Global Green Chemistry Initiative

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Textiles or fabrics are a diverse group of materials, and they are not only used to make clothing. They are also used to make furniture, medical equipment, bags, sports gear, the interior of cars, and much more. For this reason, the textile industry is a significant contributor to the global economy.

One role of scientists and engineers in an industry like textiles is to evaluate the environmental impacts of the products they make and figure out how those impacts can be reduced. Environmental impacts in the fashion industry include greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and the production of massive amounts of waste.

But how can a whole industry become more sustainable?

One solution may be to make “greener” products and embrace the concept of green chemistry. What does this mean? It means designing more eco-friendly materials and incorporating sustainable methods into the textile industry.

There are 12 principles that guide the green chemistry movement. These include reducing waste, minimizing the use and creation of harmful chemicals, and using energy and natural resources more efficiently. In the video below, you can hear Paul Anastas, one of the founders of the green chemistry movement, explain the concept of green chemistry.

GGCI – Green Chemistry – An Introduction

There are two major categories of fibers used in textiles: natural fibers and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers are made from plants and animals. Examples include cotton, silk, and wool (Figure 1). This means natural fibers are made from renewable resources and are usually biodegradable. However, the growth and production of natural fibers require a lot of land, soil, and water. Cotton farming also requires a lot of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides.

Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are human-made and produced from chemicals. Examples are polyesternylon, and spandex (Figure 1). Environmental concerns about synthetic fibers include the emission of greenhouse gases and the use of harmful chemicals while making them, as well as their limited biodegradability.

Products made from natural fibers and synthetic fibers.
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