how eco-friendly is your fabric?





in purusha's never ending quest to become more sustainable and earth and people friendly, i am always researching fabrics and the effects of producing these fibers.

the crazy thing i've learned is there is no such thing as a 100% green solution at this moment. {this will most definitely change over time.} whenever something is created, something is destroyed. it's just the way of life, and we can't produce anything, especially clothing, without an effect on the environment. but of course many methods are better than others, and whatever small steps we take towards a more sustainable future are better than nothing at all. organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, tencel, and recycled cotton/ P.E.T. are all a thousand times better than conventional cotton and polyester.

i like to read up on this stuff, but i'm no expert and i've never seen the process of manufacturing fibers into fabric. so i'm trying to do the best i can. it's interesting to watch the debates and conversations surrounding 'how eco-friendly is your fabric?'

for example, today i headed over to one of my favorite sites - www.ecouterre.com, and read an article about bamboo by patagonia, titled 'how eco-friendly is bamboo really?' after reading the article, i was having second thoughts about using bamboo in my clothing line.

but know what i often love reading even more than the article itself? the comments. frequently people in the comments know more than the writer of the article does!

i'm going to post one particularly knowledgeable commentator's thoughts here below on the concept of bamboo, fabrics, and their eco-friendliness {it's long, but a worthwhile read if you're interested} :

I think there is a lot of misinformation in this article. First – bamboo viscose is not made from bamboo eaten by pandas or from bamboo grown on panda habitat. Good grief… Bamboo Viscous is made from a timber bamboo called “Moso.” Pandas eat a smaller “Grass” bamboo that grows in different regions. Second yes chemicals are used to get cellulose (viscose) from bamboo, but by far the principle chemical used is sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world and has no negative effect on the environment or the health of humans. Sodium hydroxide is routinely used in the processing of cotton into fiber, including transitional and organic cottons. Sodium hydroxide is approved for use on textiles by the Global Organic Textile Standards (www.global-standard.org) and the Soil Association (www.soilassociation.org). Sodium hydroxide does not remain as a residue on clothing as it easily washes away. It can also be readily neutralized to harmless and non-toxic sodium sulphate (salt); Sodium hydroxide is also used in food production and soap making. And finally, how is reasonable to claim that it would be better to use much slower growing eucalyptus trees, FSC certified or not, to produce viscose for fabric production when bamboo is so renewable. That makes no sense… The bamboo used for apparel production is the fastest growing plant known to man, growing up to 4 feet (122 cm) per day, and rapidly reaching heights over 40 feet. Because of this rapid growth rate and the amount of vertical biomass created, bamboo is able to deliver far more usable raw material per acre than any other alternative, which makes it today’s most renewable resource.

Please source your contention that modern bamboo viscose production uses carbon disulfide. Have you seen the production process? I find it interesting when critics of bamboo viscose speak with authority on the process, when very few people have seen the proprietary system used for producing viscose from bamboo. I have to wonder where the information comes from? Will following the money lead to organic cotton suppliers? If so, it represents a sad state of affairs for the environmentally conscious segment of the apparel industry.

It is my contention that all apparel suppliers trying to do right by the planet should be supporting each other’s efforts, no matter which fabrics each has chosen to work with. Those companies looking for environmentally friendly solutions in apparel production are fighting the same fight!

Today, there are no fabrics that are 100% “green;” organic and transitional cottons require large amounts of land and water; recycled P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate) is still a chemically driven, petroleum-based material; and many hemp and bamboo fabrics require a pulping process.

Carbon Disulfide may have been used in early rayon production, but as far as my research and the visual inspection of the process by people I trust is concerned, modern bamboo viscose production does not use it. Rather bamboo viscose production uses a closed loop process that relies on Sodium hydroxide as the solvent, which again is approved for use on textiles by the Global Organic Textile Standards (www.global-standard.org).

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that a few companies supplying or heavily reliant on organic cotton are propagating misinformation about bamboo-based fabrics. Maybe they feel threatened by the compelling combination of benefits provided by bamboo-based fabrics. Who knows? I have found most of their critiques to be unfounded and un-sourced. I beg you not to join the bandwagon, we’re all in this together.

For me, when looking at the current options for environmentally “friendlier” fabrics, I find that bamboo provides the best blend of ecological and performance benefits. Bamboo-based fabrics are a resource that I’ve come to see as today’s most promising alternative. If organic cotton and recycled PET continue to be you’re fabrics of choice – then good on ya!!


I would also like to reiterate in response to your assault on Sodium hydroxide (lye), despite it being approved by the Global Organic Textile Standards and the Soil Association (Source:http://www.apparelsearch.com), that it is routinely used when turning cotton into fiber during the wet processing. This includes ORGANIC COTTON, which I presume you support.

Is it not hypocritical to bash bamboo viscose because it is produced using lye – when one of your chosen fibers uses lye in its production process as well?

I also have to ask – If we are going to have a discussion about the use of chemicals, should we not discuss the list of chemicals used to produce P.E.T?

Note: recycling may keep a small portion of P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate) out of landfills, but I suggest that we should instead look for natural alternatives and work toward halting our use of petroleum-based products all together.

Does recycling a small portion of the P.E.T. produced justify its continued production? Does it provide cover for the Petroleum Industry to just keep pushing their products into our lives? Is it cool now because it can be recycled???

                                                                                                                                        ~ RTMC

no fabric is "good" for the environment. humans are in fact really bad for the planet. we've had to exploit and kill to survive throughout the whole history of our species. we once had to kill animals for their pelts to wear for clothing to keep warm. i'll take plants over that any day. so we do the best we can. i do the best i can to find the highest quality, kindest fabrics, and cool yet timeless designs in hopes that your clothing will be with you for life. i only want to create what you will love and treasure.

what fabrics do you like best? what clothing styles would you like to see yourself wearing for years and years? i appreciate any feedback, like i said frequently the comments speak more than the article! so i'd be happy to hear your thoughts. thank you and namaste!

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