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Sustainable Threads: Innovations in the Industry

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The textile industry is–let’s face it–not the most sustainable. However, there are lots of companies out there trying to figure out ways to fix that problem. In this article, we’ll look at how the textile industry is making ecological innovations. First, let’s learn a little bit about textiles.

“Textiles” and “fabrics” are pretty much used interchangeably. They can be made from both natural and synthetic materials (called fibers). Most synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, meaning they’re made from non-renewable sources and require a lot of energy to make.

However, a fabric made from natural fibers is not necessarily a sustainable choice either. For example, cotton is a widely known and used natural fiber, but because the production process normally uses pesticides and extensive amounts of water, it is a much less sustainable choice.

So, when is a textile considered sustainable? It might help to think of the three Rs of environmental friendliness:

  • Reduce: Does the manufacturing company attempt to reduce the water, chemical, and air pollution that normally occurs during the manufacturing process?
  • Reuse: Is the textile in good enough condition to be used several times or even be made into something else during its use?
  • Recycle: Has it been made with recycled materials, or can it be recycled/biodegraded?

With these factors in mind, let’s delve into innovative ways the textile industry has developed to try and help solve its sustainability problem.

The company WeAreSpinDye is hoping to revolutionize the way synthetic fibers are produced by dyeing them early in the process (before they become yarns or fabric). This will reduce the negative environmental effects of the chemical dyes used for textiles.

A brand of hemp called Hardy Organic Hemp has innovated the production process by creating a fiber that is produced using zero pesticides, water, or chemicals, and is organically dyed.

Though we don’t usually think of carpet backing when we think of textiles, a company called Milliken revolutionized the backing on carpet tiles by finding a way to make them stick to your floor without the need for harmful glues and adhesives.

Climatex, an ecologically responsible German textile company, created the first 100% biodegradable fabric made of synthetic materials, all while maintaining extraordinary energy, water, and dye standards.

Another fabric called Sensuede is the first high-end microfiber suede fabric that is made completely from recycled polyester and is not produced using harmful solvents like many other synthetic suede fabrics.

One of the most interesting innovations being made in the textile industry is Crabyon fibers. These are made from “chitosan” (or “chitin”), a material actually derived from crab shells. These fibers produce textiles that are completely biodegradable, while also recycling waste from crab processing factories.

Did you know that when you clean an item made from a synthetic fiber (especially fleece) in a washing machine, it sheds a small amount of microfibers that end up in the water and pollute it? G-Star, a denim brand, recognized this issue and took action with their RAW for the Oceans denim line, the first to be made from recycled plastic found in the ocean.

Patagonia, a leader in producing apparel with recycled materials, is the first brand in the US to incorporate into their products an innovative TENCEL (lyocell) fiber that is made of waste from cotton fabrics.

Though there is still lots of work left to do in the industry, you can see that the work of these textile and apparel companies creates new, sustainable ways to make fibers which not only reduce negative environmental effects, but cause positive ones. Check out the links and learn more; get involved with sustainable clothing! When consumers are excited to have eco-friendly clothes, apparel companies will pay attention, and this could be the start of some big changes in this field. The textile industry is always learning how to become a more eco-friendly industry, one that is fit for our changing world.