Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
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Harvested Rain Forest

What's in Your Clothes?
By Tammy Maygra

The question is what is in your clothes? Rayon is a very popular fabric, and is used by most major clothing brands. It's made by an intricate chemical process, but at the beginning it starts with wood chips, which are turned into a product called dissolving pulp. Like all goods that come from trees, this wood may be obtained by sustainable forestry practices. But in some cases, deforestation is intertwined into its very fibers.

Indonesia has lost over 60,000 square miles of its rainforest between 2001 and 2013. On the island of Sumatra, one of the major contributors to deforestation is the increase of wood pulping giant Toba Pulp Lestari, whose products are used to make both paper goods and textiles.

Because of the computer age and digital technology, paper demand has dropped considerably in the past decade. In turn the paper companies are looking for a replacement for their products and they have found one -material for clothes.

The local people in Sumatra have been fighting this mill for at least the last 20 years. The people who live in the forest depend on the rainforests for their livelihoods, and have traditional usage rights. However, the land legally belongs to the government, which may give out logging contracts that conflict with the tribe's rights. The people do not understand that they need land rights to protect the forest, they find this out when logging crews appear and start cutting down the forest. This is not the only problem that comes with the pulp/ logging practices in this country. According to a joint UN and Interpol report on illegal wildlife trade released in June, pulping may also be used to "launder" illegally logged trees.

In fairness many companies are not aware of these issues at all, and many do not know where or how the material comes from or is generated in the process of making material. Apparel makers needs to launch a traceable supply chain. The buyer needs to know their broker, and where that product comes from only until then can this problem be solved.

With the awareness of climate change millions of people are educated on the importance of the rainforest and the earth as a whole, pressure can be put on these companies and countries to start using sustainable forests and practices. By ensuring pulp comes from responsibly harvested wood is a good idea for brands and designers consumers and the planet.


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