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Natural Fiber Clothes!

DavidAM

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
I'm looking to make my next trip all about minimalism. I'm basically gonna head back to Hawaii and try and live out there for a year and learn about sustainability and growing my own food. In the meantime, I've been spending my time trying to find products that will make my trip truly minimalist. I bought a few Icebreaker shirts to try em out and I love the look and feel of them. I did buy them a size too large though so I may go with the smaller, tighter fit with the new line of Spring/Summer wear they just released. But my question is this...

Is Merino Wool the only natural fiber out there that's lightweight, quick drying, anti-microbial and all that? Is it truly a miracle fiber or would I do well with a bamboo or hemp shirt? I want to bring like 3-5 shirts with me and I'll be doing my laundry. Even though Icebreaker is pretty transparent about their process and ethics with their sheep, I somehow still feel guilty for using wool clothing. I'm not a Vegan but what I believe kind of comes close to that philosophy and so if I could get away with using clothing made from a material with similar benefits than I'd be happy with this.

Thanks for any help. Let the debating begin... lol!
"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become."

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Mama-to-many

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
Bamboo and hemp are both slow drying (we use them for our kids' diapers - very absorbent, but not quick to dry).

Wool is a miracle. What's the problem with using fleece that has been shorn off a sheep? You have the occasional haircut, don't you? ;)
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Markus

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
If you have any sort of eco concerns, you'll want to stay away from bamboo. It's often touted as an eco-friendly fabric, but the only really good thing about it is the fast and easy growing bamboo source.

From a Patagonia PDF on why they don't use bamboo:
There is more than one way to make rayon. The most common way – and the one widely used for bamboo – is called the viscose process. In this process, cellulose material (such as bamboo) is dissolved in a strong solvent to make a thick, viscous solution that is forced through a spinneret into a quenching solution where strands solidify into fiber. This is sometimes called hydrolysis alkalization or solution spinning because the fiber is “spun” in a chemical solution. The solvent used for this process is carbon disulfide, a toxic chemical that is a known human reproductive hazard. It can endanger factory workers and pollute the environment via air emissions and wastewater. The recovery of this solvent in most viscose factories is around 50%, which means that the other half goes into the environment. Other potentially hazardous chemicals are also used in the viscose process, including sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid. Because of these environmental issues, Patagonia does not use rayon fabric or bamboo fabric made by the viscose process. (Source - PDF Download)


I once spent the weekend on a small sheep farm and learned a thing or two about sheep and their well-being. With farmed animals, it's often about the farmer/herder and how they treat their animals. Domestic animals who have plenty of free run and are treated well, tend to be quite happy little creatures. Shearing isn't their favourite thing, but as Mama-to-many mentioned, not all of us love haircuts either. If you research a company, and are able to determine that they care about their relationship to their farmers, then you're likely to be buying from a company whose farmers care about their flock. I wouldn't worry too much about the impact of your wool shirts. We all need clothing, and we have to source it from creature or land. Wool is one of the few animal related products we can wear that doesn't require killing the animal, and many of the 'natural' plant-based alternatives use so many toxic chemicals in the refining process that they're far worse for the environment.

And don't get me started on anti-microbial treatments. The vast majority of treatments have the same problem with rayon production in that they aren't even close to closed-loop systems where the toxic waste products aren't leached into the environment surrounding the plants.

When it comes to overall eco friendliness of a product, consider that (I don't know the actual statistic any more) something like 80% (or higher) of the environmental impact of a piece of clothing comes from laundering over the course of that products lifetime. Think of the junk you put in your washing machine and where that soapy water goes. Think of the power used to drive your machine. Think of the water usage. Think of the toxic anti-microbial treatment on your gym clothes... that you only wear once and then throw in the laundry bin. What's the point of anti-stink if we wash after a single use?

This is one of the things that makes high quality merino (not all merino is like this) so great. Less washing means far lower over-all impact.

busman7

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
When it comes to overall eco friendliness of a product, consider that (I don't know the actual statistic any more) something like 80% (or higher) of the environmental impact of a piece of clothing comes from laundering over the course of that products lifetime. Think of the junk you put in your washing machine and where that soapy water goes. Think of the power used to drive your machine. Think of the water usage. Think of the toxic anti-microbial treatment on your gym clothes... that you only wear once and then throw in the laundry bin. What's the point of anti-stink if we wash after a single use?

[/quote]

My Pila doesn't use any power
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vagabondette74

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
busman7 wrote:My Pila doesn't use any power


LOL. Glad to know I'm not the only one hand-washing. Though I use a good-old bucket rather than a pila.
Traveling through Mexico and Central America starting in January '09. Hit me up if you want to meet!

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
Ok. What I'm going to say is going to sound a bit harsh, but as a long time backpacker, and observer of many things, it might have some validity.

If you want to really go minimalist, get yourself a used backpack(not using new materials) and get yourself some used clothes or clothes you already have. If you're going to Hawaii, all you';ll probably need is 1 windproof/waterproof shell and a few wool sweaters,and perhaps a fleece, with plenty of wool merino socks. Wool sweaters can be gotten cheap and good from military surplus stores, and they work just fine.

Pants? Well, I've had cotton and no longer carry them. I've found the best minimalist pants are yes, those funny zippered leg backpacker pants. They are light, they dry fast, and they're plenty tough. If you go further north, hey, get yourself a pair of swedisn wool pants, (used of course) from military surplus sites. Thats another non-drain on the system.

Minimalism is about not taking too much, and making everything you take caount. I'm not good at it, but I'm getting better. The best way to be a minimalist by least number of possesions is to fit thm all into a 40 liter daypack. Try it, go ahead, I dare you. I can't quite do it, but many can, especially women who can put 5 light dresses in there that double as towel.

If you want to be minimalist in term of sustainability DON'T BUY NEW!
..
Thgat way you haven't used any materials that hasn't already been harvested.

Wool is among the most sustainable because the sheep keep on making wool year after year!!!

I've said ths before, and no one has really commented before on it...

If you want to go somewhere, and its not Alaska in deep winter or something like that, take the clothes you have and just GO. You'll find clothes that work for you along the way. Don't go looking for weeks for the 'perfect pack'. If your friend has a reasonable one, that fits you, and its a few years old, so what? Give him 50 bucks for it and you have a backpack. The older and grungier it looks, the less likely someone is to steal it.

Unless you're actually going to do mountain hiking or a LOT of hitchhiking, it will be used as a suitcase that fits on your back anyways. Useful for those places where rolling cases cannot go.

This is the attitude I've had from the beginning, and its served well. Now, I must admit, I do look for nice wool socks and light waterproof shells, even nice warm and light fleece type clothes. I like wool sweaters and yes, even those funny looking quilted flannel shirts. I like waterproof hats with wide brims, though in a squeeze, a baseball cap and my waterproof shell will work fine. My tent I got on a search years ago, and I've used it 5 times in 5 years. My friend in Europe used it more than I did, when I lent it to him. It is a nice tent. I had another tent which seemed nice, except it leaked. Even that admittedly bad tent served me VERY well when I camped in the summertime in the dry season of country. so.. here is the message

Suit your equipment needs to your projected environment, and if the needs aren't great, then you can use just about anything you use for the East coast of the USA, including your current clothes.

Camping equipment is usually an exception, since its often hard to get quality gear. But, if you want to be really minimalist, I once made a tent out of 3 mil clear PVC sheets hung between two sheets. I woke up in the morning with snow on the ground, and I never even got cold.

See what I mean?

The more minimalist you want to go, in terms of outside resources, the more camping gear you will probably want since just living in a hostel uses up a lot of resources. The more you will need that saw, that camping stove (which to be really resource saving, probably should be one of those little chimneys that use sticks and newspapers, not propane or liquid fuel)

Just be aware that every time you go more self-sufficient, the less comfort you will have, and that may get old fast. It's up to you, of course.

DavidAM

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2011
Fantastic responses guys. Thanks so much for the insight. I will probably be buying a few more Icebreaker shirts. I actually have the Deuter Futura 28 and I've done a preliminary packing in it and it carries everything I plan on bringing with a little extra room.

I actually wanted to just go with what I had but if I plan on going with few clothes I'll probably need quick drying clothes if I'm gonna be doing my own laundry. So quality natural fibers would be the way to go, no doubt. I actually did do a search for a used Deuter and used Icebreaker shirts and came up empty so I just bought them new. Being a consumer bothers me but I figure if I buy quality materials from the get go then I won't be consuming for a long while.

Btw, I do hate haircuts.
"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become."

Sea of Derailments - http://davidamis.wordpress.com
DavidAM Bandcamp - http://davidam.bandcamp.com



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