Have you ever heard of lyocell? Honestly, for me it didn’t sound as familiar as cotton, nylon, silk, etc. Lyocell is actually very commonly used for leggings and other types of clothing, and even used to manufacture conveyor belts, medical pads, and some type of filter papers. As it is made from an organic natural ingredient, it is seen as a sustainable option. But as we all know, just because it’s coming from a natural ingredient, it does not mean that it is eco friendly, just like one of our favorite fabrics: bamboo. Let’s take a look below exactly what is lyocell, and if it can be a sustainable option for our lovely yoga leggings.
What Is Lyocell?
Lyocell is a type of cellulose fiber which is made from wood pulp (mainly from Eucalyptus trees). It was invented in 1972 by American Enka, which then it has been growing in popularity ever since. Although it was first produced in the U.S., the main exporters of lyocell are Europe and China. Lyocell has several brand names that you may have heard of such as:
- Lenzing Lyocell
Lyocell is considered to be very similar to cotton and silk, thus making it a perfect substitute for those two fabrics. In order to produce lyocell fabric, they cut the wood into small pieces and form it into a pulp, and then dissolve it in an acid called amine oxide. After it becomes “liquid”, it is pressed into a spinneret, where long fibers come out which can already be woven into yarn. It is very common that lyocell be blended with other fabrics in order to make leggings or other pieces of clothing.
Another thing that I would like to add is that you may hear regarding viscose and modal, which are very similar to lyocell. In fact, they all use natural resources (wood pulp) in order to turn into fabric. However, their process is very different from one another, and modal & viscose are considered less sustainable and more polluting compared to how lyocell is made.
Lyocell has several benefits, hence why it is such a popular fabric. The main advantages of using lyocell are:
- Strength of the fabric – less likely to pill compared to cotton due to the strength of the fabric & less susceptible to wear and tear, thus very durable
- You don’t really need to iron – as the clothing rarely forms any wrinkles after being washed
- Great for those who have sensitive skin – due to the fact that it’s moisture-wicking
- Moisture-wicking – when you sweat, you’re not going to feel wet! Therefore, it is also anti-bacterial – which means you get to wash your leggings less!
- Smooth – lyocell fabric is great for producing eco friendly yoga leggings, as it is a super soft and comfortable
- Biodegradable – it doesn’t last forever, therefore it doesn’t pollute the environment for hundreds or thousands of years
Lyocell is definitely a sought-after fabric due to its many benefits, not only environmental but also due to the quality of the fabric.
Although there are many positive facts about lyocell, unfortunately there are some disadvantages to this type of fabric that we should be aware of:
- More expensive compared to other eco friendly fabrics
- Energy intensive – lyocell requires a lot of energy during the production process of the fabric, so it’s important to find out how manufactures get that energy to manufacture lyocell (let’s hope it’s not coal!)
- Difficult to dye this kind of fabric, thus the manufacturer may need to use a type of dye that is more expensive, raising the price of this type of fabric
- Made from trees – it is still made from trees. If a diverse ecosystem is being destroyed to only plant eucalyptus trees, it’s not really a sustainable option. You can read more about it here, regarding how eucalyptus trees make up for 9% of Portugal’s land, which is huge!
It Can Be Grown & Manufactured Sustainably
Although you do need to use trees to produce this kind of fabric, eucalyptus is a tree that requires much less water and pesticides compared to conventional cotton. Of course, not all companies will grow these trees in a sustainable way, so that is something to watch out for when you are reading about a certain brand. Also, as I have mentioned above, it’s really important to know where the tree is being grown and if it didn’t wipe out some of our precious ecosystems.
The whole production cycle from beginning until the end of lyocell requires less energy and water compared to other man made fabrics, taking only about 2.5 hours to produce. During the manufacturing process of the yarn, it is made in a “closed loop system” where they can use the amine oxide over and over again to produce more lyocell. This also means that the chemicals are less toxic, and that it is being recycled (at least 99% of it!), thus not being throw out into our environment.
Some certifications you may come across for are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and OEKO-TEX Standard 100, which ensure that the raw material of the fabric has been grown in a sustainable way, that the manufacturing process is also regulated to ensure that it’s not polluting the environment, and that the end-product does not have any harmful chemicals.
The Bottom Line
Overall, lyocell can be considered a sustainable fabric, depending on the company that is manufacturing it. It is a really popular fabric to make yoga leggings, due to its beneficial properties and comfort. Transparency is key when it comes to researching regarding our beloved yoga leggings eco friendliness. Like all other fabrics, it’s very difficult to say that it is 100% eco friendly, however it is definitely a step forward towards changing the fashion industry to use alternatives that are more and more sustainable. In my future posts, I will be reviewing some brands that use lyocell as their main fabric in yoga leggings.
Do you consider lyocell to be an eco friendly fabric? Do you have any sustainable clothing made out of lyocell?