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Getting greener all the time

July 13th, 2020 / By: / My Take

By Janet Preus

Sustainability is a broad topic, even when it’s narrowed down to industrial textiles. It includes everything from assuring the health and safety of workers, to recycling fabric waste, to sourcing from “green” suppliers and more. The importance of sustainability in the industry is not waning—even during the pandemic, but the focus seems to be shifting towards the materials used in textile products. That, too, is a broad topic, but individual stories about specific materials indicate that sustainable materials and sourcing of those materials has a foothold—at least in some markets. 

Such as sports and fitness. That might not be what you think of first when I say “advanced” or “high-tech” fabrics, but this market segment has, in fact, played a big role in the success of a number of advances in thermal control fabrics, smart fabrics, insect repellent fabrics, compression fabrics and others.  

And sustainability. Why? Because enough consumers care about it to support continuing innovations. That’s what our feature, “Textiles, sports and sustainability” by Marie O’Mahony, is about. But it’s not enough to just come up with a biodegradable shirt, let’s say. Consumers who want sustainability in their sports gear and apparel are just as demanding when it comes to quality and performance in those products: sun protection, durability, cooling, moisture wicking, breathability. 

And the industry is delivering. It also strives to do better, because any brand knows it’s not enough to achieve success with a product and assume your customers will love it forever. The collaborations among researchers, textile manufacturers, end product brands and environmental organizations are also an interesting story – one that we’ve been following, even when the textile products are not high-tech, because the means to an end product may be very high-tech. 

The pandemic, however, has certainly diverted our attention to a considerable degree. The need for more personal protective equipment (PPE) has also created a demand for, and therefore renewed interest in, launderable and reusable PPE. Given the quantity of PPE needed worldwide, the end cost of disposable-only PPE must be staggering. 

This gives rise to an incentive for manufacturers to bump up the availability of more and better reusable PPE, which can be a more sustainable alternative. You’ll want to check this site again later in the month for Debra Cobb’s feature on “How COVID-19 is driving the development of sustainable PPE.”

I invite you to also check for more stories particularly relevant to sustainability that are listed under the “Eco Note” tab, including a recent breakthrough discovery in growing colored cotton. That will make another interesting blog someday!

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com