By now we are well aware that cotton is a thirsty crop, but did you know that the fashion industry uses 4% of the world’s available drinking water for textile production each year? New fabric innovations are happening everyday, and one of the most exciting discoveries is that fabric can literally grow on trees… read on to see how!
Understanding Rayon Fabrics
To begin, let’s understand the umbrella label of rayon fabrics. The term rayon includes all the artificial fibers that can be obtained from wood pulp cellulose. Although these fibers are naturally derived, the process of transforming wood into fabrics includes many chemicals and a lot of water, and if done improperly,m can result in this pollution being sent out into our waterways. That is why it is important to know the distinctions between the different types of rayon fabrics. Here are 4 you should know:
Viscose is a semi-synthetic type of rayon fabric made from wood pulp that is used as a silk substitute, as it has a similar drape and smooth feel to the luxury material. It is a versatile fabric with a wide variety of uses, from clothing to cord, and is the most common type of rayon. Viscose has the lowest wet strength out of all the different types of rayon, which means it’s most likely to shrink or lose its shape in the washing process. Although the raw material used is natural, its production generates an extremely toxic sulfur pollution, and if the viscose is not made from a closed loop hydraulic system, then it is extremely harmful for the environment because it diffuses in the water sources.
Developed in the 1960s by Lenzing, TENCEL™, Modal is a man-made fiber obtained from the cellulose of beech trees – a substance present in the membranes of plant cells that is also used to make paper. To obtain this material, the bark of the wood is cut very very finely to extract the cellulose. A solvent is necessary to transform it into textile fiber, but the process is natural and non-toxic, and the water is recycled.
In fact, TENCEL™ Modal, manufactured by Lenzing, is made with globally approved environmental processes, produced in a closed loop water system, and 95% of the manufacturing materials reduce the carbon footprint. In addition, the beech wood plantations are PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified.
Lyocell is a man-made fiber also known as TENCEL™ Lyocell. More environmentally friendly, it is made from eucalyptus tree cellulose. The cellulose of these trees is extracted and then dissolved with a natural non-toxic solvent, which is biodegradable and safe. Lyocell has a very low impact on the environment because there is no chemical manipulation and no pollution of water. In fact, to make one ton of Lyocell fiber, only half an acre of eucalyptus forest is needed. This represents ⅕ of the soil to cotton production ratio. In addition, eucalyptus is a plant that does not require much water, so irrigation is not necessary.
As with modal, the Austrian company Lenzing, is responsible for a large majority of the production hence the name TENCEL™, a registered trademark.
Lenpur is a Lyocell fiber also known as plant cashmere, derived from white pine branches, which are most often sourced in Canada or China. Obtained from superfluous white pine branches, this textile does not encourage deforestation. Often compared to cashmere, it is sometimes said to have a higher quality than cotton because it is more resistant to washing and therefore lasts longer.