Environmental information: Facts about textiles and clothing
The conventional processing and the production of textile fibre is very polluting and often occurs in very poor working conditions. The decoration of the body, including apparel, has always been a status symbol, so it is no wonder that the consumption of fashion has increased steadily as technology has made it possible to produce faster and cheaper. Focus is directed primarily toward economy; cheap production allows producers to earn more money and allows consumers to buy cheaply and therefore more clothes. The clothing industry is working at full speed to keep up with demand.
As a result, conventional (cheap) cultivation and production methods have a series of unfortunate side-effects in the form of a huge cost for nature and humanity. Cotton is the biggest sinner: 25% of the world's consumption of pesticides is used on cotton fields, which only takes up 5% of the agricultural land. To process a kilo of cotton uses a kilo of chemicals! (See more on cotton below.)
There is an increasing focus on organic non-food products, and the availability, design and the quality are getting better and better. As heavy consumers of all the world's goods, we in the west, give our planet a helping hand by choosing environmentally friendly products. However, at present it is not possible grow organic cotton in sufficient quantities, even if the entire cotton production went organic. Therefore, it is not only important, but necessary, that the fashion industry slows down and begins to look at alternatives.
Animal fibres and vegetable fibres are grouped under the name natural fibres. The word natural should not be confused with the word organic; natural fibres are not necessarily sustainable or organic. Far from it. The word simply means that they have not gone through the same process as synthetic fibres. Natural fibres are wholly derived from nature, in contrast to synthetic fibres that are dissolved into a mass and restored to a length of fibre.
Examples of vegetable fibres are cotton and linen. All plants consist of cellulose, and it is this that textiles from vegetable fibers are made of.
Animal fibers come from wool from sheep, goats, rabbits and other fur-bearing animals. Wool fibre consists of protein molecular chains. This is the same for silk, which is why silk also belongs under the category of animal fibres.
Synthetic fibres are divided into two categories: manufactured fibres and synthetic fibres.
Examples of manufactured fibres are textiles like viscose rayon, acetate and lyocell. These are made from cellulose from cotton waste or wood, but because of the manufacturing process, they are categorized as synthetic fibres and not natural fibres.
Like plastic, synthetic fibres are made from oil, air and water. Metal fibres can also be used. Examples are polyester, acrylic and nylon.
Why organic cotton?
Cotton is a unique natural fibre used for many purposes; perfect because of its softness and comfort. It is one of our preferred fibres of clothing and household textiles, which we are increasingly consuming more of. However, cotton is one of the world's most environmentally damaging crops. It covers only five percent of the cultivated land, but sprays almost 25 percent of the world's total consumption of insecticides! 20-30 sprayings per season are devastating for biodiversity, soil and groundwater, while farmers are injured during spraying, picking and the subsequent processing of the cotton. The UN's health agency WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION estimates that up to three million agricultural workers each year are experiencing acute signs of poisoning as a result of working with pesticides. Of these, 40,000 die according to the international Labour Organization.
Both agriculture and nature can thrive much better when cotton is grown organically with crop rotation, natural fertilisers - and biological control methods. Yield is slightly lower, but the farmers often experience a better economy. They can spend less on pesticides and fertilisers and there are fewer intermediaries, resulting in a higher price per kilo of cotton. Fortunately, more organic cotton is increasingly being cultivated, which means that we can get cotton grown under EU rules for organic farming.
The further industrial processes can be done according to rules from different eco-labels that have requirements for weaving, dyeing, washing, bleaching and other processes, which textiles go through before a t-shirt reaches the store. Textiles made from organic cotton benefits the groundwater, biodiversity, farm workers, production workers involved in the handling process and you as the consumer. You avoid stress polluting your skin and your local groundwater with chemical residues from your clothing.
However, production of organic cotton cannot keep up with the demand for textiles, because the yield of an organically grown field is typically less than conventional cultivation. Therefore, other types of fibres are increasingly being used.
An alternative plant fibre that is already on the market is bamboo. Bamboo fibre is made of cellulose, pulled out of fast-growing and often very tree-like bamboo grass. Bamboo fibre is often processed like viscose, which also consists of cellulose. Bamboo has the advantage that it grows rapidly, does not need fertilisers and can withstand drought. It is a breathable fibre, which absorbs moisture, and some allege that it is known to have antibacterial properties. In addition, it is softer than cotton. It is described as a mix between cashmere and silk and has a natural elasticity, and binds colours better than, cotton and viscose, and therefore needs less pigments.
In the U.S., Lyocell is known from the brand Tencel. Most commonly, it is made from oak and birch fibres, but other tree sorts can also be used. The tree is cut into chips that are dissolved in a moist mass using a chemical solution. The Lyocell mass is then washed with water and bleached, if necessary, before it is spread out in a thin layer, which is dried and cut into small squares. Lastly, the squares are put in hot vessels and treated with pressure and amino oxides.
Eco-labels for textiles and clothing
If you want to avoid chemical residues in clothing, and buy clothes and soft furnishings with a clean conscience, you can keep an eye out for the various eco-labels. Buy clothes, marked with: Swedish KRAV, Dutch Control Union or German IVN. These labels place particular requirements on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the production of wool and cotton.
Purchase clothes, bed linen and other textiles, marked with the above or the EU eco-label flower or the Swan, the Nordic eco-label. These labels ensure that the clothes are among the most environmentally friendly on the market. Eco-labels are commonly used in larger supermarkets. If you cannot find clothes with the Flower or Swan label, use the private brand, Oeko-Tex Standard 100. The Oeko-Tex brand makes only requirements for health and the quality of the finished textile product - but not for the environment.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
The organic labels for clothing, introduced in 2006 by the International Working Group on global Organic Textile Standard (IWG), which consists of IVN (International bodies Verband der Naturtextilwirtschaft), OTA (organic Trade Association), soil Association and JOCA (Japan organic cotton Association).
Control Union - EKO
The EKO-label is an organic label distributed by the Dutch organization, Control Union (SKA). The Control Union is a private company, which – as the only one in Holland – is authorized to certify organic products. The Control Union is also authorised to certify organic products in several other countries, including Germany. The EKO-label is therefore a control label that you can often find on imported organic food in Denmark. In addition, you can also find this label on textiles and wood products. As a minimum, these goods must abide by the EU rules for organic agricultural production of fruit, vegetables and other plant material. The label is a voluntary system, and the manufacturer pays to use the label. Read more here:
The EU eco-label
The Flower is the EU eco-label for products that are among the least burdensome to the environment and health in relation to similar products. The EU Flower eco-labelling scheme applies in principle to all products and services except food, drink and medicine. In Denmark, it is the Danish ministry of the environment that administrates the system. The Flower is a voluntary system where producers pay a fee for the right to use the label. The The Nordic Swan label is the Nordic eco-label for products non-food products. The Swan label identifies goods as being among the least environmentally damaging within the product group. There are limitations on the discharge of toxic substances and for the content of undesirable substances. The rules are determined, so that no more than 1/3 of the goods in the Nordic market can meet them. These rules are based on cradle-to-grave-assessments and updated at regular intervals. The rules are enforced by Ecolabelling Denmark, where there are representatives from the state, consumer and environmental organizations, and trade and industry. The Flower is a voluntary system where producers pay a fee for the right to use the label. Control is performed by Ecolabelling Denmark.
The Oeko-Tex brand - is not ecology
The Oeko-Tex brand is found on clothing, towels, table cloths, linens, pillows and mattress supports as well as mattresses. In order to be able to use the label, the producer must have a certificate from the Danish Technological Institute, which the Danish Oeko-Tex section belongs. The products must not discharge a number of problematic substances during use (11. July 2006). Textiles, which bear the Oeko-Tex label:
• Do not contain allergenic dyes or colouring agents, which can deliver carcinogens.
• Are tested for residues of pesticides and chlorinated phenols.
• Have been tested for heavy metals being dispersed as a result of contact with sweat.
• Have no formaldehyde or the formaldehyde present is under the limit.
• Have a pH close to your skin's own.
Many people believe erroneously that cotton with Oeko-Tex label is organic. This is not the case. Cotton with the Oeko-Tex label is grown completely conventionally and finally tested for a small proportion of the hundreds of chemicals used in the cultivation and processing of textiles. Oeko-Tex ensures that only the contents of selected chemicals are below a given threshold.
Rain clothes and snowsuits – watch out for care of PVC
Today there is no eco-label for rain clothes and snowsuits on the Danish market. Instead, choose the ones without PVC. PVC can contain problematic substances and should be handed over at a recycling centre. It is not always easy to see whether a part of the clothing is made out of PVC. Sometimes you will see a triangular symbol with a number. The symbol tells you which type of plastic is being used. A three-digit number in the triangle shows that the plastic is PVC. Note whether the symbol refers to the package or the product itself. Ask the staff in the store, if there is no symbol. It is difficult to distinguish between textiles printed with or without PVC. As a general rule, you can select clothes, where the decoration is embroidered or printed with colours that are not similar to paint. Note that plastic anti-slip patterns on the soles of baby socks can be made from PVC. Ask the shop to find out if the clothes are decorated with PVC print before you buy.
Chemicals in textiles use and adverse effects
In the manufacture of textiles, chemicals are used, for example, for dyeing and bleaching. Dyes contain lead, cadmium, chromium, tin and nickel, and when textiles are lightened, this can be done with chlorine-based chemicals. In some cases, textiles are treated with chemicals to inhibit the development of fire, so-called flame-retardants, which contain bromine or chlorine. The chemicals are discharged along with the effluent during the production process, but there are still traces of chemicals in these textiles, when they reach the shops. When we wash our clothes, chemical traces are discharged into the water. Some of the chemicals can be environmental and health damaging, and the concentration of chemical residues in the finished clothes in some cases are so high that they can pose a health risk for you and your children. Textiles may include traces of chemicals, which can be carcinogenic, or chemicals that can cause allergic reactions or irritation when in contact with the skin.
All chemical residue washes out of the clothing during the first few times your clothes are washed. Always wash new clothes before you use them. Avoid clothes that smell of chemicals or smell of perfume. The fragrance can be added to hide the smell of chemicals. It must be emphasized that the harmful effects of chemicals are phototoxic potential, and therefore they are not safe. The textiles themselves contain chemicals in hazardous concentrations. It is therefore important to try to reduce the total chemical exposure, which we are daily subjected to. Some are impossible to avoid. A place where we can relatively easily reduce our daily chemical exposure is through the purchase of organic textiles.
Formaldehyde is present in many different products, for example, as a preservative in paints and textiles. It can also be found in many of the sealants that make cotton and viscose more crease-free, shrink free and true to colour, and because of the preservative properties reduce the risk that your garment will be damaged by pests during transport and storage. Formaldehyde is listed in the IARC's list of carcinogenic substances (Gr. 2A). Formaldehyde may also be allergenic. Formaldehyde has, among other things, the following classifications:
R 23/24/25 toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
R 34 burns.
R 39 Risk of lasting serious damage to health.
R 40 possible of a carcinogenic effect.
R43 May cause sensitisation by contact with the skin.
R 68/20/21/22 21/22 21/22 dangerous: Possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation, skin contact and ingestion.
Nonylphenol ethoxylate and nonylphenol
Nonylphenol ethoxylate is a substance, which in the past has been widely used in cleaning agents. The substance can also be used as emulsifying agent in cosmetics and as dispersant additives in dye pigments. It is forbidden to use nonylphenol or nonylphenol ethoxylate in the treatment of textiles in the European Union, but there is no direct prohibition in the import textiles, which contains nonylphenol or nonylphenol ethoxylate. Studies show that the substance occurs in imported cotton products. Nonylphenol ethoxylate decomposes easily to nonylphenol, which has the following ratings: -
R50/53 very toxic to aquatic organisms in water; May cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
R62 Possible reproductive harm. –
R63 Possible risk of harm to the unborn child.
During the cultivation of cotton, large quantities of metals are used artificial fertilisers. Artificial fertilizers often contain cadmium, which is partly absorbed by the plant and and partly washed into the ground to then be reabsorbed into the cotton plants. The metals antimony, bromine, chrome, copper, nickel, zinc, cadmium and lead are also used in pigments used for dyeing textiles. In addition to polluting the groundwater, we are subjected to an increased exposure of cadmium through skin contact with cotton and through plants, which we intake in food.
Antimony, bromine, chrome, copper, nickel, zinc, cadmium and lead do not break down but accumulate in the environment. Some of these metals are vital for plants and animals in small concentrations, but common to them all is that they are toxic in higher concentrations. Some are known allergens and others are carcinogenic.
Azo dyes are widely used for dyeing textiles. The dyes are often cheap, give clear colours and are easy to work with. Some of the azo dyes are allergens, possibly carcinogenic and toxic to aquatic organisms. The dyes are often water-soluble, which means that they are easily absorbed through skin contact.
Ecouture by Lund CSR-profile
Ecouture by Lund uses natural textile fibres like cotton, flax, hemp, silk and wool fibres, which can be grown eco-friendly and according to the rules of organic farming. These are textiles endorsed by organizations such as the Dutch Control Union (formerly BE), Swedish KRAV and Swiss
In addition to organic cotton, we use silk, flax, hemp and wool. These fibres can be produced organically, but the problems with the environment and working conditions with these traditional cultivation methods are far less than for cotton production. For example, flax and hemp need little or no chemical spraying. Since globally there is very limited amounts of organically certified fabrics available, we use both organic and conventional silk, flax, hemp and wool in our products, but ensure that the after-treatment (i.e., dyeing, printing, etc.) is as gentle on the environment as possible. We use dyes without the use of AZO colours and heavy metals. Decatising is not done with formaldehyde. In fact, there are no processes in which formaldehyde is used at all. Our choices of materials and processes therefore create as pure products as is possible in an industrial manufacturing process. This also ensures skin-friendly and soft products.
DYES and PIGMENTS
There are many fine and simple details in Ecouture by Lund clothes. Print is one of the things that gives the design that extra finish. We use binders & pigments from a series of environmentally friendly and nontoxic pigment binders, which can be mixed and added Uniprint Pigment colours. Binders are available as: transparent, opaque (i.e. providing good coverage), metallic (metallic pigment is added: gold, silver or copper), mother of pearl, puff or fluorescent (with the addition of fluoride pigment). The colours bind on all types of fabrics.
Ecouture by Lund, currently has all clothing sewn in Poland, in workshops where there is no child labour, and where workers have decent conditions and a good working environment. Design, finishing and selling take place in Denmark. For the part of production that takes place in Denmark, we fulfil all requirements for working conditions – including accidents – by complying with the Danish Health and Safety at Work Act. A need for healthy and safe working conditions means that the company's setup and workflow is designed not to involve a deterioration of employees' physical or mental condition. The requirement for healthy and safe working conditions is also closely related to our work to avoid accidents. Ecouture by Lund ensures that production at all stages is planned and organized so that it takes place in a safe and healthy manner.
At Ecouture by Lund we recycle packaging. This means that, as much as is possible, we recycle cardboard boxes, plastic etc. Occasionally, your shipment might look a little a bit worn at the edges, but this is for a reason. An enormous amount of packaging is thrown out – and most of it can be used a few times before it breaks.
Ecouture by Lund ensures that:-
- To reduce paper waste, we draw our patterns on computers (using PAD pattern design software).
- Ecouture by Lund tries wherever possible to use up scraps for smaller designs to minimize waste.
- We minimize the use of packaging where possible.
- Waste, including recyclable waste is sorted according to the Danish environmental authorities' rules and is recycled or disposed of at an approved waste disposal facility.
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