Choosing clothes makes an individual fashion statement ―but it can also say something about how the individual feels about the environment. A growing number of discriminating consumers are paying attention to where products are manufactured and where materials are sourced. Buying “green” and protecting our environment has become an important goal ― one that has sparked discussion on the value of using forest products to produce fabrics, such as rayon and viscose, for fashion and other textiles.
Right now, a Canadian spruce tree can be the raw material for the rayon used in an Indian sari you might see in a Bollywood movie. Fabrics made from dissolving pulp, including rayon and viscose, can imitate the feel of cotton, linen, silk or wool. These fabrics are also “green”―studies show that fabrics made from wood fibre have a lower environmental footprint than competing synthetic materials such as polyester or natural fibres such as wool and cotton.
For example, studies have shown that cotton production using irrigation requires 15 to 35 times more water than cellulose fibre production based on wood pulp. In addition, Canada’s renewable forests do not use arable land as do some competing natural materials. Scientists are now predicting a potential food crisis unless arable land is used to produce food for an increasing global population.
As for synthetic fibres, they are not biodegradable and do not come from a renewable resource such as Canada’s forests. By law, all harvested areas are regenerated in Canada to ensure forests will be there for future generations. It’s also important to note that in Canada, no wood fibre goes to waste. Dissolving pulp producers use almost 100 percent of every log harvested, with any by-product going towards green renewable energy which helps eliminate the need for fossil fuels.
That’s why rayon and viscose are two of the more environmentally friendly materials used commonly in clothing, making it easy to be both fashion- forward and environmentally- conscious. In fact, consumers who prefer “green” products will be pleased to know that the Canadian forest products industry is a world leader on the environmental front.
The Canadian sector has 150 million hectares or 40% of the world’s certified forests, by far more than any other country in the world. Certified forests are an independent assessment that the industry is following progressive forest management of a high environmental and social standard.
The sector has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% since 1990, and reduced air and water pollutants – including the elimination of toxic chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins and furans. Since 1996, significant reductions have been made in oxygen-demanding substances and suspended solids — by 90% and 70% respectively.
Most recently, a 2014 study by Leger Marketing found that the Canadian forest sector has the best environmental reputation in the world. A Yale University study also recognized Canada's forestry regulations and laws as being among the most stringent in the world. Only 0.15 % of Canadian forests are harvested each year. Canada’s rate of deforestation is less than 0.02% and is mostly due to agriculture, urban development, transportation, recreation and hydroelectricity.
The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and its members are also working with environmental groups in the largest conservation agreement ever signed, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, to collaboratively find solutions to economic and the environmental challenges.
Even with this impressive record, the forest products industry is pledging under its Vision2020 to go even further and improve its environmental credentials by an additional 35% by the end of the decade.
Vision2020 also set the goal of generating an additional $20 billion in economic activity from new innovations and new markets. New ways of using renewable wood fibre are only limited by our imaginations. This could include the production of higher value bio-energy, bio-chemicals and other bio-materials ― everything from car parts to cosmetics and yes, to clothing.
The ever-expanding multi-billion dollar fashion industry will always use a wide range of fabrics for a wide range of styles to suit the latest trends. Rayon and other fabrics made from wood pulp will be an important part of that mix. Certainly savvy consumers can feel confident about buying fabrics sourced from Canada’s environmentally progressive forest products industry.