Dr. Florian Heubrandner, VP of global business management textiles at Lenzing AG, shares his perspective in the following column.
From the clothes we wear to the fabrics on our couches, there is often more to textile “sustainability” than you think. With growing public awareness and increasing consideration for the environment, the textile industry has been forced to produce more environmentally friendly products, be it apparel, activewear, home textiles or denim.
Many companies are now upholding the eco-transformation trend, making a collective effort to drive growth towards sustainability. They are finding ways to reuse and recycle, lessen the consumption of energy, water and chemicals, and minimize ethical issues in the production processes.
Whether it’s driving circularity or using materials that have a lower environmental impact, the push for greater sustainability is evident in the home textiles and apparel sector. Due to societal pressure, many brands that were not previously on board are now following the trend.
According to a 2018 study from the Organic Trade Association and the Organic Exchange, the textile sector is now showing strong growth in eco-friendly home textiles, as the number of consumers doubles each year. Below are some industry trends.
Firstly, a predominant trend is the rise of eco-friendly fibers and fabrics made from sustainable wood sources. Eco-friendly fabrics are not only environmentally conscious – they can also be significantly cheaper than their synthetic counterparts. Some of the most common eco-fiber materials are hemp, linen, cotton, jute, kenaf and bamboo.
Many brands are also exploring the use of cellulosic fibers, such as Tencel-branded lyocell fibers and Tencel-branded modal fibers, which offer long-lasting quality, exquisite softness and ultimate comfort to enhance sleep quality and home life.
Secondly, many companies have started using eco-dyes for coloring home textile products in an effort to reduce the industry’s environmental impact. In the past, many heavy and noxious chemicals have been used to dye home textiles (even organic ones). Fortunately, many dyehouses are now creating more eco-friendly alternatives such as the hybrid pigments developed by EcoFoot.
Lastly, the launch of various industry trademarks, such as the EU Eco-labels, Green Cotton, MUT and Clean Fashion, to safeguard the sustainability of the home textile industry has become a massive trend. With the increasing variety of eco-friendly fibers, a number of trademarks have emerged that consumers can use to effectively distinguish eco-friendly products. This improves transparency and makes it easier for consumers to make environmentally conscious decisions.
Following this industry-wide movement, what can eco-conscious consumers do?
Fortunately, several reputable organizations can now assist in vetting brands and products, certifying that apparel and home textile manufacturers are producing their products sustainably. Some examples include the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for establishing how organic fibers are certified and Oeko-Tex who rate a product’s sustainability level using laboratory tests. In addition, Cradle to Cradle helps manufacturers realize the potential their goods have of being reused and recycled, while CO2 Logic help manufacturers to reduce carbon footprint.
All in all, there needs to be further promotion of these organizations as they help industry stakeholders and the home textiles market function more efficiently, pushing sustainable development goals and meeting product standards. Greater consumer acknowledgement will help strengthen and foster the development of environmentally friendly home textile and apparel products.
In the face of changing consumer habits and an increased awareness of consumption and sustainability, manufacturers and retailers play a vital role in enabling a more eco-friendly and sustainable home life. Meanwhile, consumers are responsible for driving the sustainability movement by purchasing and promoting eco-friendly home products.
Similarly, industry stakeholders will need to continue the dialogue around the adoption of sustainable materials for home textile products. With insightful information and industry updates, consumers should be able to identify sustainable options to support an eco-friendly lifestyle.