The environmental benefits of lyocell

Lyocell is a lovely sustainable textile to include in your sustainable fashion wardrobe. It is a fabric that is worth knowing and seeking out. So let’s look at why this fabric is such a good eco-friendly option. Lyocell is a soft man-made fibre that is similar to rayon , but which requires less chemical processing and doesn’t result in chemically-laden waste water.  It is from renewable cellulose soft-wood crop, and the final textile is completely biodegradable. Chemical processing of the fibre operates on a closed loop system, meaning that 99.5% of chemicals are captured and reused in continuous processing. The small amount of effluent that is discharged is considered non-hazardous.

The manufacturing process is reasonably low in water intensity and reasonably low in energy intensity, which minimises the impact of the manufacturing process. The finished textile also does not require bleaching and can be coloured using low-impact dying processes.

The raw material used to make lyocell- woodpulp- is considered carbon neutral.  However depending upon the origin of the fibre, it is possible that it has been made with wood from irresponsibly managed forests (and therefor may be contributing to deforestation). Some of the woodstock used to make lyocell comes from genetically-modified eucalyptus plantations. Tencel is the trade-marked version of Lyocell which uses woodstock from certified sustainably managed forests and is GM free.

Ettitude Sustainable SheetsThere has also been a recent development in sustainable textiles, with Bamboo Lyocell. Normally bamboo fabric is viscose, which is chemically intensive and not closed loop. This means that most bamboo isn’t really sustainable, although it is better for the environment than conventional cotton. But with this new development of bamboo lyocell, you get the sustainability benefits of the bamboo crop with the sustainable processes of lyocell textile manufacturing. Bamboo doesn’t require chemical fertilisers or irrigation, is fast growing and can be grown on marginal land, so it is a highly sustainable crop. Bamboo lyocell is one of the best sustainable fabrics that you can find.

Lyocell is commonly used for dresses, shirts as lining and can be used for bedlinen. The gorgeous bedsheets (pictured left) are bamboo lyocell sheets by ettitude* are the softest sheets I have ever slept on. It holds it shape and surface quality well.  It is soft and strong, it is well suited to summer fashions. The manufacturers of Tencel claim that is softer than silk, and cooler than linen. My Bamboo lyocell sheets are beautifully soft, and cool but not cold like silk can be. Lyocell also maintains the quality of its surface well and doesn’t wrinkle easily, is machine washable and much easier to care for than other  quality fabrics like silk.

Lyocell is consider a low-impact fibre and can be considered sustainable if it has been derived from sustainably managed forests. To be certain that you are choosing a sustainable garment I would opt for garments made Tencel or Bamboo Lyocell to guarantee that the fabric was manufactured from sustainable raw materials.

Check out Patagonia* and Amour Vert* for quality Tencel clothing, and ettitude* for lovely bamboo lyocell bedsheets.

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Guide to Sustainable TextilesIf you enjoyed this post and learned something new, you will learn a lot from my Guide to Sustainable Textiles. This thoroughly researched guide takes you through all the ethical and sustainability considerations in textiles to enable you to make purchase decisions that are in line with your ethics and commitment to sustainability. The 60 page guide covers all the major textiles, including leather and vegan leather alternatives, as well as a run down on textile certification systems which demonstrate sustainable processes. If you want to be able to assess the sustainability of your favourite brands, the Guide to Sustainable Textiles is a valuable resource. Prices at only $9 it is affordable and accessible too.

Photo By: Patagonia Tencel T-shirt