There’s very little dispute that climate change is a problem we must tackle now, and not just something we burden future generations with. Global temperatures are the highest they’ve been since records began. Not only that but the pace of change is now at an alarming rate.
We’re not suggesting for one second that linen is the solution to global warming, far from it. But the combined impact of us all doing a little bit will add up to a lot, and the increased use of linen over other materials is one small step in the right direction to a more environmentally friendly future.
How Linen is Made
Linen comes from the flax plant which is grown in cooler climates. From the time flax seeds are sown to the time it is harvested is approximately one hundred days. At which point it becomes to turn brown and flower.
The flax is harvested by pulling it from the plant, as this is what ensures the best quality material at the end of the manufacturing process. It is then steeped in water and left until it rots before being taken out and dried. This step is called “retting”.
The flax is then “beetled” this is where it is beaten with a mallet made of wood in order to separate the fibres. It is then beaten once gain in a process called “scutching” where the impurities are removed, and the flax is smoothed and prepared for spinning into yarn. The yarn is then woven into material.
How Is This Different to Cotton?
The manufacture of linen in many ways is not very different to cotton. What is different however is that linen is very efficiently produced in terms of its use of energy and also its use of water. In comparison to cotton, very little pesticides or fertilisers are used in the growing process.
Very little of the flax plant is wasted in the manufacturing process, pretty much the whole plant is used. Linen is also a very biodegradable and natural fabric. As linen is such a robust and durable material it has a longevity that is very much unparalleled by cotton and most other fabrics.
Natural linen colours are influenced by a number of factors, such as how the flax was grown, and how it was processed. Generally speaking the natural colour of linen ranges from an off-white colour at the lightest end of the spectrum, to taupe at the other end.
Linen is beautiful in its natural form, but as a natural fabric it can be dyed into just about any colour imaginable. The dying process is where some otherwise environmentally friendly materials, including linen, can lose their edge. But thankfully natural and sustainable dyes are much more commonplace now has the textile industry has moved to improve its image and reduce its environmental impact.
Be it a duvet cover, a pillowcase, a skirt or a shirt, the story of the environmental impact of a product or garment does not end when it meets with its end user. How it is cared for, how it is laundered, whether it is ironed, and so on all contributes to its environmental impact. So whilst we’ve outlined here the environmental impact of linen products in their manufacture, once it’s in your hands it’s over to you to keep your end of the bargain.