Eco Home Fabrics

By Vicky Uhland

With more eco-friendly fibers crowding out toxic textiles, choosing the most sustainable home decor can cause eco-peril. Here’s how to thread through natural materials, courtesy of Caroline Howell, founder of GreenBeanie, a California-based eco-home consulting firm.

Organic cotton
Pros: Grown without pesticides or synthetic chemicals; can be locally produced; easy to care for
Cons: Water-intensive growing process; limited color selection; fabric may shrink (like all cotton); costlier than conventional cotton, so manufacturers may reduce thread counts to lower price
Try: Coyuchi certified-organic cotton bath mats ($36; coyuchi.com) are processed with biodegradable soap and natural enzymes.

Eucalyptus
Pros: Renewable resource; harvested in accordance with Forestry Stewardship Council sustainability regulations; processed with nontoxic solvents; antimicrobial; shrinks less than cotton
Cons: Difficult to find; may be combined with nonorganic cotton
Try: Valley Forge Fabrics pairs eucalyptus with Tencel—a fiber derived from plant cellulose—in its Amalia Solid With Tencel+Plus Lyocell duvet cover ($85–$100; valleyforge.com).  

Modal (beechwood)
Pros: Sustainable forest regulations for all European Union modal; softer than bamboo; more absorbent than cotton
Cons: Growing and processing often involves chemicals; tends to pill; requires ironing
Try: Pure Beech sheet sets ($60–$100; bedbathand
beyond.com) are manufactured in conformance with EU modal regulations and are grown without pesticides.

Bamboo
Pros: Highly renewable resource; usually grown without chemicals or pesticides; silky feel; antimicrobial; more absorbent than cotton
Cons: Processing often involves chemicals; mainly grown in China, where manufacturers are replacing old-growth forests with bamboo
Try: Pure Bamboo towel sets ($60; purebamboo.com) are made with a “closed loop” production process that recycles solvents and reduces water and energy use.