For as long as humans have dressed beyond the bone, linen fabric has been the main material we've worn. As a bast fiber, linen is spun from seed to fabric from the inner stem of the flax plant, a plant so diverse its stems, leaves and seeds can be transformed into ingredients for multiple industries. 

Since flax grows in almost any season, and in almost any type of soil (including soil which can't be used for food production) it can be cultivated and manufactured as a regenerative regional fiber. As a perennial plant, flax mobilizes phosphorus in the soil, adding to organic matter both as it grows and as it decomposes. Flax also acts as a perfect winter cover crop, and thrives best in crop rotations, helping bring an end to monoculture farming while aiding in carbon drawdown and preventing soil depletion. When left undyed, or dyed with regeneratively grown plant-dyes, it is also beautifully biodegradable, encouraging sustainable fashion through carbon farming systems
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5 QUESTIONS TO ASK TO FIND OUT IF LINEN IS REGENERATIVE, SUSTAINABLE, OR GREENWASHED?

In 2017, a Pulse of the Fashion Industry report stated that bast fibres (linen, hemp, ect) are the second most sustainable out of all the natural fabrics (after wool, which when created following the principles of Fibershed's Climate Beneficial™ Wool , is regenerative); 

Unfortunately, like any popular fashion fiber, there are many brands using conventional linen (promoted as sustainable) to greenwash their collections. Though conventional linen is still more sustainable than conventional cotton, it is important to understand a few things to prevent greenwashing from happening. 

So, to educate myself (and anyone reading this), I put together 5 questions to ask brands so you can suss out how green their linen clothing, supplies or homeware are before you purchase 

1. Is The Linen Used Organic?
Not all linen is created equal, and unless it is grown organically, or even better, regeneratively, it is not sustainable. Though conventionally farmed flax is still more sustainable than cotton, conventional linen still poses harms as it relies on herbicides and pesticides, as well as synthetic nitrogen, which pose pollution pains to groundwater, rivers, and marine ecosystems. Linen cultivated in areas that have had a long history growing it are less likely to use these toxic-chemicals; however, organic linen guarantees they're free of harm. So, ideally, you want to ask the brand if the linen has been grown organically or (toxic)chemical-free.

2. Does The Farm Use Crop Rotation & Cover Crops?
Flax is traditionally reliant on crop rotation, so some European flax, for example, will have a cover crop like alfalfa which is used in rotation with flax before in order to feed the life below ground and protect the soil. Soil which is protected with plant life sequesters carbon, while soil left bare contributes to carbon's overpopulation in the atmosphere

3. Does The Farm Practice Dew Retting or Enzyme Retting?
After linen's 100-day growth period, the plant is harvested by pulling it from the root and laying it across the field. In regenerative agriculture, leaving roots in the ground is one of the principles, however, with linen, the whole plant must be harvested, so the rule slightly shifts as the process of extracting the linen feeds the microorganisms below the ground. 

The inner bark of the flax stem, which transports water into the living plant, is the part of the plant linen is spun from. To access that bark, the inner canal must be released from the 'glue' which holds it in place. To do this, the plant must be retted. Traditionally, this process is done through dew retting, where the pectins ('glue') is released through a combination of dew and sunshine over the course of a few weeks. 

Recently, enzyme retting, which is a similar process, has been developed. The idea with enzyme retting is to speed up the natural process and maintain higher consistency with the fibers. Enzyme retting is still sustainable, but dew retting is the most natural and traditional way, nature usually takes her time for a reason.

Finally, there's water retting, which is faster (about 5 days) but significantly less sustainable because the plant is removed from its natural habitat in the field (where it protects soil carbon and feeds microbes in the soil, reversing global warming) and is left to soak in the rivers or streams. This results in a high level of pollutants being released into the waterways, including agrochemicals if the flax has been grown non-organically, as well as excess plant matter which imbalances the eco-system. So try to avoid water-retted linen.

4. Is the linen its natural colour or dyed with plant-dyes?
During the retting process the fibre obtains its natural beige/ecru colour, just like wine, the amount of sun influences the colour so it can be more grey or more golden depending on the weather local to it during the retting process. If you're looking for linen in brighter colours, the best bet is to look for plant-dyed linen as conventional dyes, and even 'eco' dyes, wreak havoc on our ecosystems. You can learn more about the importance of plant-dyes HERE.

5. Has the linen been treated?
You want to avoid treated linen above allif it says 'wrinkle-free' or 'wrinkle-resistant' it's been treated with formaldehyde, if it is 'stain-resistant' it's been made so with a chemical called PFOA which is carcinogenic.
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ECO-FRIENDLY LINEN CLOTHING BRANDS

regenerative linen by fibershed USA
Handknit and spun from local fiber, Bo Rage creates linen and wool garments from regenerative regional threads.
WHERE TO BUY? Fibershed Marketplace

upcycled  zero waste oeko-tex certified linen UK
This collection of made-to-order Oeko-Tex 100 certified linen garments for men and women are created by skilled seamstresses in London. Each piece is made with 100% linen deadstock fabric which would have otherwise ended up in the landfill had it not been saved. The brand offers free repairs for life and is female-owned.
WHERE TO BUY? Buy Me Once

THE SUMMER HOUSE
sustainable affordable linen clothing for women INDIA
The Summer House effortlessly marries ethical production, sustainability and affordability into a touching trinity; eloquently embodying the artistry of fashion created slowly through conscious craftsmanship and pointed production that embraces a level of love and logic I’ve rarely seen. Most of their linen is organic and dew-retted, while some comes from local chemical-free farms in India which are not certified organic, but also not using chemicals ... so still organic ... if that makes sense. You can read more of my thoughts on them HERE.
WHERE TO BUY? thesummerhouse.in

sustainable organic linen clothing and underwear for men and women EU
Rawganics produces 100% organic linen underwear and clothing which are chemical-free, hypoallergenic, regenerative and ethically made in Europe. Their products are made in the USA, Canada and Europe, and are free of pesticides, GMO, dioxin, formaldehyde, PVC, toxic dyes and industrial chemicals.
WHERE TO BUY? USA Amazon.com EU Rawganique.com

ECO-FRIENDLY LINEN HOMEWARE BRANDS 

sustainable linen with a lifetime guarantee EU / UK
Finlayson has been creating high-quality luxury dew-retted organic linen bedding and textiles since the 1800s with an astounding 50-year warranty.
WHERE TO BUY? Buy Me Once UK / USA

sustainable linen homeware USA
Carrying various linen products, the best linen homeware brand Made Trade has on offer is by Area Home, who since 1990 has created high-quality homeware products made from OEKO tex certified organic linen which is grown and dew-retted in Lithuania.
WHERE TO BUY? madetrade.com

sustainable linen homeware USA
Coyuchi creates linen homeware with 100% organic GOTS certified linen grown in France through a farmer's co-operative before being woven in India. Their supplier, Terre de Lin, uses alfalfa as a cover crop in rotation with flax, and the plant is dew-retted traditionally.
They also carry Climate Beneficial™ Wool items created in partnership with Fibershed
WHERE TO BUY? Coyuchi.com

REGENERATIVE LINEN FABRIC AND SUPPLIES

regeneratively grown local linen UK
Fable & Base print on natural dew-retted linen produced through Kent Cloth's regional fiber system, before being printed with natural plant dyes approved by The Soil Association UK. 
WHERE TO BUY? fableandbase.co.uk

regeneratively grown regional linen yarn USA
Selling flax and wool blend yarn grown through regenerative agricultural production, Chico Flax produces regional fiber from flax grown in Northern California. Their dew-retted linen products are left undyed in their natural tones, and the seeds from the flax plant (which is not used in linen production), are passed onto local baker Dave Miller of Miller’s Bake House to complete the low waste process.
WHERE TO BUY? chicoflax.com/

** If you are you a regenerative or organic linen brand, producing with fiber that has been
dew-retted or enzyme retted, shoot me an email at hello at hollyrose.eco and I'll add you to this post **

** IF YOU FOUND THIS PIECE EDUCATIONAL, PLEASE CONSIDER A ONE-TIME OR MONTHLY DONATION TO MY PATREON ACCOUNT **
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