First established in America on April 22nd, 1970 – an inaugural event in which 20 million took to the streets to raise public awareness of the world’s environmental problems – Earth Day has, regrettably, only increased in importance and necessity over the past five decades; now recognised in 192 countries, with over 1 billion people participating,
Marking the 51st anniversary of the event, and, following a year in which the earth and its inhabitants have suffered horrendous losses and undergone seismic changes, Earth Day 2021 is an incredibly pertinent one. As Kathleen Rogers, President of EarthDay.org, explains “At the heart of Earth Day’s 2021 theme, Restore Our Earth, is optimism – a critically needed sentiment in a world ravaged by both climate change and the pandemic.”
Focusing on the restoration of the world’s ecosystems through natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking, this year’s event has an ever-powerful message, and more can be learnt here (including how to watch the live steam from April 20th – 22nd).
In celebration of this year’s theme, we’ve explored and explained the natural fibres which run throughout our collection of textiles – from their sustainable credentials to the innovative thinking that led to their inclusion in our fabrics, we’re shining a spotlight on the benefits of designing and manufacturing in harmony with the earth and its materials.
Flax: An age-old fiber
A symbol of purity, the magic of flax has been woven into human history as one of the oldest cultivated plants grown for both its textile fibers and its nutritional seeds. The Latin name for flax is “Linum Usitatissimum” which means “most useful” and gives us the common term which we use for flax – linen. It’s an annual plant sown from seed which grows to about a yard in height, with attractive pale blue flowers, and flourishes in northern temperate latitudes, where moderately moist summers yield soft, silky flax.
At harvesting, the stems of the plant are pulled up by the root rather than cut at the base, which preserves the fibre length and retains moisture, after which baling, decortication and blending produce ultra-soft textile yarns for woven upholstery fabrics.
Blending beautifully with wool, flax is incorporated into a number of our most popular sustainable textiles, including 24/7 Flax, Armadillo, Craggan Flax, Main Line Flax, Patina and Silk. By incorporating the innate performance properties of this strong and flexible fiber, these textiles are also inherently flame retardant – without the need for chemical post treatment.
Wool: Nature’s wonder fiber
Nature’s wonder fiber for textiles, wool is ultra intelligent, highly complex, supremely technical, rapidly renewable and environmentally sustainable. Evolving over millions of years, it is the most versatile raw material imaginable, with amazing performance benefits – flame retardant, moisture repellent, wrinkle-resistant and air purifying, as well as providing a beautiful drape and handle.
One of the most eco-friendly fibers for inclusion in textiles, wool is naturally sustainable and completely biodegradable, and is used throughout our portfolio – from all-time classics, such as Blazer and Synergy, through to our latest launches of Craggan Flax and Sumi & Kyoto. Perennially popular and always in style, it’s easy to see why wool has remained a cornerstone of fabric creation for hundreds of years.
Silk: Natural luxury
A natural fiber produced by the larvae of silkworms and other insects to form protective cocoons, silk is synonymous with luxury. With a shimmering appearance created from its ability to refract incoming light at different angles, silk produces sparkling, shimmering colours and is a lustrous, lightweight – yet super strong – fiber.
Included in our aptly-named Silk range, the fabric is rich with rustic, natural charm. With the textile’s silk element derived from ‘noils’ (the short fiber waste remnants created during the combing process which occurs before spinning), this recycled content is complemented by all-natural wool and flax fibers.
With exquisite colors created using environmentally-friendly, non-metallic dyestuffs. Silk is safe to compost, without causing any contamination, and – as it is inherently flame retardant – it does not require a chemical post-treatment, ensuring its composition remains perfectly natural.
Hemp: Fast growing and flexible
An incredibly eco-friendly fiber, hemp grows exceptionally quickly, without requiring chemical treatment. Needing very little water, and returning 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil, it is naturally beneficial to the earth – helping to purify the soil, whilst its deep roots prevent erosion.
At Camira, we grow our own hemp as an agricultural crop under licence from the UK government Home Office on Huit Farm in Leicestershire. Once a crop has been harvested, the long stems are left in bundles in the fields, while their leaves decompose and act as fertiliser for the following year. Dew retting starts the process of fibre separation, which is completed by mechanical decortication.
These flexible fibers are then expertly blended with wool to create fabrics of natural beauty, Hemp and Hebden. With a soft handle and inherent flame retardancy, these sustainable textiles are designed to work in perfect harmony – with the classic plain weave of Hemp beautifully accented by the large scale dappled check design of Hebden.
Nettle: A now and future fiber
Growing rapidly from springtime onwards, up to a height of 2.5 yards, nettles grow easily on land which is often unsuitable for arable crops and, as with hemp, this type of plant does not require pesticides or herbicides to flourish – ensuring it remains free from chemicals. Ideal for encouraging bio-diversity, nettle cultivation provides a natural habitat for birds and insects and, once the fibers have been extracted, the woody remnant left behind is used as animal bedding – making it a truly zero-waste material source.
In an industry first, we worked with De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, to develop Sting – a fabric made from wool and nettle fiber obtained from the common stinging nettle (and an acronym for our four-year project focusing on Sustainable Technology in Nettle Growing).
Sting has now matured into Nettle Aztec – naturally perfect and inherently flame retardant, the beauty of this plain weave fabric is held within its understated aesthetic and sustainable credentials. With a weathered, appealingly timeworn finish, Aztec imbues any interior with effortless, natural style.
Not only are natural fibers sustainable and renewable, they also require minimal energy consumption during processing and emit much less CO2 than their synthetic counterparts, as the table below illustrates.
Source: Barber & Pellow, Life Cycle Assessment - New Zealand Merino Industry (2006), except Nettle Energy Consumption: Central Science Laboratory, Comparative LCA Nettle, Flax, Hemp. CO2 emissions based on Defra UK grid rolling average (0.537kg CO2 per KWh) (2008).