Too many trees dy­ing for fash­ion

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS -

No one dies for fash­ion in greater num­bers than, it turns out, the trees. More than 150 mil­lion are cleared ev­ery year, shipped around the world, then pulped and pro­cessed into vis­cose — aka. rayon, the cheap, silk-ish fab­ric most mass-mar­ket brands can’t sur­vive with­out.

For the grow­ing num­ber of ap­parel com­pa­nies promis­ing a more eco­log­i­cally sound man­u­fac­tur­ing process, this presents a prob­lem. The vis­cose in­dus­try re­lies on wood from around the world, in­clud­ing some ar­eas that have been des­ig­nated as eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive. But by the time the pulp be­comes rayon (typ­i­cally in China), it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to know whether it orig­i­nated in Amer­i­can tree farms or In­done­sian old growth forests. Un­less some­one’s pay­ing at­ten­tion.

Non­profit groups like WWF, Green­peace and Rain­for­est Ac­tion Net­work have in-coun­try ex­per­tise that have helped busi­nesses align man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tices with en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mit­ments, but peo­ple are lim­ited in the amount of ground they can cover and the num­ber of hours in a day they can work. So sev­eral brands, in­clud­ing Hennes & Mau­ritz AB, Ker­ing SA and Marks & Spencer Group PLC, spent the last year help­ing the Cana­dian non­profit Canopy build a web­site that uses satellite im­agery and con­ser­va­tion re­search to iden­tify the forests that sci­en­tists say need to be left alone. Called For­est Map­per, the images can re­solve to 320 square feet in some ar­eas. It shows 36 lay­ers of data, 25 di­rectly about forests, with oth­ers cov­er­ing threat­ened species habi­tats and car­bon locked away in trees and soil.

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