No Blue, No Green. Attire Sustainably! – Part II

I don’t want to wear something on my body that hurts the environment or the people in it. It’s hard to know what is good and what is bad on the high street and equally hard to find fashionable or youthful ethical clothing. It shocks me that even today only 1% of cotton produced in the world is Fair Trade and organic. I decided to work with People Tree to put together a collection I could be proud of in terms of both ethics and design.” —Emma Watson for People Tree

No Water, No Life. No Blue, No Green. Attire Sustainably! – Part II

[The textile industry uses more than 8,000 chemicals to make the 400 billion m2 of fabric sold annually around the world. Many are toxic and persist in the environment. They include heavy-metal-rich dyes and fixing agents, bleaches, solvents, and detergents.

Making textiles is also a water-intensive business. Producing a pair of jeans requires about 1,800 gal of water; a T-shirt takes 700 gal. Treating such large volumes of waste water is costly—if it is treated at all. All toxic chemicals cannot be treated and end up into our fresh water ways which is causing pollution all over the textile manufacturing countries.] Read more

Pollution also can occur after clothing leaves the factory. Outdoor gear is often stain- and waterproofed with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), but these additives can detach during use. The PFCs or their breakdown products end up in the environment where they can be persistent, bioaccumulative, and carcinogenic hazards.]

What constitutes a sustainable textile?

Sustainable textiles consist of four main factors: raw material extraction, textile production, added chemistry and end-of-life.

Raw material extraction addresses the land and water used to grow natural fibers like cotton and wool, or the impacts of extracting fossil fuels for synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon.

Production considerations include the water and energy used for manufacturing, the impact of production waste and a company’s social responsibility towards its workers and the communities that surround its production facilities. Added chemistries, including dyes, finishes and coatings, may impact the health of textile workers as well as consumers of the final product.

Finally, the end-of-life scenario, including textile biodegradability and the reclamation infrastructure required to turn it into new raw material, strongly affect its sustainability.

Sustainable Fibers/Textiles continued….

An agricultural crop fiber, flax belongs to the bast family. Flax fibers are among the oldest fiber crops in the world. The fiber is extracted from the bast or skin of the stem of the flax plant and is used to produce linen.

The guanaco is a camelid native to South America that is closely related to the llama. The guanaco produces very high quality wool. Its staple fibers are medium to long and as an alternative fiber option, the use of guanaco lessens the consumption of mass produced wools, promoting biodiversity. Like all natural fibers, guanaco is fully biodegradable.

Hemp belongs to the bast family. The fiber is extracted from the bast or bark of the plant; cotton, by comparison, comes from the flower of the plant. The flower of any plant is much more prone to severe pest damage than the bark, therefore, bast fiber plants normally do not need the same amount of chemical usage as cotton.

HWM or high wet modulus rayon is a modified viscose rayon; it is a process and does not specify a fiber source. HWM rayon has the added quality of machine wash ability and higher tenacity. Like cotton, it can be mercerized for increased luster. HWM rayon process is used for Modal, a trademark name by Lenzing.

A huarizo is a cross between a male llama and a female alpaca. It is generally bred for its exceptional fleece, which is comparable to the fibers from both species. (see Llama and Alpaca).

Ingeo™ is a man-made fiber based on NatureWorks LLC® PLA which is derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources such as maize, not oil. Currently Ingeo™ is made from dextrose (sugar) that is derived from field corn already grown for many industrial and functional end-uses.

This fiber is used in textiles for interiors, consisting of bundles of fiber held together by gummy pertinacious substances. It is part of the bast fiber family and is commonly used to make burlap. Jute is one of the most inexpensive materials in the world to produce (cotton being the least).

Kapok is a short, lightweight, cotton-like, vegetable fiber found in the seed pods of the Bombocaceae tree. It is commonly used in cushions, mattresses, and life jackets.

Khadi refers to varieties of coarse cotton cloth, which is a hand-woven cloth using hand spun yarn, traditionally made in India. It is sustainable due to its low energy consumption, and because it supports a traditional craft. It is most often composed of cotton and sometimes a blend of silk.

Khadi cloth made from 100% silk, using hand woven techniques.

Lamb’s wool is a general term for wool shorn from a sheep. There are more specific names and qualities depending on the specific species.

Leather is tanned animal skin or hide, which has been rendered rotproof and is the end-product of the operations carried out by tanneries. Fresh or “green” hides and skins are cured to preserve them. Curing removes any water from tissues and thereby slows down the process of putrefaction, as any micro-organisms present develop. Coarse-grained rock salt (with particles 2 to 3 mm in diameter) is used, and antiseptic agents may also be added. During the curing process, hides and skins may lose up to 10% of their weight in water. They are stacked to allow the brine to drain away, inside premises with a relative humidity of between 70% and 90%. The temperature inside these premises is kept at around 10°C to optimize preservation.

The tanning process for leather is an extremely toxic process that can involve cyanide, arsenic, and other chemicals linked with nervous disorders, asthma, skin and respiratory disorders, among others. Tanning produces waste (the hair, salt, and a slurry of insoluble matter present on the animal’s skin before it is tanned), that if dumped into the environment and can poison waterways.

Lemur™ is a trademark of Teximpro. It is a cultivated wood fiber made from the cellulose of Canadian Silver Fir trees. During the pruning process, only certain parts of the branches are harvested for use in Lemur™. The wood pulp is treated in a rayon process that uses less harsh chemicals, creating a fiber which retains many properties of the wood and is more absorbent. (see Cultivated Wood and Lyocell).

Lenzing FR™ is a Lenzing trademarked viscose cellulous fiber with the added ability to be “flame resistant”. Viscose made from wood from sustainably managed forests and viscose produced without chlorine-containing bleach and zinc sulphate and which avoids catalytic agents containing cobalt or manganese are the safest alternatives.

Lenzing Viscose™ is a lyocell produced by Lenzing AG. Lyocell is similar to viscose and uses pulp from eucalyptus trees, which are grown on sustainably run farms certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the fiber carries the Pan European Forest Council (PEFC) quality seal.

Linen is biodegradable; it grows well on land unsuitable for food production and can rely on rainfall for irrigation. It is also said to have antimicrobial properties and has high moisture absorption, as it takes up water rapidly and releases it quickly again into the surroundings. Linen also has thermal insulation, which makes it feel fresh and cool, making it good for summer clothing.

Organic linen is made from flax crops that have not been treated with toxic herbicides, fertilizer, fungicides or pesticides. Organic linen is made from flax that is grown in a sustainable manner, which means that the earth’s resources won’t be damaged or depleted in the growing of the plants. Flax generally requires minimal use of pesticides and relies only on rainfall for irrigation. It can be found in certified organic varieties, however, flax crops are often close to, or do, comply with organic standards, whether or not they are certified. Flax fibers are biodegradable, but are currently not recyclable.

Llama is an animal fiber that is a type of wool. The wool from llama has a fine undercoat and a soft hand and, like alpaca, has a higher absorbency than standard wool. It is biodegradable and comes in an array of colors ranging from white, grey, reddish brown, brown, dark brown and black, so it may not require additional dyeing. (see Alpaca).

Lyocell is a type of rayon fiber produced specifically from the cellulose of trees. The wood pulp is subjected to an organic solvent spinning process. Lyocell is biodegradable. Its most common trademark is Tencel™, which is produced by Lenzing,

Merino is the most popular of all wool fibers and ranges from fine to course depending on the area of the animal from which the fiber is shorn. Like cotton, it can be produced with or without the use of chemicals. Eco-friendly merino can be certified organic, is processed without bleach, and practices fair treatment of merino sheep. Merino is a biodegradable and recyclable fiber.

Organic merino is from merino sheep that are raised per the following guidelines: no fertilizers or synthetic pesticides can be used on the pastures, no medicines such as growth hormones can be given to the animals and the feedstock for the animals must be organic. The use of organic merino supports animal health, human health, and lowers pollution in water systems. Organic merino is biodegradable and recyclable.

Milk protein/casein is an azlon fiber and a by-product of the dairy industry, utilizing what would become industrial waste. It is traded under the name Milkofil™ and uses dewatered skimmed milk, which is made into a fabric through a wet spinning process. Milk protein fiber technology was first invented in the 1930’s. Milkofil™ is a fiber made from 65% cotton and 35% milk fiber. Milkofil™ is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, has high absorption qualities and allows humidity to be absorbed, allowing the skin to breathe.

Milkweed is an alternative plant fiber and 140 variable species exist under the general name milkweed. Its fibers have superior insulating qualities, and can be used in place of down feathers or kapok. It is biodegradable and its use promotes biodiversity.

Modal is a regenerated cellulose product that is manufactured in a closed-loop system, where the viscose processing has been optimized to achieve a high recovery rate of its by-products, thereby making it more sustainable than rayon. It is made from beech wood pulp and is biodegradable. It has similar characteristics to cotton.

Mohair is an animal fiber and that comes from the hair of the angora goat, which can be shorn twice each year. The best quality comes from Texas, South Africa and Turkey. The hairs are long, lightly curled, and have a silky luster. They are white, and do not felt easily, and are well suited for dyeing. The hair is flame resistant, has good wicking properties and promotes biodiversity and is also biodegradable.

Natural rubber elastodiene is elastic made from natural polymers, from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). When a tree matures at the age of six or seven years, the latex is collected from a diagonal incision in the tree trunk. The tapping process does not affect the health of the tree and the tree wound later heals itself.

This is an alternative plant fiber that is part of the bast family. There are many different kinds of nettles, but generally, they are considered a weed and are resistant to pests and therefore do not need pesticides. The fiber produced is stronger than cotton, finer than hemp, soft and fire retardant. Nettle is also known as aloo. It is biodegradable and its use promotes biodiversity.

Propanedoil (PDO) is a half-synthetic fiber made from naturally occurring polymers that are by-products of bio-diesel production. It is an alternative to polyester. When made into fabric, it is generally used in conjunction with polyester, offsetting reliance on petro-chemicals while offering a high-performance textile. The process of creating this fiber is sustainable because it is renewably sourced.

Pearl is an alternative fiber source, and a mineral by-product of pearls. Pearl fiber fabric can reduce the risk of infection and inflammation. It blocks direct UV rays and manages moisture on the skin. Pearl mineral fibers are difficult to source, rare, and expensive.

An alternative fiber that is stripped from the leaves of pineapple, pina is most often blended with silk, polyester, or other fibers to create a lightweight and luxurious cloth that has similar qualities to linen. Pina is often undyed and is a white or off-white color, which is an inherent quality in its low processing requirements. It is biodegradable, and its use promotes biodiversity.

Recycled polyester reduces the strain on natural resources by salvaging waste-bound polyester rather than using newly sourced petro-chemicals and can be created from items such as mineral water bottles, coffee cups and coat hangers. Its production saves over half a million barrels of oil and eliminates 400,000 tons of harmful emissions which contribute to global warming, acid rain and smog. Recycled polyester was first put into use by Patagonia in the 1990’s in conjunction with Teijin Limited, who produce a patented version called Eco Circle. Since then, recycled polyester has gained in popularity and there are, now, many patents for, and constructions of, recycled polyester. It also reduces non-biodegradable waste.

For products in which production dominates impacts, process inefficiencies should be pursued and the impact will be reduced by extending the life of the product or by re-using materials by some form of recycling.

For products in which raw material production dominates, in addition to measures to extend product life, alternative processes or materials should be pursued. A switch from conventional to organic cotton growing would eliminate most toxic releases, at the cost of price rises.

Energy requirements for cotton garments are dominated by washing, drying and ironing. In response, wash temperatures can be reduced and tumble drying avoided. Novel treatments may provide resistance to odors so reducing the total number of washes or allow faster drying with less ironing.

No Water, No Life. No Blue, No Green. Attire Sustainably!
final and part III continued next week…..

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