Eco friendly fashion
Here is why we need more eco friendly fashions
Fashion brands pledge to end sourcing fibers from endangered forests.
Destruction of rainforests is major reason Indonesia is considered world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Your shirts and skirts may be made from the great forests of the world – the sylvan habitat of Indonesia’s orangutans or Canada’s caribou. Every year, Canopy estimates that millions of trees in endangered forests are cut, chipped and then treated with a chemical concoction to break them down into a pulp slurry. Indonesian and Chinese factories turn the chemical pulp into viscose filaments, which are then spun into fabrics that make their way into the fashion manufacturing process and eventually into stores and your wardrobe.
Rayon, viscose and modal, fabrics commonly used by fashion retailers across the UK, Europe and North America, are among the materials made in this way. Not-for-profit organisation Canopy has traced them through the factories of south east Asia to the giant pulp mills in China and Canada that crank out cellulosic fibre, all the way back to the Boreal forests of Canada, the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and the ancient temperate rainforests of North America.
While pure rayon and viscose are technically biodegradable, when they are blended with other fibres (often synthetic) and treated with surface finishes or decorated with beading or sequins, their ability to biodegrade is inhibited. According to the Council for Textile Recycling and the Environmental Protection Agency, only 15% of clothing in the US is recovered through donation or recycling, leaving 85% in landfill.
Canopy estimates that up to 100m trees are logged every year for fabric but fortunately there is an emerging counter trend to the fashion industry’s love affair with chemically pulped tree textiles. Designers and apparel brands including Stella McCartney, H&M, Eileen Fisher,Zara/Inditex and Quiksilver have committed to eliminate endangered forests from their fabrics. H&M is developing a three-year plan to end all sourcing from the world’s endangered forests, Stella McCartney has pledged that all its cellulose fibres will meet “strict sustainability standards” by 2017 and Quiksilver has “committed to using reasonable efforts to influence our own fabric supply chain”. In addition to phasing out controversial forest-fibre, these companies are looking to shift to alternatives such as recycled fabrics, non-wood alternatives, organic and socially sustainable cottons and, where tree fibre is used, eco-certified Forest Stewardship Council plantations.
The common argument in favour of forest-fibres is that trees are a renewable resource, so why not use them for paper and fabric? The reality on the ground is that the orangutans, tigers, bears and songbirds that depend on these forests are listed as critically endangered or threatened because of the loss of their forest habitat.
Furthermore, in 2007 Indonesia was found to be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitting nation, due to its unprecedented record ofdeforestation, where carbon rich rainforests are logged, drained and turned into palm or eucalyptus plantations. It takes decades to recuperate the carbon lost to the atmosphere after logging. A forest habitat is not as renewable as an individual tree may be.
The impact of forest-fibres doesn’t end with habitat loss or carbon emissions. Frontline communities face intimidation and violence as they struggle to maintain access and rights to their traditional lands. The process of transforming towering old-growth trees to the soft and silky feel of viscose fabrics isn’t pretty either. Much like cotton, the pulp and paper industry is also a water hog, ranking third in the world in terms of fresh water withdrawal, after the primary metals and the chemical industries.
Tree-based fabrics currently comprise 6% of the total fabric industry, with a handful of suppliers controlling the lion’s share of global supply. To help prevent the projected expansion of logging for textiles, clothing brands need to be on board. Once apparel industry leaders start refusing to source from endangered forests, their suppliers will be motivated to find better, more sustainable, alternatives.
Nicole Rycroft, Canopy founder and executive director. You can lend your support by signing the CanopyStyle Pledge
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