How are deforestation, wildlife conservation and fashion all connected?

by Michele Thomson July 22, 2019


Sustainable experts have labeled viscose a “dirty” fabric. Why? Viscose (also called rayon) is regenerated cellulosic (plant-based) fiber sourced from trees. It goes through an intensive chemical process to be created before irresponsible manufacturers dump the used chemicals into local lakes and rivers causing catastrophic harm to humans and the environment.

If this wasn’t bad enough, we have to go back to the harvesting of the wood and add another d-word “destructive.”

According to Canopy, an environmental agency protecting ancient forests, a whopping 150 million trees are cut down each year to make this fiber for the fashion industry. Fabrics containing cellulosic fiber have become hugely popular in the last 10 years or so. Check out your closet and you’ll probably find that some of your favorite flowy dresses and soft tops are made from wood-based fabrics: modal, rayon and lyocell.

So where do they cut down these trees?

The majority of viscose has been coming from old-growth trees and endangered rainforests in places like Indonesia, Canada and the Amazon.

Deforestation’s impact on conservation.

The deforestation of these areas is creating devastating impacts for endangered species and communities who live within the forests. It also contributes to the negative impact on our climate globally.

These forests are home to endangered animals. Particularly in Indonesia which is home to 10% of the world’s animal species including the critically endangered orangutan.

The word Orangutan means “person of the forest” in the Indonesian language. Yet humans are pushing these amazing great apes out of their habitat in pursuit of wood for clothing and paper industries.

Also affected by deforestation are Sumatran elephants and Sumatran tigers. Sumatran elephant populations are hovering around 2400-2800 (WWF). Sumatran Tigers are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and less than 400 tigers exist today due to habitat loss and poaching.

Fashions’ impact on deforestation and wildlife.

The fashion industry is directly linked to the demise of these animals and forests they live in. It’s time that we pay attention to fiber content in our clothing.

Because of the complexity of the fabric supply chain, many brands do not know (or sometimes do not care) that they are directly contributing to the destruction of forests and wildlife habitat.

Changing the impact of fashion.

Thanks to the work of Canopy, many brands are now doing their due diligence to find out the where their fabric comes from. Levis Strauss & Co. Quiksilver, Reformation, Mara Hoffman and Eileen Fisher, and of course Ferocious Love, all purchase viscose fabrics harvested from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood.

The viscose fabrics used by Ferocious Love are sourced from an Austrian company called Lenzing Group. They are rated #1 by Canopy, as the most responsible company that produces wood-based fiber.

When I first started using Lenzing Tencel, I didn’t know about the effects that viscose had on the forests. I choose Lenzing because of the great work they do in their processing of the fiber in a closed-loop process and which also uses less water and energy. Now I can also feel confident that my fabrics do not contribute to deforestation and destruction to communities and animal habitats.

Buy clothes that are ethically sourced.

Protecting ancient forests is critical to saving endangered animals and our global climate. One way you can do this is by being conscious of where the fiber in the clothes you buy comes from.

  1. Find out if your current favorite clothing brands source from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood or if they partner with Canopy.
  2. Find new favorite brands that source from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood or partner with Canopy.

Maybe Ferocious Love can make it onto your new favorite list!

Michele Thomson
Michele Thomson


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