Textiles play such an important role in interior design, covering everything from curtains to cushions. But like any other manufactured product, these textiles can have a negative impact on the environment and human health, both during their production and their use. There’s growing awareness about the chemicals present in clothing and the poor working conditions of many textile manufacturers around the world, but what about the textiles we don’t wear?
Impacts can range from pesticide use on raw materials or poor working conditions for employees, to hazardous materials remaining in the finished product. Azo dyes, for example, were in the news a few yeas ago when jeans from popular retailers were subject to a recall once they were found to contain the dyes, which can break down into potentially carcinogenic byproducts.
Other hazardous compounds that may be present in the final product can include toxic heavy metals from the manufacturing process, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contribute to poor indoor air quality and can trigger a range of health concerns. And, of course, let’s not forget the people who actually make our curtains and chair covers. Safe and ethical working conditions for textile workers are vital.
Producing soft furnishings and other textile products can also be harmful to the environment. The use of pesticides on cotton crops, or when used on sheep for their wool, can contaminate local water supplies and be harmful to workers. The sustainable harvest of wood is another environmental concern for the textile industry. Wood fibres are used in the production of man-made cellulose fibres, such as viscose. As with any other activities that involve the harvest of wood, it’s important that the materials are sourced sustainably.
It can be tough to know whether soft furnishings have been produced with minimal environmental and social impact in mind. Look for GECA certification to demonstrate that products have been made with lower environmental, health and social impact, or ask for clear evidence that the product’s supply chain takes into account environmental and social considerations.
Refresh content provided by our Education Partner, Good Environmental Choice Australia.