People who have been following me on Facebook will have noticed I have been increasingly busy with ethical fibres. I personally have stopped completely buying clothes made in Bangladesh and discovered our regular cotton clothing has very bad consequences for the humans producing it and the environment (which then goes back full circle to humans).
In private conversations people asked me if I was comfortable doing this, as it might shed some bad light on fashion in general and then possibly my own business.
My answer was; no.
I am willing to take responsibility and put my money where my mouth is.
So I started checking with my suppliers; who makes the fabric I purchase from you? Who is responsible? It turns out very few wholesale suppliers have a real clue. And this is sad and bad at the same time.
My search for ethically sourced fibre will continue and developments are taking shape behind the scenes. But now the question is; how environmentally friendly is our fabric in general?
I came across a great source on a website called made-by.org
Lets have a look at the parameters and how much weight they have in the final classification;
Green house gasses (Carbon dioxide equivalents) 20%
Human toxicity 20%
• Acute toxicity
• Chronic toxicity
• Reproductive hazard
This is where for example regular cotton scores really bad.
Eco toxicity 20%
• Acute aquatic toxicity to fish
• Eco-toxicity potential
Energy input (Total energy use including feedstock) 13.33%
Water input 13.33%
This is where wool scores bad, because the amount of water used for cleaning and scouring the wool is enormous in comparison to the Weight Of Fibre.
Land use (Yield )13.33%
According to these parameters the fabrics can be classified as follows;
CLASS A (least impact)
Mechanically Recycled Nylon
Mechanically Recycled Polyester
Organic Flax (Linen)
Organic Hemp Recycled
Cotton Recycled Wool
Chemically Recycled Polyester
In Conversion Cotton
Monocel® (Bamboo Lyocell Product)
TENCEL® (Lenzing Lyocell Product)
Conventional Flax (Linen)
Modal® (Lenzing Viscose Product) (made from birch trees)
Rayon Spandex (Elastane)
UNCLASSIFIED (MADE-BY added a category of ‘Unclassied’ fibres; for those which have not yet been included in the benchmark due to the lack of available credible data. Over time, MADE-BY aims to incorporate these fibres in the Benchmark.)
This outcome is certainly surprising in some cases such as wool, which was super ‘ethical’ in my mind, but turns out to be class E. Why is this?
The sheep produce huge amounts of methane which gives a bad score on the parameter Green House Gasses (GHG), the production of the fibres especially scouring uses large amounts of energy AND water and to top it off; the output of fibre per land unit is poor.
The list does confirm my aversion against commercial cotton,but does not yet) explain what's wrong with commercial linen, I always understood that all linen is eco, because it does not require any insecticides. furthermore linen is mostly produced in western countries where the whole process is strictly controlled by governmental organisations as opposed to Indian cotton for example. This will need some extra digging into the facts,
What this list does not take into account seems to be the way workers are treated, and how much they get paid, so it would be interesting to take that into consideration as well. A big surprise was to see Ramie (which is giant nettle that grows wild in Nepal) in class C, when it is for sure not toxic in any way, unless I missed something in the process.
This subject is far from final, and I will write more about this soon.