Summer is Coming, Bring on the Green Linen!


Image Credit: Human Inbox.

Via:: Ecotextile News. We've told you about the impacts of cotton versus viscose here. Recently, the findings of a new life cycle analysis (LCA) comparing a linen and cotton shirt were shared at Premiere Vision by the French company Masters of Linen. The LCA considers all stages of the life cycle of linen from the growing of flax to the processing, spinning, weaving, finishing, garment manufacture, care during the use phase and the recycling of worn-out garments.

The LCA shows that the major eco-benefits of linen are in the agricultural stage. The study claims that a shirt made of linen has a more sustainable eco-profile than the same shirt made of cotton.

The researchers found that the consumption of primary energy by linen exceeds cotton by 14% due largely to its greater domestic ironing requirements. However, in terms of water consumption it was found that over its life the linen garment used 6.4 litres of water as opposed to 26 litres for cotton. Both shirts were the same weight (253 grams), of which 240g was fabric, 10g was thread and 3g was the buttons.

It was found that linen and cotton produce similar (greenhouse gas emissions) GHG emissions (130g for linen as opposed to 128g), but eutrophication of the water (or build up of algae) was 18% lower than cotton since linen uses less fertiliser. The study claims that the toxic risk for aquatic ecosystems under linen cultivation is a 1:7 ratio in linen's favour "given that double the amount of pesticides is used for cotton, to which the use of defoliants must also be added".

So the use phase has the most impacts for the linen shirt due to washing and ironing. They estimate it takes 2 extra minutes to iron the linen shirt, than the cotton shirt. Did you know that ironing takes 7 times more energy than washing? Take a look at the shrunken graph from the eco-profile below to see the comparison of water consumption for the two shirts (click on the eco-profile link to see the original that is easier on the eyes).


Cultivation has less impact for linen because fewer pesticides and fertilizers are used, but they didn't consider the organic cotton or organic linen scenarios. It's still interesting to see these results based on non-organic shirts, since realistically not everybody buys all organic, all the time (even though it's something we're all working on!) Additionally, linen requires much less water for its cultivation than water-intensive cotton growing. In fact, they say that linen only requires natural precipitation during production, whereas cotton requires intense irrigation — around 7100 L for each kilogram of harvested cotton.

The LCA was carried out by Bio Intelligence Serviceaccording to ISO standards, including a third party review; this is part of the norm when a comparative LCA is undertaken. The research was commissioned by CIPALIN, the French Interprofessional Committee for Agricultural Production of Flax and a major player in the linen industry. You can read the full press release and eco-profile from Masters of Linen here here. Read about how to eco-laundry here. Image Credit: Human Inbox.

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