According to author Kate Fletcher in the book Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys, cultivation of the mulberry trees requires far fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides than conventional cotton, since the worms are very sensitive to these chemicals. Wastewater from degumming the fibers is a minor pollutant. Overall it’s relatively eco-friendly, but that’s not including the dyeing, printing, and post-processing methods that have varying degrees of environmental impact.
Most linen products are made of the natural fibers such as cotton or the man-made fibers like polyester. However, the methods used to process both cotton and polyester pose a threat to humans and the environment. Cotton-based linens may be bleached with chlorine using a process that releases the cancer-causing agent dioxin into the atmosphere. Cotton textiles are also chemically treated with finishes that contain formaldehyde to reduce wrinkling Processing also allows formaldehyde fumes to be released into the air. Formaldehyde is known to cause watery eyes, runny noses, headaches, sore throats, fatigue, and respiratory ailments.
The environmental impact of polyester processing is no better. Linens made of or filled with polyester contribute to the depletion of petroleum, a non-renewable energy source. The production process also contributes to the consumption and ingestion of pollutants by humans and the release of pollutants into the environment.
According to Kate Fletcher mulberry tree farming is more environmentally friendly then growing cotton, since the mulberry tree requires less fertilizers and pesticides because the silk worms are sensitive to chemicals, therefore less chemicals are used.
Linens products are made from cotton or polyester, which can have negative effects on the environment since bleaching, is often used to treat the fabric. Formaldehyde is also used to decrease wrinkling which is known physical ailments in humans.
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