Demystify The SiStainability Lingo
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Welcome to SiS’s Glossary, your go-to resource for sustainable shopping terms.
It isn’t fun to be left in the dark when you hear terms like “carbon footprint” and “fair trade.” It could impair your judgment about a brand’s sustainability practices before you purchase from them.
Think of this glossary as a compass for ethical shopping. Don’t miss out on making a difference; start browsing now.
A carbon footprint measures the total amount of greenhouse gases humans produce to support their activities, both directly and indirectly. It is usually given in terms of equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.
A practice of making false or misleading claims about a product’s or service’s environmental benefits.
A social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and promote sustainable farming.
Agricultural products that are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and sewage sludge.
Products that have not been tested on animals.
A product that does not contain any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts.
A product that is capable of breaking down, decomposing, and returning to the environment in a relatively short period of time through the action of natural processes, such as bacteria, enzymes, and sunlight, without leaving any toxic residue.
Certifications and Standards
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
A product that is made entirely from cotton that has been grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and has been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
GOTS is a global standard for organic textile processing, which includes requirements for the entire textile supply chain, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.
A “zero-waste” label certifies minimal waste in producing and distributing a product or service, verified by independent organizations.
When a product carries the Fairtrade label, it means that the farmers and workers who produced it have received a fair price for their goods and that a premium is invested in social and environmental projects in their communities.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
This is a globally recognized standard for textile products that verifies that a product is free from harmful substances and is safe for human use.
Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
This standard verifies the content of recycled materials in a product and tracks the chain of custody of the materials from the point of collection to the final product.
A product that is made entirely of cotton fibre that has not been chemically altered or processed has not been blended with any synthetic fibres or treated with any chemical substances. It can be grown using conventional agriculture means or using organic agriculture means.
ECONYL® Regenerated Nylon
A type of recycled nylon created by breaking down waste materials such as fishing nets and industrial plastic into their basic building blocks, purifying and re-polymerising them to develop new nylon fibres. It allows for infinite recycling, meaning waste materials can be recycled repeatedly without losing quality.
A brand name for cellulose fibre made from sustainably sourced wood pulp. Produced through a closed-loop process, this fibre is known for its softness, and moisture management properties and is often used in clothing, bedding, and personal care products. It is considered a sustainable alternative to other cellulosic fibres.
Grape leather produces vegetal leathers using leftovers from winemaking. It demands less amount of water, chemical, and energy consumption while reducing the damage produced by animal and synthetic leather production.
Technically, called kraft paper, Paper-leather are remarkably strong, with elasticity and tear-resistance thanks to the process by which it’s made. Almost all of the chemicals used to produce kraft paper are recovered and reused in the same process. Being a mono-material, kraft paper is biobased and biodegradable, and is easily recycled.
A type of wool produced from sheep that are raised according to organic agricultural standards. This means that the sheep are not treated with synthetic pesticides or hormones and are not fed genetically modified feed.
Don’t worry. No baby alpacas were hurt in the process. The term “Baby Alpaca” refers to the grading of the fineness of the fiber. It’s the softest part of an adult Alpaca (usually the chest). Alpaca fleece is soft and silky. It is lighter in weight and up to 7x warmer than Sheep’s wool and very breathable. It is a type of alpaca wool with fineness between 21.5 and 23 microns.
A type of linen that is produced from flax plants that are grown according to organic agricultural standards.
A type of silk that is produced from silkworms that are raised according to organic agricultural standards.
Organic silk has more or less the same processing as conventional silk here, but no pesticides, insecticides or harsh chemicals have been used to make land or larvae grow faster. The silkworms get a more varied diet instead of mulberry leaves alone, and everything is organic and are allowed to live out their full lives and die naturally.
Natural Peace Silk
A type of silk that is produced using an ethical process where the silkworms are allowed to hatch and leave the cocoon before the silk is harvested; this process does not harm the silkworms.
Peace Silk’s name comes from its non-violent silk breeding and harvesting. It allows the metamorphosis of the silkworm into butterflies. For that reason, Peace Silk is also considered vegan. The fibres from the damaged cocoon are spun together, forming a silk that has the same luxurious feel as Organic silk, with a beautiful raw appearance.
Currently the trendiest sustainable fabric in the fashion world, Bamboo fabric is a natural textile made by pulping the bamboo grass. It’s a fantastic eco-friendly option because bamboo grows rapidly, needs very little water, fertilizer, or pesticides. Bamboo fabric is similar to the softness of silk and extremely breathable.
A type of plant-based fibre that is obtained from the stem of the hemp plant. It is considered to be one of the strongest and most durable natural fibres available.
Hemp has four times the strength of cotton, so it doesn’t weaken when washed. Also, Hemp retains colour better than any other fabric and saves water (it only requires 1/20th the water as regular cotton to grow and process). Hemp is biodegradable and breaks down easily in the environment and it’s known for aging well – the more you wear it, the softer it becomes.
Coconut fabric — or Cocona — is taking the textile industry by storm and could be the future of activewear. Cocona is made using activated carbons derived from recylced coconut shells and volcanic sands. Activated carbon is taken from the coconut shells and added to fibers, yarns and fabrics, resulting in a fabric that dries quickly, stays cool, absorbs odors, and provides UV protection.
Made mostly from post-consumer yarn, recycled cashmere allows consumers to get cozy at a wildly lower cost to the environment. Sustainable cashmere fabrics are made from non-allergenic natural goat fibres. They are animal-friendly, sustainable, and do not wrinkle. They possess durability with little or no pilling and become softer with age.
Organic Pima Cotton
This cotton is grown according to organic agricultural standards and is known for its extra-long fibres that make it stronger and softer than regular cotton.
Pima cotton is the highest quality cotton available, with a longer and silkier fiber than conventional cotton. It has a reputation for producing a smooth fabric that’s soft to the touch, wrinkle-resistant, and ultra-durable. Pima Cotton clothing will be one of the most comfortable items in your closet, being softer, stronger, and colourfast (oh my!).
Modal is a semi-synthetic fibre that has found fame in the age of activewear. Breathable and absorbent, this cotton alternative is used in the manufacture of underwear, pyjamas, bathrobes, bed sheets, and more Modal is great for sports clothing and everyday clothes because the fabric’s weave is very breathable. Water absorbent. Modal is 50% more absorbent than cotton; micropores inside the fabric absorb any water or sweat they come into contact with. Durable.
Hibiscus plants are known for their large, colorful flowers. These blossoms can make a stunning dye for materials and clothing, being used to make textiles for thousands of years. Fibres of Hibiscus cannabinus have immense potential applications in the field of textiles. Kenaf is quite low-maintenance: it needs very little water and almost no pesticides or fertilizer, being also biodegradable.
A reed is part of a weaving loom used to separate and space the warp threads, to guide the motion across the loom, and to push the weft threads into place. The reed is securely held by the beater, and consists of a frame with many vertical slits. They have been used for millennia as thatching and construction material, in basketry, for arrows and pens, musical instruments, also being harvested for their cellulose content.
Wheat is a type of grain used to make flour, bread and even plastic, such as wheat straw, a new and innovative bio-plastic that can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics. It’s an ideal zero waste option.
Natural rubber is a raw material that can create over 40,000 products, such as medical devices, surgical gloves, aircraft and car tires, pacifiers, clothes, toys, etc. It’s an elastic substance obtained from the latex sap of trees. Latex is a natural, renewable material and since the trees are not cut down during harvesting, its production is sustainable and carbon-negative.
Stainless steel is the name of a family of iron-based alloys known for their corrosion and heat resistance, made primarily from iron and carbon in a two-step process. One of the main characteristics of stainless steel is its superior resistance to corrosion in comparison to other types of steels, requiring low maintenance cost.