How Sustainable is Modal Fabric?

It’s important to consider where modal fabric stands in terms of eco-friendliness. Is it truly a more sustainable choice?

In the ever-evolving world of textiles, scientists have unveiled a captivating array of fabrics, each with its distinct characteristics. Some, like fleece and polyester, are firmly rooted in the synthetic and plastic-based realm, while others, such as rayon and viscose, straddle the line as semi-synthetic blends, often earning nods for their perceived sustainability. Yet, amidst this dynamic landscape, a semi-synthetic material called modal beckons our attention, raising questions about its ecological footprint and what truly lies beneath its fabric.

Unveiling Modal Fabric

Modal, also recognized under the moniker TENCEL, stands as a synthetic textile derived from the cellulose of beech trees. According to Lavender Hill Clothing, the very nature of beech trees makes them inherently sustainable. Unlike some other textile crops, they demand significantly less water, requiring only a fraction, roughly 10 to 20 times less, when compared to thirsty cotton, and crucially, they flourish without the need for artificial irrigation. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the primary source of modal often lies in the Austrian beech trees found in Northern and Central European forests. This localized sourcing eliminates the necessity for environmentally damaging practices like clearcutting or monocropping.

Modal: A Green Choice?

On the surface, modal appears as an eco-conscious choice, showcasing attributes that align with sustainability. It uses minimal water, occupies less land, and spares trees from extensive harvesting compared to other textile options. However, delving deeper, we find a caveat, a twist in the tale.

As Good On You points out, Lenzing, one of the prominent producers of modal fabric, primarily focuses on the creation of modal yarn. While this yarn is sourced sustainably, it often embarks on a less eco-friendly journey once it reaches textile factories. Herein lies the rub – many of these textile manufacturers, in their quest to transform the yarn into modal fabric, employ excessive water and chemical resources, practices that fall far short of sustainability standards. Consequently, despite the environmentally friendly origins of the yarn, the overall production process for modal fabric often strays from the green path.

In essence, modal fabric presents a complex tale of sustainable beginnings but uncertain outcomes. While its cellulose source from beech trees demonstrates promise in reducing environmental impact, the practices employed in its conversion to fabric often cast a shadow on its overall eco-friendliness. To truly embrace modal as a sustainable choice, a holistic approach encompassing the entire production process is imperative, ensuring that the fabric lives up to its potential as a green textile option in the world of fashion.

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