Eco-Fibres – Are They Here to Stay?

Eco-fibres are now a growing force in the fabric and textile industry. They are likely to be the next step in moving towards a healthier, sustainable global environment. Eco-fibres are environmentally safe, renewable sustainable resources that are becoming the fabric choice of conscientious consumers everywhere. So move over, commercial cotton – you have some very healthy competition.

What are eco-fibres?
Eco-fibres are the raw materials used to manufacture textiles without using pesticides, chemicals, or synthetic fertilizers. They are resistant to mold and mildew, are free from disease and many are considered hypo-allergenic. There are several types of eco-fibres that are commercially available including bamboo, hemp, soya, flax (linen), seaweed and even recycled plastic, along with the more commonly used organic cotton, organic wool and silk.

What are the advantages of organic cotton over commercial cotton?
Organic cotton has several advantages over commercially produced cotton. Because organic cotton is grown with no chemicals or pesticides, it will not induce allergic reactions that commercial cotton might. Cotton is typically used in clothing and bedding and the by-products and toxins in commercially grown cotton can cause skin irritation such as redness, rashes and itching. Of paramount importance is the fact that cotton is commonly used in children’s and baby clothing and an allergic reaction may not be the suspected culprit. There is no irradiation or genetic engineering involved in the production of organic cotton. As the insects that invade cotton become immune to the chemicals involved in production, new chemicals are used on an ongoing basis. By choosing organic cotton, your customers are choosing a product that will prevent them from being affected by any of these new chemical products.

Each t-shirt made with commercial cotton uses a quarter of a pound of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals run off and contaminate ground water, plant and animal life found in streams and rivers and drinking water.

What eco-fibres are most commonly used?
Hemp is one of the strongest fibres found in nature. It has 8 times the strength of cotton, causing it to also be an extremely durable textile. Hemp is resistant to UV light, mold and mildew, salt water and abrasion. Hemp provides greater insulating qualities than cotton and is quite absorbent. Hemp can be easily blended with organic cotton and the finished product is both soft and comfortable.

Hemp is a bark fibre, rather than a seed fibre, which means it grows nicely without the use of any herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or fungicides. This is particularly admirable when compared with commercial cotton, which uses almost half of the agricultural chemicals used on US crops. Hemp is a sustainable, renewable resource. Because it grows quickly, a hemp field can be re-planted and harvested each year, with minimal damage to the soil.

Bamboo is a natural fibre that is grown in China without the use of any pesticides. It is a self-regenerating plant that grows to full maturity in about seven years. The bamboo is distilled into cellulose fiber which can then be manufactured according to the highest industrial standards.

Bamboo has naturally occurring anti-bacterial properties which makes it extremely suitable for clothing, in particular baby clothing and clothing for people that suffer allergies to other fabrics. These natural anti-bacterial characteristics, as well as the deodorizing factors and the bacteriostatic qualities of bamboo come from a bio-agent named bamboo kun, which is combined with the cellulose product during the manufacturing product. Even after as many as 50 washings, this anti-bacterial factor remains and will eliminate more than 70% of bacteria on the fabric.

Bamboo is often blended with organic cotton and linen, comprising a textile that one designer calls ecoKashmere ™, because of its amazing softness. In fact, bamboo can be blended with many other organic and non-organic fabrics very effectively. Clothing made from bamboo is washable and remains free of wrinkles. It also does not fray, making it much more durable than other fabrics.

The future of eco-fibres
There are other eco-fibres used in addition to hemp and bamboo such as seaweed, soy, flax (linen) and even recycled plastics used in textiles. While it is impossible to predict where future market trends will travel, as the world becomes more environmentally conscious, eco-fibres will likely continue to grow in popularity.

By Julian Pollock

About Author:
Julian Pollock has had a lifetime interest in a natural and altruistic approach to life. This is reflected in the offers of free meditation and relaxation recordings at organicfamilycircle.com. This site presents a pragmatic approach to selecting organic baby and family products. (Site featured: http://organicfamilycircle.com)

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