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How to Shop for Sustainable Textiles Like a Pro (And Avoid Greenwashing!)

It's easy to fall for greenwashing when shopping for sustainable textiles. But you're in luck: An expert shared the key labels to look for.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

From the sheets on our beds to the clothes on our backs, textiles are everywhere. But the question is: What are our textiles really made of? And what do sustainable textiles actually represent?

Unfortunately, many clothes, bedding, upholstery, and more contain microfibers—or extremely small synthetic fibers. According to National Geographic, they’re usually 0.2 inches or less than 5 millimeters in diameter.

And these microfibers contain microplastics, which are polluting our oceans and harming marine ecosystems. Roughly 14 million tons of microplastic are currently living on the ocean floor.

That's why it's important for us to be conscious consumers. What is conscious consumerism, you ask? It's a shift in consumption (or shopping) habits, moving toward a more mindful, sustainable method of consumption. Instead of simply swiping our cards, more consumers are purchasing with purpose—and with the planet in mind.

To better the planet, it’s time to ditch synthetics and opt for more sustainable options—whether that means the clothes or the linens in your closet.

In this week’s episode of Good Together, Brightly’s founder and CEO Laura Wittig chats with Eileen Mockus, the president and CEO of Coyuchi—a brand that’s introducing the world to organic fibers and eliminating the need for synthetic fibers.

"We were actually in organic before organic was even a standard and have continued to look at the ways that we can create the softest, most comfortable, and long-lasting home textiles using 100% organic cotton," Mockus says. "That's really what still fuels our innovation and focus on how we can change the textile industry to be kinder to the planet."

Mockus tells us how Coyuchi is changing the sustainable textiles game—plus she teaches us everything we need to know about sustainable and ethical certifications to look out for when shopping.

How Coyuchi Puts the Planet First

Coyuchi is a one-stop-shop for textiles. Dress your bed in organic linens or fill your closet with only the most sustainably made and ethically sourced textiles. According to Mockus, Coyuchi has a few pillars that encompass what the brand stands for.

Organically Grown

The first is that Coyuchi products are made from materials that are organically grown. When the company was first founded, it made a commitment to introduce the world to organic fibers—and it doesn't plan on stopping.

Designed with Intent

The second pillar represents products that are designed with intent. That means each product is held to high ethical principles to ensure it meets social and environmental standards.

"We're constantly focusing on what types of finishing agents we need to use on our textiles; we're investing in plant-based softeners," Mockus says. "We are monitoring the types of dyestuffs that we use so that we focus on low impact dyestuffs. The wastewater recycling initiatives at some of our facilities are something we want to continue to support because those mills have made an investment in changing how they operate, [which] is going to retain the water that we have available to us."

Committed to People

Lastly, Coyuchi is committed to the people. This includes consumers and the people behind the scenes who are making sustainable textiles come to life. The brand has strict standards with traceable supply chains—protecting products and people.

The suppliers that Coyuchi chooses to work with directly benefit individual workers, farmers, and their families. Plus, safe working conditions and fair wages are at the top of this brand's priority list.

"The commitment to people came from our Fair Trade commitments," Mockus says. "Coyuchi has been working with Fair Trade organic cotton for about 15 years, and then have partnered with Fair Trade USA, which has implemented a factory standard."

Mockus tells us more about the sustainable and ethical certifications the brand has.

Sustainable Textiles + Ethical Certifications to Look Out For

Being a conscious consumer requires some learning. According to Mockus, it's important to look at the labels when shopping—especially when shopping for textiles. Those labels and certifications tell us exactly what social and environmental standard products are made with.

"There isn't really a one size fits all, and unfortunately, I think that does create some confusion for consumers. There [are] so many different labels that they would look for when looking, specifically at how consumers can support businesses that are committed to sustainability," Mockus says. "Those certifications are going to matter. Then, it's understanding that if you're looking for organic textiles, you're going to want to look for GOTS. We also support the gold standard, because we do organic latex. If you're going to purchase latex products, look for GOLS."

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

GOTS represents the Global Organic Textile Standard, and it's one of the top certifications worldwide for organic fibers, holding these fibers to ecological and social criteria. These certifications are backed up by independent certification of the entire step of the textile supply chain.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

The next certification Mockus mentions is the Global Latex Standard (GOLS) which ensures that latex products are natural and at least 95% organic in origin. It also follows a traceable path of environmentally friendly practices throughout the supply chain and stages of production. Yes, that includes handling, packing, and labeling. And certifications are backed up by a third party.

Fair Trade Certified

According to our research, Fair Trade certifications are vital to ensuring social standards are met. These certifications are for people—especially farmers. Fair Trade Certified means products have traceable supply chains. Plus, it ensures fair living wages, ethical working conditions, equality, empowerment, and so much more.

For more information on certifications and labels and how Coyuchi is prioritizing ethical certifications, listen to this week's episode of Good Together.

The Takeaway

Being a conscious consumer might seem overwhelming at first, but we're confident you'll get the hang of it. With more sustainable brands like Coyuchi on the market, you're bound to feel empowered by your purchases, putting the planet and the people at the forefront.

Mockus says the future of textiles is evolving—and the industry might just have the power to "change the trajectory that we're on as a planet." She says she's most excited about the investments being made to better the industry, from all aspects.

"It's a different perspective on how to influence what happens in textiles," she says. "But [I] feel like that's the area that gets me excited because if we can continue to invest in the agricultural side, and then work with the mills that are tapping into how they can use different energy sources, focus on the water that they're using, change the types of chemistry that they're using—if it's more plant-based versus petroleum-based. Those are pretty exciting changes in what is typically a very traditional industry."

The future of sustainable textiles is bright, and Coyuchi is paving the way. Now it's your turn to put the planet first and use your consumption habits for good.