Written by: Lakshmi Challa
Written by: Lakshmi Challa
It is well known that every customer product has an impact on the environment. However an average consumer does not know which product has less or more impact than the other one. Any product, which is made, used or disposed of in a way that significantly reduces the harm it would otherwise cause to the environment, could be considered as eco-friendly product. Slowly, consumers in India are taking lead in prompting manufacturers to adopt clean technologies to produce eco-friendly products.
The textile industry is shared between natural fibres such as wool, silk, linen, cotton and hemp, and man-made ones, the most common of which are synthetic fibres (polyamide, acrylic) made from petrochemicals. Most of the clothes in our wardrobes contain polyester, elastane or Lycra. These cheap and easy-care fibres are becoming the textile industry's miracle solution. However, their manufacture creates pollution and they are hard to recycle (with nylon taking 30 to 40 years to decompose).The textile and clothing industry is a diverse one, as much in the raw materials it uses as the techniques it employs. At each of the six stages typically required to make a garment, the negative impacts on the environment are as numerous as they are varied. Spinning, weaving and industrial manufacture undermine air quality. Dyeing and printing consume vast amounts of water and chemicals, and release numerous volatile agents into the atmosphere that are particularly harmful to our health.
Several times a year in the world's fashion capitals, willowy models in dazzling outfits sashay down the catwalk to present the coming season's trends. Each year a handful of designers set the tone, says what's in and what's not. Chain-stores and mass retailers then adapt their ideas for the man and woman in the street. Fashion feeds a growing industry and ranks textile and clothing as the world's second-biggest economic activity for intensity of trade. However, stiff competition forces down costs while working conditions, more often than not in developing countries, are far from ideal. The environment pays a heavy price too. To improve conditions for workers and stem pollution, textile producers, manufacturers and distributors are launching the first initiatives built around sustainable development: who knows, ecology may be the next new trend!
The world of fashion may be stylish, glamorous and exciting, but its impact on environment is worsening day by day.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 246 million child-workers (age 5 to 14) in the world today. The Asian-Pacific region exploits the most child labour, followed by sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the textile sector, children are a cheap workforce for picking cotton, hand-sewing, etc. Thanks to the scandals revealed by NGOs and to consumer pressure, global brands are slowly integrating social clauses into their subcontractor agreements.
From an environmental point of view, the clothes we wear and the textiles they are made from can cause a great deal of damage.
Criteria for eco-friendly Lable
Pertains to the limits of harmfull chemicals which vary with the intended use of textiles.
Group I-Baby wear
The limits are the lowest (stringent) for the clothes and textiles for babies below age 3.
Material in direct skin contact, worn next to skin, for example underwear, bed-sheets and night dresses
Materials not in direct contact with skin.
Textiles worn as second layer dresses, c oats, articles with linings.
Furnishings articles and accessories for decorative purpose.
e.g,.table wear,upholstery,curtains,textile flooring and mattresses.
These are recommendations for processes to be avoided such as
1. Bleaching with hypochlorite
2. Use of chlorinated organic compounds as carriers in dyeing of polyester
3. Optimum use of water & energy
Dyestuffs when exhausted on fibre are fixed only to the extend of 50-90%
The un-exhausted dye with chemical impurities contaminate the effluent, hence there is a need to ensure that dyestuff and dye additives that go in to the dyeing process are eco friendly.
Ecological norms for the dye are considered assuming it's concentration up to 10 % on textiles and 2 % dye diluted to 1:2500 in effluent.
Fastness properties (washing and rubbing dry/wet) of dyes on finished textiles also form part of eco norms considering their possible transfer on the skin.
For several years now, developed and developing countries have forged partnerships around fair trade in textiles. High-street names have also entered the age of sustainable development. Some use organic cotton or hemp; others process fibres without heavy metals or ensure acceptable working conditions. Notable examples include Agns B, Katherine Hamnett, Timberland and H&M.
Some companies have developed new eco-friendly textiles from algae, soya, milk casein, bamboo, etc. Ingeo, a natural synthetic fibre made by distilling plant sugar from plant starches such as corn, has made its high-fashion debut thanks to the Italian jean designer Diesel, and soon Versace Sport. Other firms make clothes from natural or recycled materials. In China, Bambro Textiles works with bamboo fiber, spun from bamboo grown in Yunnan province, to propose a range of household linens in this 100% natural and biodegradable material. Patagonia has been manufacturing fleece sweaters from recycled plastic bottles for several years. The international Clean Clothes campaign urges textile brands and distributors to take concrete and effective measures to improve the very poor working conditions that prevail in clothes and footwear manufacturing. Since its launch, and thanks to active public interest, this initiative has succeeded in winning companies to its cause.
Care of Fabrics
Hot water is the best means of sanitizing your fabrics. It is, however, not always enough to remove stains and dirt. There are a variety of phosphate-free and enviro-friendly detergents on the market, but here are a few other tips. Remember that different types of stains require different treatments. There is no panacea; protein-based stains may get set permanently if you use the wrong method.
Sunshine instead of bleach if you have the time to lay your whites in the sun to let them bleach naturally, you can take them outside while they are still soapy and hang them where they will receive at least five hours of direct sunlight.
Lemon Juice and sunshine is another powerful combination for stubborn stains. Treat the items the same as in the line above, only add a touch of lemon juice.
Eucalyptus Oil is an excellent grease stain remover that won't damage your fabrics.
Tea Tree Oil for times when you want to disinfect the laundry and cannot use hot hot water, tea tree oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, germicidal, and fungicidal properties.
Rubbing Alcohol - good for grass stains
Hydrogen Peroxide - since this is hard on the fabric fibres, only use this method in a pinch and for fresh stubborn stains like blood.
ECO-wash laundering system - which seems to be plastic discs with ceramic pellets.
The activated ceramic pellets inside the discs are agitated within the machine to release ions. These ions reduce the surface tension of the water, allowing it to penetrate the fabrics and release the dirt. The result is clean, fresh clothes without the risk of chemicals damaging the garments.
Eco-Ball is an ecological laundry ball with high polymeric contents (organic). It has been filled with this natural liquid which ionizes water molecules and makes them deeply penetrate into clothing fibers.
Eco-Ball is resistant to high temperatures.
It must be used together with SANITI CLEAN
Is eco-fashion sustainable?
Think about the following.
Eco-clothes are made from organic raw materials that are grown without pesticides. This reduces damage to the environment, animals and peoples health.
Other eco-clothes are made using recycled textiles or plastics, saving on waste, landfill space and the amount of raw materials used.
No harmful chemicals and bleaches - which can cause long-term damage to peoples health and the environment - are used in the production of eco-clothes.
Eco-clothes are fair traded.
Eco-clothes are high quality and last a long time. Because of this people need fewer clothes, less raw materials and energy are used, and there is less waste.
To guarantee standards in the future, a system of eco-labelling is being established to show that clothes have been made from organic materials and manufactured in an environmentally-friendly way.
Many famous fashion designers have started to use organic materials - and make money!
Textiles could be one of the most un-sustainable products in the world. In their entire lifecycle from growing the raw material or creating it from oil to manufacturing and selling and final disposal they can create a serious problem.
There are benefits at different life-cycle stages of the organic and eco-friendly fabrics trade, both for consumers and producers however, in the larger scale of things it is important to see that ECO-FRIENDLY TEXTILES AND CLOTHING may travel half way around the world to reach the ethical customer. As the demand of SUCH ECO FRIENDLY Garments is increasing there exist a great scope for new entrepreneur to enter into this field.
VINOD K.SHARMA AND YAMINI S.KURANI: STATE OF ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCT DECLARATIONS (EPDS) IN INDIA ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF TEXTILE INDUSTRY ISLCA CORNER (INDIAN SOCIETY OF LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT) ABSTRACTS
Antero Hyvarinen, International Marketing, Expert Geneva, Switzerland Eco-Labelling and Environmentally Friendly Products and Production Methods Affecting the International Trade in Textiles and Clothing
About the author:
I have done my Master of Home Science and after completing my Masters degree, I worked as a lecturer in Acharya N.G.Ranga Agril., university,Hyderabad for some time.later I shifted to R.K.Industries , Chennai. Where I worked as Senior Merchandiser. I also have been absorbed as lecturer in ST.MARY'S HOME SCIENCE COLLEGE , Calicut . Also conducted various training programmes in clothing and textiles. Interested Indian Traditional embroideries and research studies. Presently working as guest faculty lecturer in Dept. of Apparel technology and management, Bangalore university, Bangalore.
Mobile: 9901888846 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The pesticides that farmers use to protect textiles as they grow can harm wildlife, contaminate other products and get into the food we eat.
The chemicals that are used to bleach and colour textiles can damage the environment and peoples health.
Old clothes that we throw away take up precious space in landfill sites, which is filling up rapidly.
Most of the textile machineries cause noise, sound and air pollution.
Over-usage of natural resources like plants, water, etc depletes or disturbs ecological balance.
The working conditions in the textile and clothing industry are of sub- standard.
Exploitation of animals often goes hand in hand with intensive farming practices that damage the environment as a whole.
Environmental effects of textile fibres
Natural fibres have their problems, too:
Cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world: these pesticides injure and kill many people every year. It also takes up a large proportion of agricultural land, much of which is needed by local people to grow their own food. Herbicides, and also the chemical defoliants which are sometimes used to aid mechanical cotton harvesting, add to the toll on both the environment and human health. These chemicals typically remain in the fabric after finishing, and are released during the lifetime of the garments. The development of genetically modified cotton adds environmental problems at another level. Growing cotton uses 22.5 percent of all the insecticides used globally? Growing enough cotton for one t-shirt requires 257 gallons of water. On top of that, bleaching and then dyeing the resulting fabric creates toxins that flow into our ecosystem.
First of all, the cotton must be grown; this entails vast amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that pollute and deplete the soil. Despite mechanized harvesting, the cotton industry is still largely dependent on cheap labour. The raw cotton is then dyed, meaning chemicals and heavy metals with harmful effects on the environment. Finally bands of cotton are assembled in factories to be sown into a T-shirt. From wastewater emissions to air pollution and energy consumption, the textile industry weighs heavily on the environment.
Wool pollution: both agricultural and craft workers in the UK suffer from exposure to organophosphate sheep dip problem. Getting from fibre to cloth - bleaching, dyeing, and finishing - uses yet more energy and water, and causes yet more pollution.
Nylon and polyester-made from petrochemicals, these synthetics are also non-biodegradable, and so they are inherently unsustainable on two counts. Nylon manufacture creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Making polyester uses large amounts of water for cooling, along with lubricants which can become a source of contamination. Both processes are also very energy-hungry.
Rayon (viscose), another artificial fibre, is made from wood pulp, which on the face of it seems more sustainable. However, old growth forest is often cleared and/or subsistence farmers are displaced to make way for pulpwood plantations. Often the tree planted is eucalyptus, which draws up phenomenal amounts of water, causing problems in sensitive regions. To make rayon, the wood pulp is treated with hazardous chemicals such as caustic soda and sulphuric acid. The use of rayon for clothing is contributing to the rapid depletion of the world's forests. Petroleum-based products are detrimental to the environment on many levels.
Other materials used in clothing and shoes INDUSTRY include:
Leather (with polluting tanning and dyeing processes, as well as intensive farming impacts and animal rights issues).
PVC Harmful solvents - used e.g. in glues and to stick plastic coatings to some waterproof fabrics.
Environmental effects of textile processes
PVC, Harmful solvents used in glues, to stick plastic coating to some water proof fabrics.
Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; unfixed dye then often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives - often heavy metals - also end up in sewers and then rivers.
Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds.
And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all 'easy care', 'crease resistant', 'permanent press' cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).
Many people feel that concern for the environment is intimately linked to concern for humankind, as well. Working conditions in the clothing industry are an international and national scandal. There are numerous reports of workers being forced to work long hours for desperately low pay, dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, female workers being sexually exploited, and attempts to form trades unions being brutally put down. Vulnerable people are routinely exploited in sweatshops and as home workers. In addition, the people who make clothes often have to work in terrible conditions. Many clothes bought in northern countries are imported cheaply from the South, where they are made by sweat shop workers (often children) who work long and hard for very little money.
Exploitation of individual animals often goes hand in hand with intensive farming practises that also damage the environment as a whole.
Beyond this, many people feel that being 'green' includes a wish to avoid any form of animal exploitation - whilst others would argue vehemently that this is a luxury that cannot be supported in a sustainable world. Animal products used in clothing include fur, leather, silk (obtained by boiling or gassing to death many tens of thousands of silkworms), and wool.
Leather-free shoes are available from Vegetarian Shoes Online Store and Green Shoes.
Vegetarian credentials do not guarantee green credentials! - Leather substitutes can include problematic materials such as polyurethane, nylon and even PVC.
More than anything, the sheer amount of production is a problem - it has been calculated for example that the Earth could not produce enough natural fibres to provide for the present-day demand for new clothes.
This throughput is driven by a fashion industry geared to constant change - and our self-esteem, our social standing and even our job security can be at stake if we do not conform. Still, times are a-changing - for a start, fashion is less prescriptive now than for previous generations - and this may be an area of your life where you're ready to help drive the changes.
Today, the textile industry, which uses on an average six hundred dyes and chemicals for the priduction of consumer textiles, is considered most polluted sector of all the other industry. When moving to an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, one of the key elements to consider is ECO- fashion.
What is eco-fashion?
Eco-fashion is about making clothes that take into account the environment, the health of consumers and the working conditions of people in the fashion industry.
are made using organic raw materials, such as cotton grown without pesticides and silk made by worms fed on organic trees
dont involve the use of harmful chemicals and bleaches to colour fabrics
are often made from recycled and reused textiles. High-quality garments can be made from second-hand clothes and even recycled plastic bottles
are made to last, so that people keep them for longer
come from fair trade - the people who make them are paid a fair price and have decent working conditions.
With the eco-fashion industry still in its infancy, the main responsibility at the moment lies with clothes manufacturers and fashion designers, who need to start using sustainable materials and processes.
There are a variety of materials considered "environmentally-friendly" for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the re-new ability of the product. Renewable resources are items that can be replenished in a relatively short amount of time (as opposed to millennia).
The second factor is the ecological footprint of the resource - how much land (usually measured in acres) it takes to bring one of the individuals (plants or animals) to full growth and support it.
The third thing to consider in determining the eco-friendliness of a particular product is how many chemicals it requires to grow/process it to make it ready for market.
Fabrics considered in this list include organic cotton, Organic silk, Organic wool, soy silk, Milk-silk, Pine apple fabrics, Hemp, Peat, Fortrel eco-spun tm, Ingeo tm corn fibre, bamboo, Recycled fabrics from recycled fibre.
Fabrics not currently in this list include: linen, silk, kenaf, and switchgrass, but they are forthcoming.
Produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.
Textiles that have been discarded by consumers, retailers or charitable organizations, which have undergone a discriminating process of sorting, grading and separation into waste-free products suitable for reuse.
The calculation of the amount of natural resources required by an individual or group of individuals (plants, animals, nations) to sustain itself.
More sustainable products:
The Cotton Project supports small-scale farmers, especially in Africa, to change to new systems which are farmer-centred and in which pesticide use is reduced or eliminated. Its International Organic Cotton Directory includes UK retailers of organic cotton clothing, including Bishopston Trading Company, People Tree, Gossypium, and Greenfibres. All the cotton that Patagonia uses for their outdoor gear is organic as well.
Organic cotton garments are often also free from chlorine bleaches and synthetic dyes.
Organic cotton is much more environmentally friendly than the traditional variety as it uses no pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides during the growing cycle. There are many growers of this crop, and the number is steadily increasing.
Usually manufacturers using this plant to make textiles follow up the process by using natural dyes to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem.
Even more promising is new cotton that is grown in the tradition of the Aztecs - coloured cotton. Sally Fox, a biologist, spent ten years perfecting coloured cotton with long enough fibres to be spun into thread. She managed to get it to grow naturally in shades of green and brown. It has the added benefit of not fading (in colour) and in fact, it gets more vibrant with the first few types of washing.
Jute is 100 per cent bio-degradable and thus, environment-friendly. It is used extensively in manufacturing different types of packaging material for agricultural and industrial products. Ute is available in abundance in India, at competitive prices. Jute is now not just a major textile fiber, but also a raw material for non-textile products, which help to protect environment, which is an integral part of any development planning.
Known for its coarse character due to its heavy texture, jute has come to acquire the center stage as an eco-friendly alternative. Jute, characterized by its silky texture, high tensile strength and resistance to heat and fire is considered fit for use in industries as varied as fashion, travel and luggage, furnishings, carpets and floor coverings, decoratives, textiles and made-ups.
Geo-jute-The Eco-friendly Fiber
One of the oldest industries in India, Jute has traditionally been used for packaging. However, its versatility is only coming to light now as the world looks on for natural options to save the environment. The time has come for this natural fiber to take over with the ideal solutions for the modern world.
Tencel is a natural, man-made fiber. It has many of the qualities of synthetics, but is made of natural cellulose found in wood pulp making it fully biodegradable. The pulp used to produce Tencel is grown in tree farms, and the closed-loop production process recovers a solvent used in the spinning process and is able to re-use 99% of it. The process also uses no chlorine for bleaching, making the entire process relatively environmentally friendly. Products that can be made from this material include all forms of clothing such as shirts, pants, skirts, and suits, as well as sheets or any other cloth application where something other than cotton is desired. Tencel can be blended with other materials to produce other effects, however depending on the materials it is blended with it may or may not affect the biodegradability of the product. This is an important product because traditionally synthetic clothing has been made from oil, which has many downsides. Cellulose is a renewable resource, whereas a lack of oil will result in a lack of synthetic clothing in addition to all of the fuel-related issues. Tencel could be an excellent replacement for synthetic materials such as Rayon. The full product lifespan has been taken into consideration during design as well; when an article of clothing made of Tencel is at the end of it's useful life cycle, instead of being thrown away it can be composted safely.
Cyarn milk protein fiber dewaters and skims milk, and manufactures the protein spinning fluid suitable for wet spinning process by means of new bio-engineering technique, and new high-grade textile fiber is made by combining them. In April 2004, it passed Oeko-Tex Standard 100 green certification for the international ecological textiles.
Cyarn milk protein fiber is healthy for skin, comfortable, with bright colors due to good dyeability, etc. The milk protein fiber can be spun purely or spun with cashmere, silk, spun silk, cotton, wool, ramie and other fibers to weave fabrics with the features of milk protein fiber.It can also be used to create top-grade underwear, shirts, T shirts, loungewear, etc. to satisfy people's pursuit of comfortable, healthy, superior and fashionable garments.
The milk protein fiber is a fresh product as a superior green, healthy and comfortable fiber, milk protein fiber will certainly become popular goods in the market as new favorite of the Textile.
Linen is made from flax, another traditional fibre crop which needs few chemical fertilisers, and less pesticide than cotton.
Hemp, The Natural Choice
Good news for farmers: hemp is making a big comeback in the fashion world. Indeed, hemp grows without fertilizer, requires minimum attention, doesn't deplete soil nutrients and is easy to harvest. As a result most hemp by-products are now certified organic.By far; the crop with the most potential for eco-friendly textile use is hemp. The ecological footprint of hemp is considerably smaller than that of most other plants considered for their fibres. Hemp plants grow very quickly and densely which makes it difficult for weeds to take hold, eliminating the need for herbicides and artificial fertilizers. It requires no irrigation as it thrives on the amount of water in the average rainfall, and it is highly pest-resistant.
Hemp has naturally long fibres which makes it suitable for spinning with a minimum of processing. Those fibres are also long-lasting, in fact, historically hemp has been used for making naval ropes that were used in and around water because they resist rot. If it held up to those conditions, imagine how well it will wear as a pair of jeans, or a shirt.
Hemp fabrics come in a variety of weights and textures. You can purchase fabric or clothing, woven or knit; buy yarn, rope, belts and a wide range of products made of this versatile plant.
Hemp is a thoroughly ecological crop: highly productive, easy to cultivate and pest tolerant, so needing few or no agrichemcials whilst at the same time binding and enriching the soil with its deep roots. It is a traditional fibre, that went out of favour in the 1930s for political reasons, rather than practical ones. It is now at long last undergoing something of a revival:
Hemp clothing specialists include Hemp Union Ltd., The Hemp Store, Clothworks, and The Hemp Trading Company, which offers 'skatewear, boardwear, streetwear, clubwear'. Hemp yarn is available from the House of Hemp.
Note: agricultural hemp, though versatile and productive as a fibre, oil and food plant, is useless as a narcotic!
Organic wool is increasingly becoming available: it is produced using sustainable farming practises and without toxic sheep dips.
Wool produced by caring farmers can be a wonderful resource, with a few caveats.
Sheep graze plants almost to the dirt, and there is the issue of the manure entering into the water supply. Factory-farmed sheep (as with any factory-farmed animals) live miserable lives where the handlers are concerned with productivity and speed, including during the shearing process, where nicks are common even to the point of slicing the entire nose off the sheep.
Then there is the matter of bleaching the wool to get it white, or dyeing it, but with a responsible eco-friendly manufacturer most of these issues can be overcome.
Legend has it that Henry Ford wore a suit made of soy silk in the 1940s, but the US Government of the day decided to go with rayon instead. Here in the 21st century, though, it's soy silk that has the greater potential.
Soy silk is made from the by-products of the tofu-making process. The liquefied proteins are extruded into fibres which are then spun, and used like any other fibre (woven, knitted, etc.).
You can purchase skeins of soy silk yarn and test it out for yourself. The high protein content makes it receptive to natural dyes, so you can create your own colours.
Ingoe Corn Fiber
It is undoubtedly too early to believe that Dow Chemicals (Cargill Dow) has turned over a new leaf, but it seems that they are interested in reaching out to new markets through the development of Ingeo. Ingo is created by extracting the starch and then sugars from corn, and processing them to make a fibre, which can be spun into a yarn or woven into fabric.
It's hard to see how this fabric qualifies as "environmentally-friendly" when the manufacturer's site contains the following sentence: "Firstly, bamboo pulp is refined from bamboo through a process of hydrolysis-alkalization and multi-phase bleaching."
Bamboo is a highly renewable grass, and it is probably this property that has resulted in its being classified as "eco-friendly". It also has natural antibacterial properties and the fabric "breathes". The resultant cloth is biodegradable.
Recycled polyester fleece jackets made from recycled drinks bottles.
Even some hi-tech waterproofs can potentially be recycled - if facilities exist. These include water-based coatings (applied without harmful solvents) and membranes such as Sympatex, which is 100% polyester. Avoid PVC, laminates and polyurethane.
A polyester fibre made out of recycled plastic bottles which can be made into fleece. Manufacturing this fibre is preferable to creating new petroleum-based fibres, and a plus given the sheer amount of plastic bottles in existence.
The fleece that is created is prized by backpackers for its warmth and durability.
If you aren't squeamish about the idea of tinkering with goats eggs by mixing in the genetic material from spiders to cause the females produce a special type of milk that contains silk fibres (originally produced for the US military, it must be concentrated to be used), then this might be the fabric for you. By and large, the resultant fibres are being used to create biodegradable sutures, bullet-proof material and research is being done to make artificial ligaments.
It's pushing the definition of "environmentally-friendly", though.
With the kind of awareness and restrictions coming in to ecology of textiles world over,the first thing every textile processor need to know prior to processing any textile material is the end use of the textile being processed and the country to which being exported.
Because each end use, e.g. baby wear, clothing in direct contact with skin,furnishing fabrics etc. will have different specifications just as each country will have different legislation.
Broadly,the restrictions concern the presence of following chemicals on textiles beyond prescribed limits.