Indulgent yet responsible fabrics

Defining Green.

O Ecotextiles (and Two Sisters Ecotextiles)

In our quest to change the way textiles are being made, we’ll share what we’ve found out and if any of our information is wrong or misinterpreted, please jump in and tell us!

Let’s work together to define what green means to each of us: for example, I read about a woman in the New York Times who says she is green by driving her huge gas guzzling SUV – because she keeps it parked most of the time and bikes almost everywhere. If she were to sell it, the new owner would drive it much more than she does. Therefore, she’s green.

I’d like to start by sharing what we learned when we first got into this. We could find fabrics made with organic cotton. But then we saw that a fabric made with organic cotton, for instance, simply cannot be considered an organic fabric. Why?

It turns out that the textile production process is very complex, and involves many steps such as singeing, scouring, mercerizing, sizeing, desizeing, bleaching, dyeing, and additional finishing. The bleaches, dyes and finishes are usually applied to the yarn or the fabric by immersion in chemical baths. Then the resulting yarn or fabric needs to be rinsed again and again to rinse out the excess chemicals.

So the bleaching, dyeing and finishing all involve chemical baths that themselves often require additional washing, rinsing and drying steps. Lots of chemicals can be (and often are) used at each step. And they are not necessarily benign chemicals.

In my next submission, I’ll have some data from the Hazardous Substances Research Centers of the U.S.

6 thoughts on “Defining Green.

  1. Harmony says:

    Congratulations!!! I can’t wait to see your collection.

    You probably already know this but the OTA did adopt the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) which does address the entire textile production process. The chemicals used can still be synthetic but at least they have been screened for toxicity. You can see the full text at http://www.global-standard.org. I also have a simplified breakdown of the differences posted on my site http://www.harmonyart.com/organic-textiles/OrganicVSConventional.html. The GOTS also has a fair-trade section that addresses how production workers are treated. It isn’t perfect but I think it is a big step in the right direction. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

  2. oecotextiles says:

    Hello Harmony! I am so thrilled to have your comments as I’ve been an avid reader of your site since I discovered it about a year and a half ago. Your prints are beautiful. Patty and I have wanted to get in touch with you as a fellow believer: to cheer you on and share horror stories, but the demands of getting our own collection up to snuff has taken, let’s just say, all our time.

    We did know that the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) had been adopted by the OTA, but our concern is that the textile industry, because it is truly a global industry, really needs all concerned groups to adhere to one standard. The GOTS may evolve into that standard, but currently there is also the GreenBlue Sustainable Textile Standard, the new LEAF certification, as well as lesser known certifications such as Demeter or Soil Association (which I believe still has its own set of textile standards). We think all parties should agree on the major points so that we can all use ONE standard, which is unequivocal. Right now what’s a poor consumer to do, faced with all these different standards? I’m glad to see that Oregon Tilth, which had its own textile processing standards, is now certifying to GOTS.

    I had a great time reading your posts recently, and one of the posts that caught my eye was about bamboo. We think we’ve found a good, environmentally friendly bamboo fabric, and I’ll talk about that in my next post.

    I hope to meet you some day Harmony, I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about. Best wishes on your journey, and thanks for leading the way. Leigh Anne

  3. Harmony says:

    Hi Leigh Anne,

    That’s great news about bamboo! I look forward to reading what you have found out. Yes, the standard stew is definitely a challenge. I am actually on the joint committee for the GreenBlue STS and also have been in contact with several times with LEAF too. STS’s goal is to start only with Contract Textiles. Every different standard seems to have a different focus. I personally do not think we need yet another standard but rather one we can all get behind. The fact that GOTS has global endorsement and some of the biggest companies in the world behind it gives me hope. It isn’t perfect but at least it is something.

    I look forward to meeting you too! I am sure our paths will cross. Are you going to the OE Conference later this month? See you there if you are. Otherwise, best wishes and know that I am cheering you on and sending strength and perseverance. -harmony

  4. Pingback: production baths
  5. Pingback: Yarn Textiles
    1. oecotextiles says:

      Please pay attention to the mordants and fixatives you use in your home dyeing. Many home dyers believe copper to be a perfectly fine chemical to use for this purpose when it should be assiduously avoided. Why? Because it is extremely toxic to aquatic life and the local water treatment facilities do not remove it from the water. We are in Seattle and it absolutely drives me crazy when home dyers report using copper as a “natural” mordant and then flush copious amounts of it down the drain.It is especially deadly to salmon. There are many many other problems with vegetable dyes. Only one color of the “natural” dyes – the reds – have been accepted by GOTS as anywhere near ready for prime time, and I think we should pay attention. If you dye yarn at home, understand all aspects of the chemicals and the processes you are using (just changing the ph and the temperature of the water and then dumping can be a problem you do not want to create) and learn to live with crocking and a lack of colorfastness.

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