The Truth Regarding Sustainable Fashion

The Truth Regarding Sustainable Fashion

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

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Sustainable fashion does not always mean sustainable manufacturing.

The number of clothing companies on the market touting sustainability are increasing every year, however; “sustainable” doesn’t always mean environmentally friendly.

In the fashion industry the practice of utilizing fibers made from plants can be wonderfully beneficial for the planet. However, the manufacturing processes, where plants are transformed into fabric, are where the sustainability and eco-friendly appeal is tainted.

So what’s different?

The main differences lay in how the plant is processed: mechanically or chemically. Mechanical processing is done mostly by hand with natural enzymes to break the plant fibers down so that they can be spun into yarn. This process is used in the production of linen from flax or hemp and also in the production of fiber from the nettle plant.

Bamboo fabric made from this process is sometimes called bamboo linen, which is not the same bamboo fiber that is used by most brands. The majority of clothing companies utilize chemically processed bamboo, as mechanically processed bamboo is more labor intensive and costly.

woman in flowers with tree

Chemically manufactured fibers like bamboo are generally cooked in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, which have both been linked to serious health problems. Sodium hydroxide is one of the major ingredients of Drano.

These chemicals are not considered sustainable or environmentally friendly, yet many companies still label their clothing as such if they are made from plant fibers.

New manufacturing facilities have begun using other technologies to chemically manufacture bamboo and other plant fibers that are safer and more eco-friendly, but are not yet common in the marketplace.

 

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