Modal Fabric: Is It Sustainable, or Are We Being Greenwashed?

In the spectrum of innovative materials, is modal fabric environmentally superior, and what role does it play in sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion places a significant emphasis on organic and semi-synthetic fabrics, with modal fabric emerging as a noteworthy contender in the quest for eco-friendly textiles. In the realm of innovative materials, where synthetic and plastic-based options coexist with semi-synthetic blends like rayon and viscose, the question arises: What role does modal play, and is it genuinely more environmentally conscious?

What is Modal Fabric?

Modal, also known as TENCEL, stands out as a synthetic fabric derived from the cellulose of beech trees. According to Lavender Hill Clothing, the use of beech trees contributes to the inherent sustainability of modal. These trees demand significantly less water than traditional textile crops like cotton—approximately 10 to 20 times less—while eliminating the need for artificial irrigation. Notably, modal production often relies on beech trees from Northern and Central European forests, particularly those in Austria, thus avoiding practices like clearcutting and monocropping.

Unveiling the Nuances of Modal Fabric’s Environmental Impact

The eco-friendly credentials of modal fabric are further underscored by its reduced water consumption, minimal space requirements, and limited impact on tree resources when compared to other textiles. On the surface, these characteristics position modal as an environmentally conscious choice within the spectrum of sustainable textile fabrics. However, a nuanced consideration emerges when delving into the manufacturing process.

Anotable concern arises from the fact that Lenzing, a major producer of modal, exclusively manufactures modal yarn. While the sourcing of modal yarn is indeed sustainable, the subsequent step in the manufacturing chain presents challenges. Textile factories responsible for transforming the yarn into modal fabric often fall short of eco-friendly standards.

Excessive water usage and chemical applications during this phase diminish the overall sustainability of modal, highlighting a crucial aspect that requires attention in the broader context of eco-conscious fashion choices.

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