Uniforms are foundational to company image and employee morale. Many business executives and marketing managers tend to focus on the color and style of their uniforms, especially how it merges with their company branding. Often overlooked, however, is the durability and eco-friendliness of a uniform, which significantly impacts the overall performance of employees.
Here’s our deep dive into 4 great, durable, eco-friendly uniform fabrics for your company going forward.
The Importance of Durable and Eco-Friendly Uniforms
Having durable and eco-friendly uniforms is the best way to ensure longevity in employee apparel. In today’s world, staying up with the latest trends in fashion is important.
By choosing eco-friendly products, companies can reduce their impact on the environment, promote responsible practices, and look stylish and professional at the same time. With so many sustainable materials and fabrics becoming available, making sustainable choices regarding employee uniforms is getting easier.
Textiles and clothing are a significant contributor to global emissions and environmental degradation. A study conducted by the Geneva Environmental Network highlighted that “between 200,000 and 500,000 tons of microplastics from textiles enter the marine environment each year” and that “the textile industry [accounts] for 35% of microplastic pollution in the ocean.” Fast fashion and disposable trends emphasize mass production and cheap costs, disregarding how harmful both are and will continue to be to our climate.
Workwear and uniforms are just one part of this industry, but it’s time we all face up to this responsibility.
Regarding durability, clothing, and apparel made to last will also directly contribute toward a better environmental future. Less throwing away clothes means less waste and money saved in the long run. There really is no reason not to invest in durability and eco-friendly uniforms.
That said, here are 4 great durable and eco-friendly uniform fabrics.
Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown using only natural methods without genetically modified crops. Organic cotton farming also never uses toxic chemicals like pesticides, synthetic chemicals, or dangerous fertilizers that can harm the air, soil, and water supply.
Organic is better for the environment and has much better longevity than conventional cotton. The chemicals used to process conventional cotton products weaken the fibers, and continued use of bleach and dyes will actually make non-organic fibers fall apart much faster. Organic cotton is, therefore, much more durable than conventional cotton.
On the other hand, organic cotton tends to be more expensive for a few reasons. Because organic cotton requires true organic farming methods, the process is naturally more costly to farmers, and the expense is usually passed along to the consumer. Similarly, there are fewer organic cotton farms around the world, which means the available supply is much less than conventional cotton, increasing the price of organic cotton.
Organic cotton is a great choice for its durability and eco-friendliness, and the higher costs compared to conventional cotton are often offset by lasting much longer than its counterpart.
Many have heard of hemp and its associations with marijuana; however, the plant can also be used for a wide range of industrial products. Though hemp and marijuana are technically from the same cannabis plant, the key difference is the legality of the products. Hemp usually contains less than 0.3% THC, the chemical responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis.
Hemp seed is, therefore, completely legal to grow and use for other products, most commonly paper, textiles, animal feed, plastic, and even food products such as hemp milk and hemp oil.
Hemp is a fast-growing plant, renewing itself up to three times per year, and is suitable to grow in almost any environment. The plant naturally resists pests, meaning no pesticides are usually needed, which greatly reduces its environmental impact compared to alternative fabric materials.
A surprising fact for most people is that hemp benefits the surrounding environment, specifically the soil it is grown on. It returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes to the soil and uses up to four times less water than cotton. Because it renews so quickly, it also requires far less land to cultivate.
Hemp is a durable, biodegradable material that can be good for your skin. Overall, it is a very eco-friendly uniform fabric. The cons to hemp, however, are the unfortunate negative connotations with cannabis, its high cost, and its limited styles and colors, which make it less appealing to the high fashion world.
Linen is a wonderful fabric praised for its extremely lightweight and breathability. There’s a reason it was used as a currency for Egyptians thousands of years ago! Linen is a completely natural material made from the flax plant and boasts a hypoallergenic quality and a generally low chemical-intensity process required for its production.
When untreated, linen is biodegradable, and the final product is extremely durable. It is moth-resistant, and just like the flax plant from which it comes, it does not require insecticides, resulting in a very eco-friendly uniform fabric. Similar to hemp, flax requires little water in comparison to cotton.
The downside to linen is that it is easily wrinkled and loses its biodegradability if dyed or bleached. Unfortunately, many farmers will still use chemicals and pesticides to speed up the growing process even though they don’t need them.
Recycled Polyester Fibers
Recycled polyester is made by melting down plastic and spinning it into a new polyester fiber. As a point of reference, it takes about 5 plastic water bottles to make enough fiber for one T-shirt. On the other hand, non-recycled or regular polyester is made from crude oil and requires a lot of energy, water, and chemicals.
Recycled polyester fibers are beneficial to the environment in that they reduce landfill waste by repurposing plastics and reduce overall energy consumption. In fact, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment says that recycled polyester uses 59% less energy than regular polyester, and WRAP in the UK estimates that it reduces carbon emissions by 20.7%.
Beyond its smaller environmental footprint, recycled polyester is strong and durable, and it is an ideal choice for performance wear due to its quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and breathability characteristics. Recycled polyester is also UV resistant and offers UV protection while remaining hypoallergenic.
There are several downsides to recycled polyester, however. Washing recycled polyester sheds microplastics, and the production process is relatively energy and chemical-intensive compared to the organic fabric materials listed above. And, if it wasn’t obvious, this uniform material is not biodegradable.
Durable and Eco-Friendly Uniform Solutions for Your Employees
Uniforms are truly a cornerstone of representing your company’s values while empowering your employees. Today, more and more consumers are paying attention to the environmental impact of the brands they choose to work with, and by creating durable and eco-friendly uniforms, your company can send a powerful message.
Contact the experts at Accent Branding to get started with your perfect uniform solution!Back To Blog