A lot of people will say that cotton is much more comfortable. However, you could also hear the complete opposite! The amount of people that wear dryfit synthetics to exercise is a rather big amount. Suffice it to say, the differences between natural and synthetic fabrics don’t make it so obvious that one is better than the other.
The campaign for environmentally sustainable products has been on for years, and many people are more cautious with what they purchase from the stores. One industry that has flooded the sustainability debate is the clothing industry.
Global fabrics are categorized into natural, synthetic, and blend of synthetic and natural. What is the difference between natural and synthetic fiber wear? Which one is the most environmentally sustainable?
This article highlights the difference between natural and synthetic fiber sportswear to help make better decisions. We present you with the pros and cons of both sides of the coin since we cannot blanketly say that natural fiber fabrics are sustainable while synthetics are bad – just like how you cannot say physical casinos are good and online casinos are bad. Look at Juicy Stakes Casino bonuses – the BEST!
Let’s get into it.
An examination of synthetic fiber sportswear
Synthetic fabrics are a product of a chemical process and gained popularity as a cheaper alternative to natural fabrics. These plastic-based clothing are a more scalable sportswear solution since they are 100% human-made.
Designers can manipulate them to create any pattern they imagine without breaking the bank, unlike natural fibers that are more restrictive. However, recently common synthetic fibers: nylon and polyester, have been widely criticized for their damaging effects on the environment.
Many environmental activists argue that polyester and nylon sportswear is made from non-biodegradable materials, which would end up in landfills or water bodies and injure aquatic life. They also reason that it takes a lot of energy and water to produce synthetic fabric, thus adding salt to the environmental wounds.
Synthetic fibers are artificial materials that require the use of chemicals. These chemicals are often poorly disposed of in rivers and land, thus negatively affecting the ecosystem, workers’ health, and sustainability.
The ever-changing sportswear trends and demands have forced industries to adopt synthetic fabrics because they are easier and cheaper to produce. The consumers’ demand for cheap wear pushes companies to look for alternative fabrics, even if the environment is damaged.
Pros of synthetic fiber
Besides being cheaper, synthetic fiber has other advantages that propel their demand, including:
- Offers better thermal protection when layered than natural fibers, thus suitable for cold seasons.
- Their moisture-wicking properties make them ideal for outdoor clothing
- They are more durable than natural fiber.
- They are stain-resistant and resist shrinkage when after washing.
- They have good elasticity with anti-wrinkle properties, meaning they are easier to care for.
Cons of synthetic fiber
- Synthetic fiber contributes to allergic reactions in some people, causing inflammation such as contact dermatitis and other uncomfortable rashes.
- They are sensitive to heat, hence unsuitable during warmer weather
- Synthetic materials by-products produce unhealthy chemicals that harm workers and the environment.
- They are produced with petroleum, which is tied to serious environmental, ethical, and geopolitical issues.
- They are prone to static charge.
Besides nylon and polyester, other synthetic fibers to avoid include:
Lycra- made from polyurethane. It is often used in stretchy and comfy sportswear, but since it is durable, it is costly.
Aramid- mostly found in winter fabrics and some sportswear. They are strong and are excellent temperature regulators. Nevertheless, they require lots of water, petroleum, and energy to make.
Recycled plastic- The downside of these synthetic fibers is that they take lots of energy to recycle, which is not good for the environment.
Many argue that natural fabrics from animal and plant fibers are better for the environment than synthetic fibers. However, that reasoning is not always true because natural fibers also impact the environment.
You can only decide what to include in your closet by examining the pros and cons of both natural and synthetic fibers. Before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of natural fiber, let’s examine sources of natural fiber.
Cotton- Organic cotton is the most preferred sustainable fiber source, but it uses an exorbitant amount of water. Furthermore, most sportswear manufacturers that use cotton rely on genetically modified cotton that cannot reproduce, meaning new crops are planted every season. GMO cotton production also uses insecticides that are often washed into water bodies, thus harming the soil and aquatic animals.
Wool- Many people love wool because of its breathability, ability to provide warmth, versatility, and biodegradability. However, since it comes from animals, you cannot know whether they are well cared for. Some wool harvesters use harmful practices such as cutting skin from the sheep’s buttock. Additionally, livestock grazing and sheep farming could result in land clearing and environmental degradation. You can look for recycled wool products or those with the Responsible Wool Standard published by the Textile Exchange.
Linen– This natural fabric comes from the flax plant, and in an undyed state, it is completely biodegradable. Producing one linen shirt requires 6.4 liters of water, unlike a cotton shirt that needs 2,700 liters.
Linen is highly absorbent and durable and comes in various natural colors. However, it is expensive for most people who want to buy sportswear.
Pros of Natural fibers
- Durability- most plant-based and animal-based fibers have cellulose with a strong structure.
- Comfort- Natural fibers are comfortable, soft, and lightweight. They are easy to care for and wear since they offer a pleasurable hand-fee texture.
- Breathability- Natural fibers are often refreshing and breathable. They offer cooling effects during hot weather, thus regulating your body temperature.
- Fewer chemicals- They require fewer chemicals to produce than synthetic fibers. Fewer chemicals also mean workers’ health and the environment are protected from hazardous substances.
- Biodegradability- Different from synthetic fibers, natural fibers are more compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable. At the end of their lifecycle, natural fibers do not leave toxic waste that harms the environment.
- It is more expensive than synthetic fibers.
- Natural fiber like bamboo requires lots of chemicals to break down; hence unsustainable.
- They may not be as environmentally friendly as previously thought due to the high number of insecticides and pesticides used on plants.
The debate on natural and synthetic fibers will continue to rage for decades. As you look for sustainable products to protect the environment, the challenge they have is determining which sportswear suits your sustainability goals.
Although many believe that natural fibers are more sustainable than synthetic fibers, the t.ruth may be far from this assumption. Some natural fibers, especially GMO fibers, may not be good for the environment since many chemicals are involved in planting and producing them. Furthermore, it is challenging to know if the natural animal-based fibers come from humanely raised animals.