Blankets are a common household item that we all use. They’re necessary for warmth, rest, and comfort, and we typically wouldn’t think of them as something that might not be good for us. If it’s soft and warm, then it’s good, especially if it’s affordable. Right?
Let’s take a closer look at the everyday blanket and some of the most popular fibers they are made of…
Fleece – Fleece is made from non-renewable resources, often treated with an extra chemical coating to be water resistant. We know it may be cozy, but have you noticed how it degrades with each wash? Washing these plastic-based fabrics is a big contributor to microplastic pollution
Even after Microbeads in beauty products were prohibited by the Microbead-Free Water Act in 2015, millions of clothing items and household materials are still manufactured each year containing microplastics and other synthetic materials that pose a real threat to our environment and ourselves.
Washing materials with these microplastics releases thousands of microscopic fibers into our water stream with each wash. Wastewater treatment plants struggle to filter out all of these synthetic fibers and toxins, which find their way into our watersheds and into small aquatic species – which in turn are digested by larger fish that humans and other mammals consume. Those plastics being shed in your washing machine wind up right back in our stomachs.
- Knitted polyester – If you’re trying to build a sustainable household, polyester blankets are not the best choice. These blankets cannot only take hundreds of years to biodegrade, but their manufacturing process releases toxins in the water and pollutants into the air.
- Woven acrylic – acrylic fabrics use fossil fuels in their manufacturing and are harmful to our air and water supplies. These blankets might have the lowest cost point in the store, but they wear down quickly with each wash and have a high sustainability price tag.
- Cotton – Cotton, branded as the healthy fabric option for the American household, is not the fabric it’s marketed to be. From growing to harvesting, conventional cotton uses an excess of herbicides and pesticides. Given the detrimental effect of these practices on the laborers in production, the environment, and possibly even our own health if we’re absorbing these substances through our skin, it’s wise to choose organic or sustainably grown cotton over conventional cotton whenever possible.
If you discover blankets in your home that are made from any of these less-than-ideal materials, don’t feel like you have to dispose of them. Continue to use them as long as possible, or pass them along to someone who will. When the time does come for you to acquire new ones, however, consider the materials below as better choices in terms of both human and environmental health.
Here’s What to Look for in an Ethical and Sustainable Blanket
Look for earth-friendly fabrics and manufacturing processes.
- Organic cotton – Organic cotton and conventionally grown cotton are not the same. Organic farmers do not use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic or sustainably grown cotton is often more expensive, but when considering the true costs to our health and human rights, it’s our first choice when buying new blankets.
- Hemp – Hemp is an up-and-coming fabric that is at the top of our list for sustainable fabrics. From its beginnings on the farm, hemp requires far less land, herbicides, and water to grow than compared to alternatives like cotton. Hemp fabrics are durable and long lasting and can take machine washing very well.
- Linen – Linen is one of the oldest fibers used in fabrics on the planet, dating back nearly 10,000 years. It is 100% natural and completely biodegradable. It’s that simple, and we love a soft, light linen blanket for cool spring weather.
- Wool or Alpaca – Similar to linen, wool and alpaca fabrics are completely biodegradable and plastic-free. It’s a renewable resource and can be produced organically. Look into where the wool and alpaca comes from to ensure ethical animal practices.
Learning about which products are healthier and more sustainable, and making those decisions when you bring something new into your home is a gradual process that takes time. One thing to keep in mind is that in many cases, the lower price tag is often not a bargain in the long run. Try buying better so you can buy less, and don’t forget that thrift stores and tag sales are great for finding some of these things used. Once you have the knowledge to know what you’re looking for in a blanket or anything else, you can begin to shift your life in both big and small ways through the power of your choices.