Imagine wearing a dress that is made from wood or recycled plastic bottles. Plants, wood, seaweed and recycled materials, incredibly, are all used to make sustainable fibres, which are used to make many different items. Sustainable fibres are those that are derived from renewable or recyclable materials. To be deemed ‘sustainable’ they must have the least amount of impact on the environment, right through from growing and harvesting the raw materials, through to the production process and finally to how they can be disposed of. Preferably a sustainable fibre will be biodegradable or recyclable.
The desire for sustainable fibres by consumers has grown. Just as recycling has become a way of life recycled products are the new ‘must have’ items that ethical conscious customers can not do without. Everything from jackets to lingerie or shopping bags to furniture; it can all be made from these sustainable fibres.
The production process of sustainable fibres addresses the need to use less energy, resulting in a reduction of carbon emissions. The reliance on the use of petrochemicals is decreased, reducing their carbon footprint, and some fibres are more environmentally friendly to produce due to crops requiring less fertilisers and other harmful chemicals.
Iyocell, with a brand name of Tencel, is made from wood pulp. It is a man made fibre that makes great dresses and shirts as it drapes attractively, and the production process is environmentally friendly. Comfortable to wear in high humidity, as it breathes well and is also lightweight, it dries quickly and it won’t shrink or wrinkle. Garments made from Tencel are perfect to take when travelling, particularly to tropical climates. Due to being made of wood pulp it is 100% biodegradable.
By wearing something made from PET you are effectively helping the world’s landfill problem, as PET is made from recycled plastic bottles. It is a soft fibre and all sorts of garments are created from it, including jackets, dresses, shirts and pants. As well as the obvious benefits of less plastic bottles going to landfill, the energy consumption during production is low.
Through combining wood pulp and seaweed, manufacturers have come up with a fibre called Seacell. It is becoming popular with designers and is fantastic for making lingerie. Amazingly it is said that nutrients can be absorbed through the skin from the seaweed and it is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Jute is composed of cellulose and lignin. Cellulose is a property of plant fibre and lignin is mainly composed of wood fibre. It is cheap to produce and has a variety of uses. It is a bit tougher and is used for things like shopping bags and furnishings. It has a similar look to linen when used in clothing and it is 100% biodegradable and recyclable. It is much cleaner to produce too as the crops requires less fertilisers and other chemicals, and it can also be harvested quickly as it reaches maturity in only 4 to 6 months.
Grown in Eastern Asia it is a plant that is great for clothing. It is not a new discovery as the Ancient Egyptians also used it to make fabric. It is incredibly durable and is 8 times stronger than cotton. It is comfortable, does not shrink and is also stain resistant. Ramie is also wonderfully versatile as it can be used from clothing through to shower curtains.