Glossary

Can you talk the talk?

Overwhelmed or confused by sustainability jargon? Cut through the mumbo jumbo with our glossary of the latest sustainability buzzwords.

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  • a
  • Acetate
    A semi-synthetic, cellulose material made with spun filaments of cellulose taken from wood pulp and treated with acetic acid and other agents.
  • Acrylic
    A synthetic material originally developed by the DuPont Corporation in the 1940s. Made from a synthetic polymer called acrylonitrile. This type of fiber is produced by reacting certain petroleum or coal-based chemicals with a variety of monomers, which means that acrylic fabric is a fossil fuel-based fiber.
  • b
  • Bamboo
    Cloth, yarn, or clothing made from the bamboo plant. It grows very quickly and can grown in a variety of climates so it is renewable and can be replenished at a fast rate.
  • Biodegradable
    A fiber or material that is capable of decomposing or disintegrating with a non-toxic bi-product.
  • Bluesign Standard
    BLUESIGN is a system that provides safer and more sustainable environments for people to work in and everyone to live in.
  • c
  • Cellulose
    A complex carbohydrate that is the basic structural component of plant cells.
  • Certification
    Certified B Corporations balance purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
  • Certified B Corporation
    Certified B Corporations balance purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
  • Chiffon
    A diaphanous, translucent fabric that can be made from silk (natural) or polyester (synthetic).
  • Organic Cotton
    A cellulose or plant based fiber that comes from the cotton plant. It requires 71% less water and 62% less energy to grow, and less pesticides and anti-microbial agents
  • f
  • Fair Trade Certified™
    Fair Trade Certified™ goods support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment.
  • Fleece
    A fluffy fabric made from polyester. New technologies allow it to be made from recycled polyester however, when washed, it releases the highest amount of micro-plastics.
  • g
  • Global Organic Textile Standard
    The worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
  • Global Recycling Standards
    A voluntary product standard for tracking and verifying the content of recycled materials in a final product.
  • GOTS
    The worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
  • GRS
    A voluntary product standard for tracking and verifying the content of recycled materials in a final product.
  • i
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, and to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. It has 195 member states.
  • IPCC
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, and to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. It has 195 member states.
  • l
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
    Designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs.
  • LEED
    Designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs.
  • Linen
    A woven material made from the fibers of the flax plant. Dries faster than cotton
  • LYCRA®
    LYCRA® fiber is the brand name of the original spandex elastane.
  • Lyocell
    Lyocell is biodegradable and semi-synthetic; it uses  less water and energy than other man made fibers.
  • m
  • Material
    A semi-synthetic, cellulose material made with spun filaments of cellulose taken from wood pulp and treated with acetic acid and other agents.
  • Microplastics
    Tiny plastic particles that are released when synthetic materials are machine washed.
  • Modal
    A semi-synthetic material derived from beech trees. It is 50% more absorbent that cotton and is very soft.
  • n
  • Natural Fibers
    Fibers that are made from plants (cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, jute, flax, sisal, wood, raffia) and animals (wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere, silk, angora) that occur in nature and are biodegradable.
  • Nylon
    The first fully synthetic fiber. An artificial fiber developed by DuPont in the 1930s that is derived from petroleum.
  • o
  • Organic Wool
    A natural fiber. Many widely used chemicals cannot be utilized to assist the sheep or the wool processor. These chemical classes include commonly used veterinary medicines such as preventative treatments against lice, flies and internal parasites.
  • Organza
    A thin sheer fabric that can me made from silk or synthetic material such as polyester or nylon
  • p
  • Pinatex
    Fabric created from pineapple leaf waste by Dr. Carmen Hijosa at the Brazilian company Ananas Anam.
  • Polyester
    An artificial, petroleum based fiber that first appeared in the 1940s.  It is thermoplastic meaning it can be melted and reformed so it is relatively easy to recycle but will melt at high heat. It is highly stain resistant but non-biodegradable.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate
    Material made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • Polyurethane Leather
    PU leather is softer, more flexible and breathable than PVC. Polyurethane is considered greener than Vinyl because it does not create dioxins. PU resins are made of a softer polymer and therefore don’t need additional plasticizers. Polyurethane costs less than real leather but it is more expensive to produce than Vinyl.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
    PVC/Vinyl is  made from melting polyester fibers and plasticizers sealing them closed, making a virtually waterproof surface that is flexible and tough. During the production process dioxins (carcinogens) are produced that are harmful to humans and animals and remain in the environment for a long time. Not biodegradable.
  • PU Synthetic Leather
    PU leather is softer, more flexible and breathable than PVC. Polyurethane is considered greener than Vinyl because it does not create dioxins. PU resins are made of a softer polymer and therefore don’t need additional plasticizers. Polyurethane costs less than real leather but it is more expensive to produce than Vinyl.
  • PVC
    PVC/Vinyl is  made from melting polyester fibers and plasticizers sealing them closed, making a virtually waterproof surface that is flexible and tough. During the production process dioxins (carcinogens) are produced that are harmful to humans and animals and remain in the environment for a long time. Not biodegradable.
  • r
  • Rayon
    Rayon is a semi-synthetic because it is artificially made but derived from wood which is a natural fiber.
  • REACH Standard
    REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.  Reach stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.
  • s
  • Screened Chemistry
    Screened Chemistry is the method of assessing, scoring, and certifying textile chemicals for human and environmental health characteristics. Many global fashion, apparel, and footwear brands are eliminating the discharge of hazardous chemicals via the ZDHC Program. Several of these brands, led by Levi Strauss & Co, H&M, C&A, and NIKE have also selected Screened Chemistry as their preferred method for selecting safer chemicals. As part of the Screened Chemistry effort, these brands are engaging with suppliers and chemical formulators to evaluate chemical formulations for Screened Chemistry certification while protecting chemical supplier proprietary ingredient information.
  • Semi-Synthetic Material
    A fiber formed by regenerating natural materials into a usable form through artificial means.
  • Silicone
    Silicone is a synthetic material made from sand (silica) and a mix of chemical additives derived from fossil fuels. The higher the grade of silicone (medical and food being the highest) the less likely it is to leach chemicals but there is still a lot of discussion about how safe silicone products actually are.
  • Silk
    Silk is a natural fiber that comes from several insects including silkworms, moth caterpillars, and spiders. Silk production calls for killing the animal, usually with heat or hot water before it emerges from its cocoon  so it is not cruelty free. The environmental impact of silk production is potentially large when compared with other natural fibers.  It is one of the strongest natural fibersSilk is excellent as clothing because it protects from many biting insects that would ordinarily pierce clothing, such as mosquitoes and horseflies.
  • Sorona
    Sorona is a partially plant based stretch fabric that is an alternative to spandex. It was created by DuPont and it can be recycled.
  • Spandex
    A synthetic elastic fabric that breaks down easily when exposed to heat and normal wear and tear. Spandex cannot be recycled.
  • Standard
    BLUESIGN is a system that provides safer and more sustainable environments for people to work in and everyone to live in.
  • Sustainability
    Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.
  • Synthetic Leather
    Synthetic leather is made from a base layer of natural or synthetic material coated in plastic (usually polyurethane) and pressed or treated to look like animal hide.
  • Synthetic Material
    Any material that is chemically derived and has no natural origin.
  • t
  • Tencel
    A brand of lyocell and modal materials.
  • The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology
    Founded in 1992 with headquarters in Switzerland. Created a set of standards for textiles, leather and production facilities to see if they adhere to sustainable and socially responsible conditions (i.e. traces of harmful chemicals, colorants or other substances, waste water quality)
  • u
  • Upcycle
    The process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.
  • v
  • Vegea
    Wine leather made from grape waste from the wine industry.
  • Viscose
    A type of rayon fiber that is made from natural sources such as wood and agricultural products that are regenerated as cellulose fiber.
  • w
  • Wool
    Wool is protein or animal based fiber. he textile fiber obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats. Due to decreasing demand with increased use of synthetic fibers, wool production is much less than what it was in the past. The collapse in the price of wool began in late 1966 with a 40% drop; with occasional interruptions, the price has tended down. The result has been sharply reduced production and movement of resources into production of other commodities, in the case of sheep growers, to production of meat.  Washable wool technology first appeared in the early 1970s to produce wool that has been specially treated so it is machine washable and may be tumble-dried. This wool is produced using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or by coating the fiber with a polymer that prevents the scales from attaching to each other and causing shrinkage. This process results in a fiber that holds longevity and durability over synthetic materials, while retaining its shape. biodegradable and flame resistant and viable for recycling.

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