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What is Tencel? - Why Fibers Matter in Sustainable Fashion

Almost every industry right now is looking to reduce their environmental footprint, and the fashion industry is no exception. Designers are choosing eco-friendly alternatives such as organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp to reduce their environmental impact however, many people haven't heard of Tencel.

Tencel is the brand name for sustainably grown and harvested lycocell fiber and is produced by Lenzing Fibers, headquartered in Austria. Lycocell is a type of rayon made from the cellulose fiber of dissolved wood pulp and can be used for any type of clothing including denim to silky garments.

Tencel is an extremely eco-friendly material and when compared to cotton, it has a significantly smaller environmental impact, requiring 10 to 20 times less water and absolutely no pesticides.

The fibers originate from renewable raw wood. These certified biobased fibers are biodegradable and compostable.  They are then manufactured by dissolving wood pulp with a solvent. Once the process is completed, the solution is evaporated removing the water, and the remainder is reused in the next cycle.

Tencel was introduced in 1992 and mass produced by 1995. It was considered the green fiber of the 21st century. In 2003, bamboo appeared so both tencel and bamboo were considered the two “natural” fibers on the market.

However, in order to manufacture bamboo garments at least 27% of the garment needs to be made from organic cotton. Tencel on the other hand, can comprise over 90% of a garment's composition. Another reason why Tencel is a better pick, when compared to organic cotton, cotton requires a ton of space to grow and uses large amounts of water.

In addition to the environmentally positive aspects of Tencel, it is considered a superior fabric and is hypoallergenic, odor-resistant, itch-free, and is very soft. It is great for those with sensitive skin or allergies!

Tencel grows quickly and can be planted in areas that are unsuitable for other crops. It also does not need any pesticides or herbicides. Although Tencel is manufactured, it is not considered synthetic and is referred to as “regenerated cellulosic fibers” because of its manufacturing process.

Since Tencel is a regenerated fiber, it does not qualify for organic certification however, there are eco standards that monitor the growing and harvesting of trees and the manufacturing and treatment process. One award given to Lenzing for Tencel is the European Eco-Label, which addresses compliance with high environmental standards for production and products.

Lenzing recycles the chemicals from pulp production using environmentally friendly magnesium bisulphite and reuses up to 99.8 percent of the solvent. The remaining emissions are broken down in biological water treatment plants. The solvent does NOT remain in the fibers and has been proven harmless in dermatological and toxicological tests.

Image via tentree.com

SLN's Take Home Message

As you can see, Tencel is a material worth knowing about. Not only does it have a long list of environmentally positive aspects, it is considered superior because of its versatility and usability. Lenzing does not harvest the trees from forests, but sustainably farms and grows the trees themselves so for every tree cut down, more trees are planted to replace it. 

Here at Start Living Natural we are always looking to select items made from sustainable sources such as Tencel and aim to increase our eco-fashion partnerships in the future. Here are a few of our favs!

 

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