber-ecoreview
  • https://betterworldapparel.com/learn/sustainable-materials/
  • https://zerowastememoirs.com/guide-to-sustainable-fabric/
  • https://packhelp.co.uk/sustainable-packaging/
  • https://www.gwp.co.uk/advantages/sustainable-packaging/#options
  • https://greenbusinessbureau.com/blog/8-eco-friendly-packaging-alternatives-for-your-businesss-shipping-needs/
  • https://www.greenmatters.com/p/sustainable-packaging-materials
  • https://www.londonbiopackaging.com/eco-food-packaging/
  • https://bulkbagreclamation.com/what-is-green-packaging/
  • https://www.unleashedsoftware.com/blog/8-eco-friendly-packaging-alternatives-shipping-needs
  • https://blog.sendle.com/sustainable-packaging-guide
  • https://uk.interparcel.com/blog/shipping-advice/sustainable-packaging
  • https://www.shipbob.com/blog/eco-friendly-packaging/
  • https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion# 
  • https://triviumpackaging.com/sustainability 
  • https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html 
  • https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/ddn-20210113-1 
  • Google Keyword Planner
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