If you check the clothing labels in your wardrobe there’s sure to be some mix of polyester, rayon, acrylic or nylon in the midst. Similarly, your furniture probably features particle board because it’s cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper for you to buy. But these synthetic materials are only doing favours to our wallets. Natural fibres and materials are on the rise and making the swap is going to benefit your body, mind and the environment.
What are natural fibres and materials?
These are classified as anything that can be derived from animal or plant material. For example, in fabrics you have cotton, hemp and bamboo (plant) or silk, cashmere and wool (animal). In furniture materials like solid wood, iron and wicker are grown from plants and found underground.
But not all ‘natural’ materials were created equal. Such as cotton which can be produced organically providing lots of benefits to people and the environment, or commercially which relies on heavy pesticide use and genetic modification. Amy Fox from The Low Tox Fox turned to a life without toxins in a bid to improve ongoing medical issues. From beauty to cleaning products she now lives toxin-free and shared with us her advice on choosing the most beneficial cotton products:
“Conventional cotton is one of the heaviest sprayed crops which infuses the cotton with pesticides and pollutes the environment. If you've watched the documentary The True Cost you would have seen the horrific consequences of using these pesticides, whole villages with their water supply polluted and suffering from terrible illnesses, it’s truly heartbreaking. Often cotton is bleached, this further adds to the toxic load which can transfer to us if we wear cotton clothes or even worse, if we use conventional cotton tampons.
Now that you know how to find natural materials, why should you choose to buy them?
Benefits to your body
The main difference, and benefit to you, between a natural and synthetic material will be the number of toxic chemicals used in their production. Certified Organic is the best choice as it has been grown without the use of any pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers. This makes it ideal for sensitive skin in adults and especially gentle on baby skin. The effects of these chemicals doesn’t just stop with the supply chain. As Amy notes, they remain in the final product and with clothing can easily seep into our skin.
Natural fibres are also more breathable and lightweight than their synthetic counterparts. This helps with regulating temperatures by keeping you warm without overheating, an especially important factor in quality sleep. A natural bamboo mattress topper is an easy upgrade to make sure your bed is fit for the best sleep.
Benefits to the environment
With concern for the environment on the rise, every product we buy offers a chance to be more sustainable. Choosing natural materials is just one way you can improve your environmental footprint. They last better than synthetics which equals less fast fashions and less waste in our landfills. They are biodegradable so won’t need to be incinerated which contributes to air pollution. They are renewable; sheep continue to grow wool and we can grow as much bamboo as there is space for. Lastly, they’re carbon neutral which is just a fancy way of saying they tend to absorb the same amounts of CO2 as they emit during the production cycle.
Benefits to your mind
Ever heard of the biophilia hypothesis? It sounds fancy and scientific but it’s just the theory that humans crave connections with nature and feel better when surrounded by it. Researchers are turning their gaze to this area and often finding it proves true. Forest & Wood Products Australia recently completed a study of 1000 Australian office workers which supports the idea of biophilia. They found that employees working in offices with natural wood surfaces had higher productivity, mood, concentration, confidence and optimism than their wood-poor counterparts. The effects were greatest when a combination of natural elements from wood to plants, natural lighting and water features were present. But it’s still promising that the inclusion of any natural elements or materials brings greater wellbeing.
Similar to fabrics, natural materials for furniture can cost a pretty penny. But they’ll last much longer and be better for the environment. Reclaimed wood furniture is a more affordable way to bring natural woods to your decor and has all the same benefits as a brand new piece.
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The evidence seems clear on this one; going natural is better for you. No-one said you had to overhaul your whole life starting now but being more conscious of your choices from clothing to furniture is a great first step.