Druids, Beechwood Trees and Oh-So-Soft Fabric

Druids, Beechwood Trees and Oh-So-Soft Fabric

Ancient druids believed that writing a wish on a bit of beech and then burying it was part of giving back to the earth and making the wish manifest in real life...if it was meant to be.

Beyond the folklore, beechwood trees have another trick up their trunks: they can be transformed into a versatile fabric called modal that's breathable, absorbent, oh-so-soft and offers a range of textures. It can be used as an affordable alternative to silk fabrics as well as an eco-friendly alternative to to traditional long staple cotton. But let's break it down: how is it created, and is it genuinely eco-friendly when we consider its effects on the environment?

Tencel™… why we use it?

First, you may have heard the terms Tencel and modal used interchangeably. Is Tencel the same as modal? Well, in a nutshell, yes! Tencel and modal are like two peas in a pod. 

You see, Tencel is essentially a brand name.  It's what you get when you have modal fibers made by the Austrian textile company Lenzing™ AG.  It's a bit like how many folks say 'Kleenex' when referring to any tissue or 'Coca-Cola' to mean any cola drink (sorry, Pepsi fans, but you know it's true). The same story goes for modal – the Tencel brand has kind of become the go-to term for all brands that make modal.

On the plus side, when compared to cotton, modal fabric manufacturing stands out for its lower water usage. Beech trees, the primary source for modal, require significantly less water than cotton, making modal a more water-efficient choice in textile production.

Let's break down how modal in general is made: First, beech wood is gathered, it's then chopped up and turned it into pulp. It's then immersed in carbon disulfide and steeped in sodium hydroxide, ultimately creating a gooey liquid. This liquid gets pushed or extruded through tiny holes called spinnerets to form modal fibers. Think of it as like making home-made spaghetti noodles. After a good wash and some drying, they spin these fibers into yarn, which eventually becomes modal fabric. 

Modal can indeed be considered a more environmentally friendly alternative to certain fabrics, especially when it's produced from sustainably sourced wood. This means that the trees used for modal production are specifically planted for this purpose, ideally on land that isn't suitable for other agricultural activities. 

While modal fabric originates from plant sources, it's important to note that the production process involves the use of dyes and chemicals. For example, exposure to carbon disulfide, a chemical used in the process, can pose hazards when released into the environment.

Due to the popularity of modal fabric, not all manufacturers adhere to sustainable practices. We choose to use the premium Tencel brand over generic modal, even thought is is more expensive, for the following reasons:

1. Sustainable Sourcing: When it comes to Tencel modal, it's all about responsible sourcing. They exclusively source their materials from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forests. This ensures that the trees are harvested in a way that maintains biodiversity, respects indigenous rights, and supports the livelihoods of local communities.

2. Recycling Champion: One of the cool things about the Tencel process is how they handle solvents. Almost all of the solvents used to break down wood into pulp are recovered and recycled. This minimizes waste and reduces the environmental footprint of the production process.

3. Green Energy: The Tencel production process is powered by sustainable bioenergy. They're not burning fossil fuels here; they're using renewable resources to keep things running smoothly. This choice reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lessens the environmental impact.

So, when you see that Tencel fabric is used in a product, like we use liberally across our catalog, you can trust that it's been crafted with an eye on sustainability. It's a reassuring nod to environmentally conscious manufacturing practices, making it a great choice for eco-conscious consumers.

In the realm of textiles, we also encourage you to invest in high-quality pieces designed to withstand the test of time, regardless of passing trends or short term phase of life needs. This is why we've purposefully designed all our clothing, sleepwear and loungewear collections to become enduring classics in your wardrobe, extending their usefulness well beyond, in the grand scheme of your child's life, the short phase of breastfeeding.