Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree with the potential to be an ethical and eco-friendly material for the fashion industry, but only if it is planted in the right place.
Eucalyptus is a woody flowering tree or shrub. There are around 700 different species, mostly found in Australia and Southeast Asia but several varieties grow in Europe, America and Africa. It is a fast-growing plant that has attracted attention for producing an oil that can be used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide. When it is harvested, it is cut rather than uprooted, and so grows back, and with speed, making it a renewable material. The essential oil extracted from eucalyptus leaves contains compounds that are powerful natural disinfectants, which makes it a popular fragrance for soap makers. Unlike organic cotton plants, eucalyptus is woody and therefore needs energy input to convert it into a soft fibre before it can be used for clothing.
Eucalyptus as a material
Eucalyptus as a material is known as Tencel Lyocell. It is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees.
Eucalyptus Tencel is produced using a lyocell process exclusively from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), and the fibre carries the Pan-European Forest Council (PEFC) quality seal.
The eucalyptus goes through a similar process as other semi-synthetic natural fibres, such as Viscous bamboo fabric, but the Lyocell process used to make eucalyptus is more benign and eco-friendly.
Eucalyptus as a material is known as Tencel Lyocell. It is made from the pulp of
eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus goes through a similar process as other semi-synthetic natural fibres, such as Viscous bamboo fabric, but the Lyocell process used to
make eucalyptus is more benign and eco-friendly.
Are all the fabrics without flaws? Well, no. No new products created on this earth are without an impact. The greenest textiles will always be those repurposed from salvaged clothes, followed by hemp, linen and organic cotton (which is water-intensive but thankfully pesticide-free).
The ones you’re asking about I call plant-based synthetics. Why? Well, you’d never see a traditional weaver spinning creamy-soft fabrics out of little soybeans. Ditto for eucalyptus fibres. They need some heavy-duty processing to get the silky drape we’ve learned to love in synthetic naturals.
The whole class of textiles made from tree pulp, cornstarch, soy, bamboo, seaweed, crab shells – you name it – can be lumped together as “regenerated fibres.” Some are made of plant cellulose (tree pulps like eucalyptus and bamboo); others, like soy, are made from plant proteins.
Eucalyptus fibre by any other name
Fibres are divided into three main categories:
• Natural – like flax, wool, silk and cotton
• Manufactured – made from cellulose or protein