Polyester is the most commonly produced textile in the world. It is also petroleum-based. The textile industry is currently responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.1 The first step to reduce the textile industry’s carbon footprint should be to shift away from using fibers made by highly extractive industries.
To significantly reduce the textile industry’s carbon emissions, we should support textiles made using cleaner energy, such as solar or wind, and use regenerative agriculture practices over a continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Divest & Define Energy Criteria
50% of energy consumed in the textile manufacturing process is due to inefficient machinery and the use of heat-intensive chemical treatments. Energy-efficient solutions would lower the textile industry’s energy consumption.
Clean Energy Sources
During the UN’s 2020 Climate Week, some major textile companies committed to global energy efficiency goals. If met, these goals are estimated to account for 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. This reduction will be driven by a shift from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy infrastructure like wind and solar.
In order to remove petrochemicals from our polyester-dominated textile world, we must diversify our material sourcing. Prioritizing regenerative, biodegradable fibers such as linen, hemp or wool, would allow us to turn away from monopolized processes and invest in local fiber systems.
Climate Positive Additives
Some bio-based textile applications can capture carbon and generate oxygen through photosynthetic or pollution filtering properties. Scientists and designers at Post Carbon Lab biohack textile treatments with photosynthetic bacterial pigments.
Invest in Local Carbon Cycles
It is critical to understand how textile production affects the local community and their ecosystems. We should prioritize local growers and producers, and consider energy use and practices, at every stage of the supply chain.
Climate Beneficial Fibers
Using natural fibers can reduce carbon from the atmosphere, especially when sourced locally to lower transportation emissions. Fibershed Marketplace is an entire database devoted to developing bioregional fiber economies. They have recommended certified natural fibers that help restore ecosystems through rotational grazing practices and composting.
Prioritizing the growth of fibers that restore soil also means nourishing below ground biodiversity and increasing soil carbon levels. This reduces the herbicides needed and fosters neutral fiber production.
Support Existing Approaches
Regenerative textile production is considered one of the leading climate solutions, and it must be acknowledged that these interconnected approaches are rooted in Indigenous stewardship. Indigenous practices have long conserved biodiversity and ecosystems. The conservation of native bast fibers such as dogbane, nettle and milkweed is an important precedent for current regenerative textile practices.
“Plants are also integral to reweaving the connection between land and people. A place becomes a home when it sustains you, when it feeds you in body as well as spirit. To recreate a home, the plants must also return.” Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Key Product Considerations:
- Was the textile’s manufacturing powered by fossil fuels or clean energy?
- Was the energy source behind the textile’s production from clean energy sources?
- If it’s a bio-fabricated textile, how energy intensive was it’s production?
- Does the manufacturer participate in climate restoration initiatives such as regenerative agriculture?
- How energy intensive is the production of the textile?
These products are a few of many that promote climate friendly impacts.
Hemp + Organic Cotton, Hemp Traders
Hemp is notable for its ability to sequester carbon and restore soil. Without the use of pesticides or herbicides, organically grown hemp can restore 70% of the nutrients it consumes and sequester carbon back into the soil. Hemp traders was established in the 1990’s when it was still illegal to grow hemp. Their knowledge makes them experts and a greatly valued source of information.
Zoa, Modern Meadows
Zoa is the world’s first bio-leather brand. Collagen, the same protein used in animal leather, is created using DNA-sequence editing that forms a network of fibers. The fibrous sheet is then processed into a “hide” that can be tanned and fashioned into various products.
After Ancient Sunlight by Charlotte McCurdy
This algae-based, experimental fabric absorbs carbon in the atmosphere which is then released back into soil at the end of its lifetime.
Mylo™ by Bolt Threads
Mylo™ is a material made from mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms. Grown under carefully controlled conditions to produce a substrate that can be cured and tanned into a soft, supple material that looks and feels like leather.
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