From cotton to more eco-friendly clothing
Keskiviikko 3.10.2018 klo 20:10 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Cotton is undoubtedly the least sustainable agricultural product. Yet, cotton clothing is used by everyone. The dark sides of cotton cultivation are many. Cotton fields cover large areas of arid landscape and virtually all the water and land are used for producing cotton instead of food in countries, where people are starving. It would not really matter, if the income from cotton sales came to the starving people enabling them to buy food. Unfortunately, this is not the case: typically the income from producing cotton goes to foreign companies or to rich land-owners. Cotton cultivation can be considered to be a reason for the African immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to come to rich Europe. Most cotton these days is from gene modified plants. And even people strongly resisting GMOs have GMO cotton clothing. Copious amounts of insecticides and other pesticides are used in cotton fields. Cotton cultivation with its high pesticide usage can be considered as being one reason in the possible decline of insect populations -there is yet no insecticide which would kill only the harmful ones but leave, e.g., the beneficial pollinators intact. In addition to insects, it has been supposed that the heavy insecticide use is the cause of death of millions of birs: birds eat insecticide-affected insects, and get enough poison to be affected, so that their likelihood of death directly because of poisoning or indirectly because of the insecticide-induced alterations in behaviour. There are also reports of much declining bird populations, and the insecticide use of cotton cultivation is a likely contributor to them.
So what kind of material should sustainably produced clothing be made of? After all, we need clothing. Artificial fibres are not an option, since they are normally oil-based, and can be said to contribute to the (micro)plastics problem. That leaves wood fibres. Earlier on their use has not been considered environmentally friendly, because of toxic chemicals, which were needed for making wood fibres suitable for cloth-making. However, the new methods for producing cloth using wood fibre does not require toxic chemicals, and the process can be considered almost fully closed, i.e. virtually no effluents are produced before the final product is in the hands of consumers. The first pilot factories producing cloth from wood with the new methodology are being taken to use. So, compared with cotton: agricultural land is returned to food production, no pesticides are used – thus, the eco-friendly solution, clothing from wood fibre. In the beginning the wood-cloth is probably more expensive than cotton, but regardless should be used by anybody preaching sustainable way of life.