Photograph provided by Villa Nova
With today being National Save The Turtle Day, it has inspired me to investigate the Interior Design world and see if we are doing our bit to preserve this beautiful planet. Amongst daily recycling, using less electricity and walking to work, I was intrigued to see how my suppliers are changing their ways to help save the planet. I was absolutely astounded by the incredible response from my suppliers and warmed to hear about some of the actions they have taken, which leads me into this 3 part discussion, to see if you think what we are doing is enough?
Fabric Production and Use
The most popular response is the use of natural/biodegradable fibers such as Linen and wool. Linen is strong, naturally moth resistant, absorbs moisture (without holding bacteria), sourced in Europe, and made from Flax plants. The importance of the Flax plant is that the entire plant can be resourcefully compartmentalized for different uses, and as a result, means less wastage and more cost-effective production of this material. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization state that flax uses 13 times less pesticides than potatoes and due to its resilient nature, it can grow in poor soil, requiring less water than the likes of cotton. Not only is it a fantastic fabric for Interior Design, but the seeds of the flax plant are incredibly popular in human and animal nutrition, with its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. For medicine the seeds are ground into a fine flour and used within medical compresses. The grinding process of the seed means the oil is squeezed out and used as a component in cosmetics and paints. Finally, once all of this has been done, the wooden and flax fibers not suitable for the above are used in heat insulation, eco construction, mulch, horticultural compost and even bank notes.
It seems that Linen is a wonderful product all round as one harvest serves so many resources and makes the entire production cost effective, however, I would like to know what happens to the fabric once it has been used, printed on, FR treated, is this still classed as biodegradable?
I learnt that a lot of my suppliers are complying with the EU regulation REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, which was adopted in 2007 to improve the protection of human and environment health. This means that a lot of the inks used in printing are water based and that the bleaching agents within chlorite have been replaced with oxygen-based agents, such as peroxide. This is fantastic, however, does it still prevent the natural ability of linen to biodegrade?
Photo provided by Equipo-drt
I looked into how we dispose of used items and a lot of companies say you must pick apart the linings and threads etc. to allow the natural fibers to start biodegrading. Realistically, who is going to remember or take the time out of our busy lives to do this? Then I found that there are multiple small business across the UK that will collect old items and recycle it for you correctly, for a small fee. I was impressed by this and thought that surely it is our duty as experts in interior design, that we should be promoting this to our clients or at least educating them on the correct procedure.
Alongside using more environmentally friendly natural fibers, suppliers have been reaching out into the world of recycling. Roller Blinds and fabrics are being created from plastic bottles and other plastics from ocean debris around the world. Save The Turtles! Again, this helps with keeping production of new plastics down, however, is this item then suitable to be recycled again? I later learnt that a lot of these productions are made in China, which then has a negative impact on the carbon footprint? Can we not source recycled products locally?
The fashion industry is incredibly popular worldwide, and there are thousands of articles about how fashion itself has a negative impact on the environment. In response to this, a lot of my suppliers are now working with fashion companies/designers and taking the old clothing, knits and offcuts of garments, removing/testing them for harmful substances (in accordance with STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® ) and creating beautiful yarns that can be woven together and used in our home designs.
Regarding fabric, I think we are all consciously trying harder to make products that are eco friendly and cost effective in harvest/production. A lot of suppliers now have local mills and source materials locally, which helps with carbon footprint (which I will talk about in Part 3). Despite this, the biggest discussion that kept arising throughout my research, was about synthetic fibers. “Synthetic fibers are required to obtain the right quality.” Therefore, I ask you, product quality or environmentally friendly?