One of the questions I get asked the most is about the eco credentials of these fibres. To start, everything we use has a footprint and a lot of factors to consider, but I’m going to talk a bit about why I believe in TENCEL as a great eco choice.
A bit of background:
TENCEL is a regenerated fibre from Austrian company Lenzig AG. It is the branded name of lyocell, one of the three main branches of the rayon family, sometimes called third generation rayon. The first generation is viscose, and the second is Modal. There are different grades of TENCEL fibre; our super soft yarn is spun from the top grade.
Lenzig uses fast growing woods, like eucalyptus, birch, beech, spruce, and pine, to process into pulp using a totally chlorine free process. About half of the source wood is grown within Austria and harvested according to sustainable practices, including thinning and using wood that isn’t used for other industries and would otherwise be wasted. Some of the wood suppliers are FSC certified sustainable or carry other certifications. These trees are fast growing, so can be harvested and the harvested mass is quickly regrown and replaced. It is not resource intensive and doesn’t require heavy fertiliser or pesticide use. The pulp is readily processed into a spinnable fibre. Lenzig also has a policy of minimal waaste so they use as much of the tree as possible across any industries necessary, including producing acetic acid (vinegar) and xylitol for the food industries.
TENCEL is made in the lyocell process – a closed loop, third generation rayon process. This uses source cellulose, and processes with various chemicals to create a final fibre. Lenzig AG produces their own bio-energy, and reuse all materials where possible. The solvent-spinning process recaptures 99% of water and solvents used, and the remaining 1% is biodegradable. Lyocell is a great process but not all producers adhere to this full standard of production efficiency. Not all lyocell is created equal. For this full process, Lenzig won the “The Technology Award for Sustainable Development” in the European Commission Award for the Environment in 2002!
A bit more info because efficiency and sustainability go beyond the materials. Of Lenzig’s two production facilities, one is totally energy self-sufficient and the other is most of the way there. They also are particularly cautious about health and safety and have an intense accident and injury prevention scheme and health & safety committees at every site. They also hav a “leave home healthy, come home healthy” goal.
Another matter in terms of resource efficiency is spinning energy. Because the fibre is very consistent once processed, the machines can spin more yarn in a given amount of time than with other materials, even cotton, and use less energy and resource to produce the same amount.
This goes for all fibres of natural origins, including cotton, linen, hemp, viscose, silk, wool, other animal fibres, and more, but not polyester, acrylic, nylon or other synthetics. TENCEL will not prodce microcontaminants that pollute the waterways when washed, and is fully biodegradable. It also takes dye brilliantly and many people find they need to use less dye (but please always sample!) so uses less resource there too.
I could go on! I have to say, I’m not easily impressed, but I am very proud to be supporting TENCEL and hope that you enjoy working with it!