Sustainability is a broad term used in the textile industry to address the growing awareness of processes used to make fabrics, and how they can impact the worlds ecological and social systems. Four main factors to consider are: raw material extraction, textile production, added chemistry and end of life. There are a number of organisations or standards to be aware of within the industry that promote awareness and encourage people to make informed decisions when buying and or sourcing textiles. Below are some examples to get to know.
GOTS - GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD
GOTS - The Global Organic Textile Standard is the most comprehensive international textile certification. Compliance for certification is multi-levelled and includes qualifications in the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trade, and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified natural fibres.
Criteria for production includes organic fibre content, restricted use of heavy metals, bleaches, dyes, printing and fixing agents, procedures to minimise waste and no PVC packaging. The social criteria includes no forced labour, the right to collective bargaining, safe and hygienic working conditions, protection of wages, working hours and hours management, no discrimination, and no child labour.
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SOIL ASSOCIATION ORGANIC
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists who observed a direct connection between farming practice and plant, animal, human and environmental health. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading organic organisation and is a charity, reliant on donations and on the support of its members and the public to carry out its work.
Organic agriculture takes account of the planet and its needs by stopping the use of pesticides, fertilisers and other non-natural farming inputs. Everything from the food you eat to clothes you wear can be organic. Fabrics certified by Soil Association can be bought safe in knowledge that they are good for you and for the world we live in.
More information can be found at www.soilassociation.org
Standard by OEKO-TEX is a large umbrella that incorporates a multitude of certifications. Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX is the most commonly found. It assesses, evaluates, and aims to eliminate the use of harmful substances in textile manufacturing. A fabric which is certified as Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX is proven to be skin-friendly in various grades including products for infants, products with direct skin contact, and decorative material.
Further OEKO-TEX standards include, but are not limited to STeP by OEKO-TEX which details sustainable manufacturing processes and social responsibilities and MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX includes full traceability and transparency for the consumer.
In a nutshell, Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX is good for our bodies as it ensures there are no chemicals left in the garment when it reaches the customer, and therefore no chemicals come into contact with your skin. A textile may be certified by one or more of these standards, but each one targets a different issue therefore, the more standards any one textile is certified as OEKO-TEX the better.
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RWS - RESPONSIBLE WOOL STANDARD
The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on.
The certification provides the industry with a tool to recognise the best practices of farmers and ensures that the wool comes from farms that have a progressive approach to managing their land, practice holistic respect for their sheep and respect the Five Freedoms of animal welfare. They are listed as 'Freedom from - Hunger and Thirst; Discomfort; Pain, Injury or Disease; Fear and Distress, and Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour.' RWS also ensures a strong chain of custody for certified materials as they move through the supply chain.
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.
This is a regulation of the European Union implemented to improve the protection of human heath and the environment from risks imposed by chemicals, while engaging in the complex competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. REACH promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of chemical substances in order to limit testing on animals.
REACH applies to all chemicals, both industrial and everyday substances from cleaning products, paints, make-up, textile finishes and so on.
A closed-loop system means avoiding wasteful discarding of clothes and other textiles products which also leads to wasteful manufacture. It means using our natural resources to their full potential before they are discarded. And even then, ensuring that they are discarded in a way that does not harm the environment. Buying from a closed loop source such as Tencel™ Lyocell fabrics for example, or simply buying second-hand, repairing, re-purposing, and recycling are all ways to extend the life cycle of textiles. It is best practice; but not always possible, to buy fabrics with 100% same fibre content, as opposed to a blend e.g. 50% organic cotton, 50% organic linen. This way textiles can be broken down into their core organic matter using less energy for onward sustainable processing.
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