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From forests to fashion

September 8, 2014, Ottawa, Ont. - Choosing clothes makes an individual fashion statement ― but it can also say something about how the individual feels about the environment.


September 8, 2014
By David Lindsay FPAC

Topics

The following is an
editorial written by David Lindsay, President and CEO of the Forest Products
Association of Canada.

 

Choosing clothes makes an individual fashion statement ― but
it can also say something about how the individual feels about the
environment. A growing number of
discriminating consumers are paying attention to where products are manufactured
and where materials are sourced. Buying green and protecting our environment
has become an important goal ― one that has sparked discussion on the value of
using forest products to produce fabrics, such as rayon and viscose, for
fashion and other textiles.

 

Right now, a Canadian spruce tree can be the raw material
for the rayon used in an Indian sari you might see in a Bollywood movie. Fabrics made from dissolving pulp, including
rayon and viscose, can imitate the feel of cotton, linen, silk or wool. These fabrics are also “green”―studies show
that fabrics made from wood fibre have a lower environmental footprint than
competing synthetic materials such as polyester or natural fibres such as wool
and cotton.

For example, studies have shown that cotton production using
irrigation requires 15 to 35 times more water than cellulose fibre production
based on wood pulp. In addition, Canada’s renewable forests do not use arable
land as do some competing natural materials. Scientists are now predicting a
potential food crisis unless arable land is used to produce food for an
increasing global population.

 

As for synthetic fibres, they are not biodegradable and do
not come from a renewable resource such as Canada’s forests. By law, all
harvested areas are regenerated in Canada to ensure  forests will be there for future generations.
It’s also important to note that in Canada, no wood fibre goes to waste.
Dissolving pulp producers use almost 100 percent of every log harvested, with
any by-product going towards green renewable energy which helps eliminate the
need for fossil fuels. 

 

That’s why rayon and viscose are two of the more
environmentally friendly materials used commonly in clothing, making it easy to
be both fashion – forward and environmentally- conscious. In fact, consumers who
prefer “green” products will be pleased to know that the Canadian forest
products industry is a world leader on the environmental front.

 

The Canadian sector has 150 million hectares or 40% of the
world’s certified forests, by far more than any other country in the
world. Certified forests are an
independent assessment that the industry is following progressive forest
management of a high environmental and social standard.

 

The sector has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% since
1990, and reduced air and water pollutants – including the elimination of toxic
chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins and furans. Since 1996, significant reductions
have been made in oxygen-demanding substances and suspended solids — by 90% and
70% respectively.

 

Most recently, a 2014 study by Leger Marketing found that
the Canadian forest sector has the best environmental reputation in the world.
A Yale University study also recognized Canada's forestry regulations and laws
as being among the most stringent in the world. Only 0.15 % of Canadian forests
are harvested each year. Canada’s rate of deforestation is less than 0.02% and
is mostly due to agriculture, urban development, transportation, recreation and
hydroelectricity.

 

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and its
members are also working with environmental groups in the largest conservation
agreement ever signed, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, to collaboratively
find solutions to economic and the environmental challenges.

 

Even with this impressive record, the forest products
industry is pledging under its Vision2020 to go even further and improve its
environmental credentials by an additional 35% by the end of the decade.

 

Vision2020 also set the goal of generating an additional $20
billion in economic activity from new innovations and new markets. New ways of using renewable wood fibre are
only limited by our imaginations. This
could include the production of higher value bio-energy, bio-chemicals and
other bio-materials ― everything from car parts to cosmetics and yes, to
clothing.

 

The ever-expanding multi-billion dollar fashion industry
will always use a wide range of fabrics for a wide range of styles to suit the
latest trends. Rayon and other fabrics
made from wood pulp will be an important part of that mix.  Certainly savvy consumers can feel confident
about buying fabrics sourced from Canada’s environmentally progressive forest
products industry.


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