Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Beware of what you wear

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Some fabric is now being made from pineapple stems. Image / iStock
Some fabric is now being made from pineapple stems. Image / iStock

As winter approaches, we need more layers to stay warm. But what are the environmental and ethical implications of the clothes we wear?

I have written in the past about how terrible synthetic fibres are. Essentially, if you wear plastic clothes, every time you put them in the washing machine, thousands of pieces of microplastics pollute the ocean, contaminating the food chain and pose a risk to our health.

You see, municipal grey water and wastewater systems cannot filter out these tiny pieces of chemical pollutants. So people need to know that whenever they buy plastic clothes, they are damaging the environment.

I would have thought that all government uniforms should be made of natural fibres so as to at least take a stand against this problem when taxpayer money is being spent on clothes.

New Zealand wool is one of the best materials on the planet and actually, if we were to support this industry more by choosing woollen carpets, textiles and clothes over synthetics, there would inherently be less farmers converting from sheep (which have a relatively benign impact on the land) to dairy farms and our waterways would be cleaner.

However some people are against the idea of fibres that come from animals - campaigning against leather goods due to ethical reasons.

I think that we should support people to harvest pest animals such as wild pigs, goats and deer as I have written about before, because it would help nature to recorrect some of the mistakes we have made.

This could create a market to sell the wild meat - which is very high in nutrients - at a premium and use the skins for textiles.

I would be happy to pay a premium for wild textiles if I knew that it was supporting jobs to remove pests. Would you?

For those who might be squeamish at the thought of getting covered in blood when they slay a little bambi, I can understand that.

However, we should aim for natural fibres, but beware of cotton unless it is organic. This behemoth industry requires huge amounts of chemicals, fresh water and is commonly associated with slave labour in places like Bangladesh.

READ MORE: Sam Judd: Don't panic, go organic

The latest solution I have found for this challenging conundrum is fabric made from banana stems and pineapple leaves. These are by-products from food production that are currently going to waste and could create significant opportunities for developing countries.

Having seen some of the images of the innovative fibres made from pineapples - I would be more than happy to wear them.

But to really catch on, these low-impact innovations invariably need support from consumers or regulations from government to stop the products that cause problems.

Would you support natural fibres in the shops? Or do you think synthetic clothes should be banned?

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