Would you be surprised to learn that some of your favorite clothing might be hurting the rainforest? We were. But there’s good news: Companies have begun taking note of this problem, and are pledging to start manufacturing rainforest-free clothing. The great news? This change is totally possible.
The beautiful fabrics that add drape to our clothing — viscose, modal, and rayon — are manufactured from cellulose, which is made from trees that get ground up with chemicals to form a pulp. That pulp is fed through a spinneret to create thread, which can be spun into fabric.
The problem with cellulose is that it creates a LOT of waste. In fact, 65% of the tree gets discarded as byproduct. And according to Racked, 120 million trees will be cut down to make our clothes this year alone. Worse still, clothing manufacturers have been cutting down old, beautiful rainforest trees to produce cellulose for decades; up to 40% of those 120 million trees will come from rainforests.
That’s why rainforest activists and clothing brands hope to find a more sustainable way to produce the fabrics we love, and to preserve those magical forests for our children, and their children, and so on.
Recently, 96 major companies, including Stella McCartney, L Brands (which owns Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and others), H&M, Zara, and VF (parent company to Wrangler, Timberland, and The North Face), have joined with activist groups, including the Rainforest Action Network and Canopy, to find sustainable solutions for cellulose-based fabrics. The goal of these brands is to remove rainforest-harvested cellulose from their supply chains by the end of 2017.
While the brands are currently working to purchase fabrics only from mills certified sustainable, there is hope that, in the future, manufacturers will be able to produce cellulose not from trees, but from sustainable plants such as bamboo, recycled fabrics, and even leftover straw from producing grains — and stay far, far away from old-growth rainforests.
So what should we be looking for as consumers?
That’s where rainforest-free clothing gets tricky. As of now, there’s no official labeling to differentiate clothing was made responsibly, and clothing that was not. However, Canopy is working with brands to create social media and online marketing content to promote their clothing’s environmental friendliness. This video from Stella McCartney, for example, features model Carmen Kass informing the brand’s customers about its sustainable fabrics.
Want more? Below, find out which brands have so far have pledged to go rainforest-free:
- Eileen Fisher
- Levi Strauss & Co.
- Ralph Lauren
- Stella McCartney
- The North Face
- Victoria’s Secret
- Zara (via Inditex)
We applaud these brands for taking important steps to protect our forests. And remember, as consumers we have tons of power to hold brands responsible. So use your shopping dollars make the loudest noise — and support brands that are committed to preserving the planet for generations to come.