Deidaa’s Plastic Free July initiative in 2021 begins with a video on eco-textiles on Learn with Samita, Deidaa’s You Tube channel. What are eco-textiles? How can one distinguish between eco and non-eco textiles? What is the vegan alternative to commercial silk? We answer your eco-questions in this blog post.
Types of Fabrics
Fabrics can be natural and man-made. Cotton, silk, wool, and linen are natural textiles. Man made textiles include acrylics, polyester, and nylon. The word nylon, incidentally, is a portmanteau of New York and London. Man made textiles are carbon-based. Manufacturing of carbon – based textiles emits nitrous oxide. Nitrous Oxide is a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Viscose or rayon is somewhere between. It is the regenerated fabric. Made from wood pulp, the viscose fibre goes through intense chemical processing. Viscose cannot be classified as natural. The production of viscose fibre emits nitrous oxide, carbon disulphide and hydrogen sulphide.
Is every natural fabric sustainable? Not quite. Cotton requires intense irrigation. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in commercial cotton farming release toxins.
Wool in its original form is greasy and dirty. Wool is one of the few fibers that require wet cleaning or scouring. Chemicals used in scouring release an effluent with a high pollution index. Inefficient shearing and blunt equipment may cause painful injuries to the sheep.
You can get wool from other animals like rabbits, alpacas and goats. The cashmere or the pashmina wool derives from the underbelly of a mountain goat that roams the Himalayas. No sheep is sheared in the making of Pashminas.
You may use organic cotton. How do you differentiate between regular and organic cotton? The difference is in the method of cultivation. Organic cotton is free of toxins and is rain fed. The soil in organic cotton farming is nourished by crop rotation. Organic cotton is safe for you, for your baby and for the environment. When you buy organic cotton, look for GOTS certificate. GOTS is an internationally accredited certification agency with stringent audit criteria in place.
Among the natural fabrics my vote goes to linen. Linen is breathable. It is pure. In the past, the Egyptian priests used to wear linen robes. Linen is very strong. Currency notes were printed on linen as were the archival books and official documents like the American Declaration of Independence. Linen has only one downside. It crushes easily, but that is a small price to pay for a beautiful fabric.
What about silk? Do you know how many silkworms die in the making of commercial silk? What is the alternative? It is tussar silk, peace silk or vegan silk. Mahatma Gandhi used to call tussar the ahimsa silk or non-violent silk. In commercial silk, the cocoons are boiled while the silkworms are inside the cocoons. In tusser silk, we wait for the silkworms to abandon the cocoons. The tribals in the forests go about collecting the cocoons. Silk is spun from those abandoned cocoons. We are not killing any silkworms in the making of tussar silk. Tussar has a beautiful and understated lustre. It is strong and lends itself to the making of apparel and furnishings. Tussar sustains the forests and the tribal communities.
The other sustainable choices can be hemp, soy silk, jute or hessian, and vegetable fibres.
If you would still use polyester, ensure it is polyester recycled from plastic waste like PET bottles
Distinguish Polyester from Silk
How do we distinguish between polyester silk and pure silk? There are many polyester blends available in the market. These simulate the look and feel of pure silk. First of all, you have the burn test. You can burn the fiber. Residue from natural fibre will be ash and polyester will turn into a sticky substance. But you cannot go into a store and burn their fabric. They would not allow that. So what do you do? Train your fingers. When you touch pure silk it will be warm. Polyester will be like a snake. It will be cold, smooth and slippery. It will never have the warmth of a pure fabric.
Coming up, a blog post and video on neo – fibres or smart fibres.