Sudbury

Making clothes from trees — and how one group wants us to think about it

An environmental group wants you to think about preserving the forests of northern Ontario when shopping for clothes.

More and more wood pulp is used to make rayon clothing, but how much comes from sustainable producers?

Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft says, unlike other forest products, the question of whether a shirt comes from an endangered or ancient forest isn't often asked when people go shopping. Canopy works with the forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect these forests. (canopyplanet.org)

An environmental group wants you to think about preserving the forests of northern Ontario when shopping for clothes.

Canopy is a BC based non-profit pushing companies that makes rayon from wood pulp to buy only from sustainable producers.

Executive director Nicole Rycroft says most shoppers don't know that more and more clothing is being made from trees.

"It's a little less intuitive that something that can give you a splinter ends up being that fabric that's soft and silky next to your skin," she said.

Rycroft's group recently convinced clothing giant VF to make sure its rayon doesn't come from endangered or ancient forests.

And Rycroft says, unlike other forest products, the question of whether that shirt came from an endangered or ancient forest isn't often asked.

"They don't necessarily draw that link to a forest and sort of think about the sustainability issues that they would otherwise bring to that purchasing decision."

Northern Ontario connection?

Rycroft says it's hard to know how many northern Ontario trees are turned into rayon.

Some do likely end up at the Tembec mill just across the border in Temiscaming, Que., which sells about 50-thousand tonnes of pulp to fabric companies.

Canopy has been working with the owners to make sure it's good for forests and fashion.

Tembec's Derek Budgell, vice-president of business development for the specialty cellulose division, says they are a sustainable producer — and a small player in the market.

"From our point of view the rayon industry is a little bit of a commodity and it's not one that we're targeting."

There are plans for a rayon pulp mill in northern Ontario, in Terrace Bay.

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