18 July 2018
Wood-based Fibers Could Lead Sustainable Fashion Out of the Woods
Photo Credit: Lynn Wagner
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Traditional cotton-based or synthetic fibers used by the fashion industry are responsible for many environmental impacts, including water consumption, pesticide use and micro-plastics.

Wood-based fibers from sustainably managed forests represent an alternative source of fiber that could reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

A video launched by FAO, UNECE and other partners during HLPF explores how forests could help the fashion industry in contributing to the SDGs.

16 July 2018. ‘Made in Forests,’ a short documentary promoting sustainable forest-based fashion, was launched at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). In the video, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador and film-star Michelle Yeoh discusses the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and shows how fibers made from wood could reduce them.

Most textiles are either made of cotton or synthetic fibers. Cotton production and processing requires large amounts of pesticides, insecticides, water and energy, whereas most synthetic fibers are made from crude oil and washing them produces microscopic plastic particles that affect water bodies, ocean ecosystems, and ultimately human health.

The fashion industry thus needs new, environmentally-friendly choices to produce large quantities of textiles to meet growing demand for clothing, while contributing its share to achieving the SDGs. One solution could be fibers made from wood. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), in collaboration with the Institute for Italian Design, has been exploring this option supported by FAO and UNECE.

Wood-based fibers for fashion are “a choice we all need to be aware of for a better life on our planet.”

In June 2017, the partners released the report ‘Forest for Fashion – Fashion for Forests,’ showcasing the work of designers, researchers, organizations and UN institutions towards developing wood-based alternative fibers sourced from sustainably managed forests. As a follow up to this work, FAO and UNECE organized an exhibition titled ‘Forest, Fashion and the SDGs’ displayed during HLPF, and produced a video to raise awareness of this sustainable alternative for fashion. The initiative was also highlighted during an HLPF side event on the UN Partnership on Sustainable Fashion and SDGs.

In the video, Michelle Yeoh meets with experts from UECE, FAO and Cittadellarte Fashion B.E.S.T., an Italian art foundation that promotes sustainable fashion design through art and education, to discuss how the latest research, technology and innovation combine into a “promising opportunity” for wood-based fibers. The film explains that wood-based fiber production from sustainably managed forests creates less environmental impacts than conventional cotton or synthetic fibers. Furthermore, wood-based fibers are biodegradable and can be recycled. Yeoh concludes that these advantages make wood-based fibers “a choice that we all need to be aware of, here and now, for a better life on our planet.” [UNECE/FAO Press Release] [Video: Made in Forests] [Publication: Forests for Fashion – Fashion for Forests] [Pictures of the FAO/UNECE Exhibition on Forests, Fashion and the SDGs] [PEFC Website on the potential of forests for fashion]

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