Your closet may be the last place you’d expect to find wood products, but worldwide, manufacturers make as much cloth from wood pulp as they do from wool.
Most of us have “wood” clothes made from rayon, Tencel, or acetate hanging in our closets. These fabrics are made from a pure form of wood pulp, so it takes a lot of trees to make a relatively small amount of cloth. And only virgin trees will do; there’s no recycled content in rayon.
Much of our rayon comes from developing countries, such as Indonesia, where environmental laws are weak. There is mounting evidence that clothing is responsible for significant forest destruction. Here are some great woodwise wardrobe tips, including interesting information about the new tree-free fiber industry!
WoodWise Wardrobe Tips
1. Look for organic cotton, linen, or industrial hemp instead of rayon. Silk and wool are also good choices. While regular cotton is more forest-friendly than rayon, it causes other environmental problems due to the pesticides used.
2. Buy used clothes, especially children’s items and casual wear. Share or swap clothes with friends and co-workers.
3. Donate your old clothes to the needy or resell them at a consignment store.
Beyond “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” another way to conserve forests is to use products that don’t come from trees at all. A new tree-free fiber industry is emerging, offering high-quality paper, clothing, and building materials that don’t depend on forests.
These products are made from agricultural waste and annual crops grown specifically for their fiber, such as kenaf, switchgrass, and industrial hemp. Here’s a quick look at this promising industry.
- Every year, U.S. farmers produce enough waste from growing rice, wheat, straw, corn, and soybeans to replace all the wood fiber that is currently used in paper and lumber.
- The amount of kenaf grown in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the past three years, to 18,000 acres.
- In 1998, the Canadian government lifted the restrictions on growing industrial hemp, but a similar ban is still in effect in the U.S. Canadian farmers and government officials were pleased with the results of their first harvest in 60 years.
Adapted from a special edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, with Co-op America's "Woodwise Consumer Guide." Copyright (c) 1985 by Chelsea Green Publishing. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing.
Adapted from a special edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, with Co-op America's "Woodwise Consumer Guide."