With the increasing interest in natural plant-based fibres, more demand for vegan yarns and a growing consciousness of the impact of yarn production on the environment, it is worth looking beyond traditional plant fibres such as linen and cotton.
One such fibre that should be in the yarn stash of every eco-conscious knitter is Tencel. Tencel is the brand name for lyocell which is produced from the pulp of plantation trees. Lyocell is comparable to viscose (bamboo is a classic viscose yarn)
Tencel was invented about four decades ago by Austrian textile and fibre company Lenzing. Lenzing's goal was the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly fibres. In 1990, Lenzing started construction of its first lyocell fibre pilot plant. Seven year later, in 1997, the company began large scale production at its new factory in Heiligenkreuz in Austria.
The wood pulp for Tencel is derived from eucalyptus plantations and processed under strict criteria of sustainability, low carbon emissions and environmentally friendly production.
But is it really as environmentally desirable as it is made out?
To find out more, check the comparative analysis by independent environmental analysts and consumer advisory group GreenStory.
GreenStory found that in a comparison of sustainability between tencel and linen (which is widely regarded as a sustainable and environmentally friendly fibre), tencel comes out slightly ahead overall compared with linen.
The researchers found that linen scored slightly better on carbon emissions than tencel, but worse on water consumption, cost, availability. Even with regard to sustainable harvesting, the use of non-toxic chemicals in the production process and the subsequent recycling of any residues of those chemicals, tencel scored slightly better than linen.
It's worth experimenting with these new plant-based fibres and see if you like them. Obviously, the positive environmental track record is dependent on companies doing the right thing, so make sure you get them from accredited suppliers with a good environmental track record.