Working towards a sustainable, ethical and ecological lifestyle is important to the health of our planet and ourselves.
We question where our food comes from, how has it been grown, or where our electricity and energy comes from. Are they renewable? Ethical? Sustainable?
But what about our pillowcases and sheets bedding?
The pillowcase and bedding industry hasn't reached the same level of sustainability as food and energy. Cheap bedding and pillowcases are everywhere and are too easy to avoid.
But there are alternatives.
Here we explore how eucalyptus can be turned into a sustainable fabric for good quality and ethical bedding and pillowcases.
Eucalyptus is a woody flowering tree or shrub. There are around 700 different species, mostly found in Australia and southeast Asia but several varieties grow in Europe, America and Africa. It is a fast growing plant that has attracted attention for producing an oil that can be used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide. When it is harvested, it is cut rather than uprooted, and so grows back, and with speed, making it a renewable material. An essential oil extracted from eucalyptus leaves contains compounds that are powerful natural disinfectants, which makes it a popular fragrance for soap makers. Unlike organic cotton plants, eucalyptus is woody and therefore needs energy input to convert it into a soft fibre before it can be used for clothing.
Eucalyptus is an Amazing Eco-Friendly Fabric
We use fabric made from the pulp of Eucalyptus trees. It is an extremely eco-friendly fabric produced by Lenzing Fibers, headquartered in Austria. Compared to cotton in particular, Eucalyptus fabric has a significantly smaller environmental impact, requiring as much as 10 to 20 times less water and no pesticides whatsoever. The Eucalyptus trees are grown in what is called a closed-group system, whereby all inputs and outputs are closely measured and monitored to ensure minimal ecological footprint. Chemicals, water, solvents, etc. are all carefully selected and/or treated so there is no harm to the environment
Our major concern about using tress was in the fact that eucalyptus trees had to be cut down in order to make it. But fear not- Lenzing Fibers does not harvest the trees from forests, but instead sustainably farms grow the eucalyptus trees. The Eucalyptus trees are not harvested from trees in the forest, but instead sustainable farms grow the Eucalyptus trees. For every tree cut down, more trees are planted to replace it. This takes the burden off forests entirely.
Eucalyptus Tencel is produced using a lyocell process exclusively from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), and the fibre carries the Pan-European Forest Council (PEFC) quality seal.
The eucalyptus goes through a similar process as other semi-synthetic natural fibres, such as Viscous bamboo fabric, but the Lyocell process used to make eucalyptus is more benign and eco-friendly.
To make Tencel Lyocell Eucalyptus garments, the eucalyptus wood is pulped, reduced down into a cellulose viscous solution that is forced through spinnerets. These stringy fibres that come out of the nozzle are spun into a soft, lightweight and breathable fabric called Tencel.
The only chemical used in the Tencel manufacturing process is the non-toxic solvent, amine oxide, that allows closed loop processing where up to 99% of the chemical is perpetually re-used, minimising the impact on the environment and conserving energy and water.
The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for lyocell rates the amine oxide solvent used to digest the wood pulp as being non-toxic. About 99% is recovered and recycled during the manufacturing process. Also, waste products in the air and water from the manufacturing process are minimal and considered harmless.
Lyocell fiber is eco-friendly since products made from it can be recycled and Lyocell is biodegradable because it is a cellulosic fiber. Products made from Lyocell can be recycled or digested in sewage. The fibre will usually degrade completely in just eight days in waste treatment plants.
The European Union (EU) awarded this process the Environmental Award 2000 in the category 'technology for sustainable development'.