There are a lot of buzzworthy brands to keep up with when it comes to sustainability, but most of them don’t live up to the hype. After all, consuming sustainably is still consuming, and it’s hard to feel good about any products when even our recycling often ends up in the landfill. At the same time, making the right choices as a consumer is one good thing we can do for the environment, and nowhere is this more significant than in the fashion industry. Enter Tencel—a newly popular biodegradable fiber made from trees that is quickly becoming a go-to cotton alternative.
What is Tencel?
Tencel is a popular brand name for Lyocell, a super-soft, eco-friendly fiber made from regenerated cellulose (wood pulp). Tencel is soft and breathable—making it an excellent alternative to cotton when used in fabric.
Why is Tencel so Popular?
Tencel is manufactured in such a way that it has a lower carbon footprint than cotton, but unlike rayon, it isn’t a synthetic fiber. What this means is that Tencel offers the comfort and breathability of cotton, while being a more sustainable option, like other man-made products. Fabrics made from Tencel also tend to wrinkle less, and breathe more than traditional cotton.
What is Tencel used for?
Tencel fibers produce soft, breathable fabrics that are known for their ability to wick moisture away from the body. As a result, Tencel is commonly used in intimates (think socks and underwear), as well as bedding (like our soft Jersey Sheet Set), t-shirts, and more.
How is Tencel Made?
Tencel fibers are generated from wood pulp using a series of safe chemicals and sustainable construction methods. First, wood pulp (commonly sustainably harvested eucalyptus) is dissolved into a chemical solvent and macerated. Then the solution is pushed through an extruder to form a series of fibers. These strong cotton fiber alternatives are then treated, spun into yarn, and woven into cloth before being dyed and constructed into your favorite t-shirt.
Is Tencel Sustainable?
Tencel is known for sourcing pulp from sustainably harvested forests, and the parent company Lenzig AG has won awards for their groundbreaking REFIBRA technology, the practice of capturing and re-using roughly 99% of the water and chemicals needed for its fiber processing. As a result, Tencel fabric uses less resources and less energy than other naturally produced fibers, like cotton. That being said, Tencel is not a cure-all for environmental woes. Because Tencel is produced on a smaller scale than cotton, it’s unclear exactly how sustainable its production will be in the long term.
How Does it Feel?
Surprisingly, Tencel feels softer than most other fabrics. Take the Tuft & Needle Jersey Sheet Set, for example. The proprietary blend of cotton and Tencel lyocell makes the sheets ultra-smooth to the touch, yet breathable enough to be used year-round. We may be slightly biased, but we think they are the coziest sheets around.
Is Tencel Right For me?
Put simply, if you like sustainably produced, soft, and airy fabrics, Tencel is right for you. But don’t take our word for it. Some of the world’s most sustainable retailers (like Patagonia) have been incorporating Tencel into their clothing for years. If you’re curious about where to buy Tencel products, you can check out the official Tencel website here.
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