Sustainable Textiles: Chat with my Son on World Environment Day

Young son informs the benefit of green materials on the eve of world environment day.

Sustainable and green textiles may benefit from increasing awareness on plastic pollution.

Yesterday, while driving back from school on the start of a new academic term, my son Aditya Ritvik Ramkumar, a second grader chatted with me that in his class on environmental sciences, they discussed about this year’s world environment day activities. Dad he said, this year’s theme is “Beat Plastic,” and do not throw plastic away, try to reuse them.

It is pleasing to note that these days; young kids have lessons on the environment and are made aware of pollution, and the need to save the environment. It assured me that these youngsters, who will become independent consumers in a decade, will demand more sustainable goods and textiles will be certainly one of those products.

Textiles sector needs to be proactive in this arena and focus on 3Es: 1) environmental sustainability; 2) economic sustainability and 3) energy and process sustainability. Although environmentally friendly products and processes have been in vogue, unless, economy is brought into the equation; large scale acceptance of green products will be a major challenge.

Natural fibers sector such as cotton has been at the forefront in this field by bringing more awareness on the benefits of natural materials against manmade products. Recent issue with micro plastics in the marine environment is certainly getting some good attention and a concerted effort among stakeholders may increase the share of natural fibers in consumer textiles. Science based data will help to bring awareness on the need for earth friendly products. Cost benefit analysis data need to be provided for making greater impact on common consumers.

Even in industrial products that are used to protect environment such as oil sorbents, it is the cost which plays a significant role, although user sectors are slowly paying attention towards greener products. Chennai, India-based WellGro Tech while developing sustainable oil absorbent using textile materials has to work hard to take the product into commercial space as it has to be competitively priced against synthetics. Consumer market space is highly cautious about the cost and is not willing to give a premium for green products.

With the world environment day campaigns in full swing in India, being this year’s host nation, hopefully, its textiles sector can benefit.

Certainly, as youngsters like Aditya are talking about environment, there is much optimism for green chemistry, sustainable textiles and newer products.

Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA