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Fibres: Natural vs Synthetic

Wool vs acrylic? Cotton vs polyester? Hemp vs nylon? I know the natural fibres are typically more comfortable to wear, but what’s better for the environment?

Cotton, wool, hemp, acrylic, polyester...?

Cotton, wool, hemp, acrylic, polyester...?

You might think it’s a simple question – surely the natural stuff is better, right? But when you consider the impact of sheep on the environment or the amount of water required to sustain cotton crops, it does get you starting to wonder… especially when you factor in recycled (and sometimes recyclable) synthetic fabrics, like polyester made from old PET bottles.

But then again… maybe all the hoo-haa about recycled fabrics is just a bunch of greenwash. Check out this article on O Ecotextiles for more information.

Ultimately, I don’t know. I think I need to explore O Ecotextiles a little more and hope to be enlightened. At the moment, though, I’m leaning towards natural, especially when you look at the energy required to produce fabrics, the actual content of the fabric (oil in the synthetic fabrics is kinda off-putting) and the life of the fabrics after we’re finished using them (natural fibres will biodegrade, whereas synthetic ones won’t). Based almost purely on personal opinion, I think probably the best choice would be yarns produced from the by-products of some other industry (like soy yarns, which are made from soy fibres left over from making tofu), or yarn that is removed in a mutually beneficial way (alpaca removed by brushing, shearing pet sheep in summer etc).

Anyone know more and care to share?

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Reduce: Tissues vs Hankies

What has the greater environmental impact, tissues or handkerchiefs? This is a question that’s been niggling inside my mind for some time, ever since I found out that Naturale were no longer producing recycled tissues, leaving Australia with no recycled facial tissues on the market. (I emailed them to be sure – they’ve definitely stopped.)

This post on Super Eco got me thinking about it again. Can I best minimise my impact on the environment by reducing my use of tissues and changing over to handkerchiefs?

I thought I’d weight up the pros and cons:

  • Tissues are made of paper, the production of which involves chopping down trees. This action releases lots of carbon into the atmosphere, and also removes the forests that are the carbon sinks of our world.
  • Tissue production, like all paper production, includes the use of lots of water.
  • Tissues are disposable, so more trees are cut down for every single tissue you use.
  • Tissues come packaged in cardboard (the ubiquitous tissue box), which involves the destruction of more forestry as they’re manufactured.
  • As you are constantly throwing them away, you need to buy more and more tissues. This involves transport costs as the tissues are shipped to the stores, and then from the store to your house. It all works something like food miles.
  • The tissues you throw away don’t get recycled, they enter landfill – and we all know landfill is bad, bad, bad!

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it. All that stuff that’s bad about tissues must be prevented by hankies… right? Hmm.

  • Hankies are made with fabric, usually cotton, which is one of the most water-intensive crops to grow.
  • The harvest of cotton is also an environmental hazard.
  • Cotton needs loads of pesticides, and as well as the environmental impact of the pesticides, there’s the impact of the planes that dump the pesticides.
  • Hankies have to be washed, which uses more water still.

So now you see my trouble, although listing it all out like that does seem to point in a particular direction.

Go hankies!

Everyone else on the net seems to also back this theory up. Don’t ask me why it never occurred to me to Google this before. Yeah, I said shuddup. Yes, Jho… you. 😛

Here are some great reads about why hankies are the winners over tissues:

Now I just have to get me some hankies! I’d like to make some, but I’ll have to get second hand fabric, or I’ll end up buying more material than I need. I wonder if flannel hankies would be even softer, for when you’ve got a cold? They sell large bags of flannel off-cuts for $6 each at Bunnings. But aside from flannel, where will I get some pretty second-hand fabric?

On a non-environmental note, I find it weird that I feel the hankies need to be pretty and girly. I wouldn’t call myself butch, certainly, but I’m not on the femme side of the lady spectrum. I wouldn’t wear floral or pink if you paid me (ok, maybe if you paid me). I don’t shave my legs or even own make-up. I like little pretty things though, they make me feel good, and girly in secret. My cloth pantyliners, the liner of my cargo pants and work trousers, Yankee Elv’s home-made earrings all have that effect. Anyway, pretty second-hand fabric must be available – my cloth pantyliners are very pretty, and Laura over at Amy’s Rag Bag only uses second-hand cloth.

 

Cloth panyliners from Amy's Rag Bag

Cloth panyliners from Amy's Rag Bag

 

 

Suggestions people? And does anyone have a hankie pattern? I don’t know if I can manage a hemmed square all by myself. 😉

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