Why Choose Natural Fibers over Synthetic?

First of all, what are Natural Fibers? Natural fibers are any fibers that come from plants or animals, they are as varied as Wool and Piña Cloth ( made from the leaves of the pineapple plant). Some other examples include: Linen (from Flax), Cotton, Silk and Angora.

Synthetic Fibers are things like acrylic, nylon, polyester, spandex and polypropylene. Synthetic fibers are petrochemical-based (basically plastic), mass-produced, they don’t decompose as nicely and have major implications on our health the health of the planet and even the economy. If it’s waterproof has a significant amount of stretch or melts when in contact with fire (making it a dangerous choice for clothing), chances are you have a synthetic fiber.

Depending on the fabric, other chemicals are added to make the fabric softer, wrinkle free, flame-resistant, water resistant, stain-resistant, and moth-repellant. Without going into too much detail, all of these chemicals can have harmful effects on the environment, wildlife and our health, especially that of those who work to produce the fabrics. In addition, synthetic fibers do not biodegrade, meaning they sit nearly endlessly in the landfill when you toss them out, not braking down like natural materials do.

 The Economy: so synthetic fibers obviously have purposes, but as man-made fibers have  replaced natural ones over the last 60 years or so, millions of people who depend on natural fibers for thier livelyhoods have been impacted. This includes both the farmers who produce the fibers as well as those who process them and manufacture cloth. The natural fiber industry is vital to the economies of many developing counties and the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and low-wage workers depend upon it. Due to the drive towards cheeper synthetic alternatives many of these economies and livlihoods are under threat.

A Renewable Resource, or a Green Choice: “Natural fibres are a renewable resource, par excellence – they have been renewed by nature and human ingenuity for millennia. They are also carbon neutral: they absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide they produce. During processing, they generate mainly organic wastes and leave residues that can be used to generate electricity or make ecological housing material. And, at the end of their life cycle, they are 100% biodegradable.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! (quoted from the resource listed below)

There is so much more I could say on the topic, however that would make for a VERY long blog post, and it’s already getting up there. If you would like to know more about natural fibers and thier benefits, please visit the Website for 2009 International Year of Natural Fibers in additions to what I’ve discussed thay also have great information on technology developed using natural fibers, health impacts of the breathability of natural fibers, much more depth on the economic impact and energy use of creating the fibers/cloth and more!

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~ by Stephanie on May 19, 2011.

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