7 Eco-Friendly Fabrics That Will Green Your Wardrobe
The clothes we wear and the textiles they are made from can damage the environment and make us sick. Good thing there are some eco-friendly alternatives. Check out these seven fabrics, courtesy of Green America:
1. Bamboo—Bamboo is a hardy, highly renewable grass and is generally grown with few chemical inputs. The fabric also has natural antibacterial properties, breathes and is biodegradable. However, toxic chemicals may be used to turn the plant into fabric. The Federal Trade Commission mandates that companies using this process label their products bamboo-based rayon.
2. Organic cotton—More than 25 percent of the world’s pesticides are used in conventional cotton production. Organic cotton is grown without toxic, synthetic chemical inputs. Look for natural dyes or colored cotton to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem.
3. Industrial hemp—Hemp is rapidly renewable, requires little or no pesticides, grows without fertilizer, requires minimum attention, doesn’t deplete soil nutrients and is easy to harvest.
4. Recycled polyester—This fiber is made from cast-off polyester fabric and soda bottles, resulting in a carbon footprint that is 75 percent lower than virgin polyester. Recycled polyester contains toxic antimony, but some companies are working on removing it from their fabrics.
5. Soy cashmere/silk—This fabric is made from soy protein fiber left over after processing soybeans into food. The soy may be genetically engineered unless noted on the label.
6. Tencel—Tencel is made from natural cellulose wood pulp and is fully biodegradable. It uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood pulp and less-toxic chemicals in a closed-loop process.
7. W00l—Wool is renewable, fire-resistant and doesn’t need chemical inputs. Look for chlorine-free wool from humanely-treated animals. Organic wool is increasingly becoming available: it is produced using sustainable farming practices and without toxic sheep dips.
Even these choices are not clear-cut, says The Nature Conservancy. These types of fabric represent positive change, but have drawbacks. Clothes production in general has environmental impact, including:
- Energy—It takes agricultural energy to produce natural fibers and mining or processing for synthetic fabrics. Energy also is needed for production, processing and shipping of the fabric and finished product.
- Toxic chemicals—Pesticides, dyes and bleaches and chemical processing are used for fibers like bamboo or rayon.
- Land/natural resources—Natural fibers can require large areas for production and synthetic ones typically require petrochemicals.
- Water—Nearly all fabrics require some water use during production, with cotton requiring the most.
The way you use clothing can make an enormous environmental difference—as much as the type of fabric, The Nature Conservancy says.
Since all textile manufacturing has a fairly hefty impact, wearing what you already have for a longer time is one of the best and easiest things you can do to make your clothing more eco-friendly.
Other ways include buying used clothes, recycling what doesn't fit and repairing damaged clothes rather than throwing them away.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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