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Apparel Experts Point to Global Warming as Top Challenge

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The LYCRA Company recently ran a mini survey with apparel industry experts to determine what they believe are the most significant issues facing the world today. The 65 respondents, who are in sustainability, sourcing and product development roles, also revealed how their companies are tackling these issues.

When asked to select the top three issues in the world today from a menu of options, not surprisingly, the first choice of 71 percent of our experts was global warming, followed by plastic pollution (41 percent) and poverty (31 percent). Results for the remaining topics were as follows: over-reliance on fossil fuels (26 percent), water crises (26 percent), peace/no war (25 percent), consumer waste and landfills (22 percent), discrimination (22 percent), hunger/food insecurity (22 percent), air pollution (11 percent), and 4 percent chose “other.”

Lycra poll

To address these issues, respondents indicated their companies are working to reduce carbon emissions from manufacturing. Fifty-one percent said they are reducing the number of harmful chemicals used in manufacturing, and 34 percent indicated their companies are reducing the amount of textile waste or clothing that is burned or sent to landfills, as well as reducing the amount of water used to make clothing. Other initiatives included recycling textile waste to make new clothing (32 percent); making clothes that are more durable and last longer (28 percent); eliminating fabrics that are petroleum-based (23 percent); and using fabrics that are bio-degradable (18 percent).

In terms of apparel offerings that executives felt would be most compelling to their respective companies’ target consumers, 59 percent cited clothing made from renewable plant-based fibers, 55 percent selected clothing made from renewable bio-based fibers, 55 percent opted for clothing made from recycled textile-based materials, and 45 percent chose recyclable clothing. Other options included clothing made from recycled materials such as plastic bottles (43 percent), and clothing that is biodegradable (40 percent).

Lycra poll

In addition to the survey, The LYCRA Company is running a series of online panels with experts from both inside and outside the industry. Reflecting on the survey results, our panelists discussed the merits of using renewable plant-based fibers in apparel.

“Consumers love the idea of plant-based products,” explained Dawn Houghton, innovation consultant. “They associate them with sustainability even though they do not fully understand them.”

According to Tuhla Choudhury, creative director at Sew It In London, “Sustainability effectiveness is important for bio-based fibers, but biodegradability doesn’t have to be an option. What’s most important is knowing it can be recycled and go back into the recycling of reproducing yarn to fabric.”

“Moving to plants or crops should not be a priority alone. The key priority is moving to materials with less environmental impacts,” stated Meri Lundahl, chief sustainability officer at Terraloop Oy. “Material choices need to be made based on a solid life cycle assessment, not only on whether the resource is finite or plant-based.”

The LYCRA Company was the first solutions provider to introduce a renewable, plant-based elastane in 2014 and continues to develop opportunities for a bio-based LYCRA® fiber at scale. In addition, the company offers other sustainable solutions to reduce reliance on finite materials, such as COOLMAX® and THERMOLITE® EcoMade technologies made from 100% textile waste.

Jean Hegedus is director of sustainability at The LYCRA Company.

Visit Keep in the Loop with LYCRA to discover The LYCRA Company’s latest sustainability advancements and explore other topics covered in this series.

LYCRA®, COOLMAX® and THERMOLITE® are trademarks of The LYCRA Company.

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