Published on April 13th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe12
Fab Fabrics: What’s the Scoop on Soy?
Soy gets a lot of love as an eco-friendly fabric option. But does it live up to the hype?
Like bamboo fabric, soy is produced from plant material and advertised as being extremely eco-friendly. We’ve looked at the pros and cons of bamboo fabric before, and it turns out that bamboo isn’t the wonder-fabric it’s touted to be. With careful label-reading, it’s possible to find bamboo that’s more responsibly produced. Still, organic cotton or hemp seem like much better options.
I’d been seeing a lot of companies boasting products made from soy fabric and thought it was time to look into it.
Soy fabric has a great feel to it. In fact, some folks are calling it an eco-friendly alternative to silk. The fabric is soft, sort of like cashmere.
One of the coolest things about soy fiber is that it’s made using the byproducts from the creation of soy foods like tofu. That means soy isn’t grown just for fabric purposes, and that soy fabric production helps reduce waste.
The process for making the fabric sounds similar to bamboo: “Soy protein is liquefied and then extruded into long, continuous fibers that are then cut and processed like any other spinning fiber.”
This process is very chemical-heavy, but unlike a lot of rayon made from bamboo, it’s a closed-loop system, meaning they reuse the chemicals over and over rather than dumping them.
Although the process does reuse the chemicals involved, it still means that workers are exposed to these toxins on a daily basis. It also makes you wonder how much of the chemicals from the extruding process remain as residue in the finished soy fabric.
It was tough to dig up information on how the extruding process works and what chemicals specifically are involved, so if anyone has more info about that, please share!
There are a couple of other issues with soy. Unlike bamboo or hemp, it does require a lot of water and pesticides to grow. Soy crops are also responsible for deforestation in the Amazon, and the plants are often genetically engineered.
After doing the research, it feels like soy has one more thing in common with bamboo: its status as an eco-fabric is not cut and dry. If you do want to give soy fabric a whirl, I’d look for fabric made from organic soybeans.
What’s your take on soy fabric? Do the upsides outweigh the downsides?
[Image Credit of a field of soybeans growing in Argentina: Creative Commons photo by amicor]