A Brief Note on Natural Fibres and Climate Change

Natural fibres split into animal fibres and plant fibres with the animal fibres composed of proteins and the plant fibres of cellulose.[i],[ii],[iii],[iv],[v]

These, together, constitute a large set of industries with millions of workers including the textile industry, and they have competition from the synthetic or man-made fibre industry.[vi],[vii] One of these is compostable or bio-degradable, and the other is not.

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Plant and animal fibres are bio-degradable such as in a cold or hot compost, and synthetic or man-made fibres are not.[viii],[ix],[x],[xi],[xii] The one’s that do not biodegrade will tend to end in landfills and the ocean, and will become broke down cubes such as microplastics.[xiii],[xiv],[xv],[xvi],[xvii]

The lifecycle of synthetic or man-made fibres are different than the natural fibres because the natural fibre lifecycle is shaped like a loop. And the synthetic or man-made fibre lifecycle is basically a straight line with some looping via recycling.

And with this taken in its full implications comes around to one of the major issues of our time, global warming or climate change.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations via Jan van Dam, the connection between environmental sustainability, climate change, and natural fibres is not necessarily a complicated one. How so?

The promotion of the use of natural fibres as CO2 neutral resource is believed to contribute to a greener planet… The transition towards a bio-based economy and sustainable developments as a consequence of the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse gas reduction and CO2 neutral production offers high perspectives for natural fibre markets… On ecological grounds products should then be preferred that are based on photosynthetic CO2 fixation… Growing of crops results in the fixation in biomass of atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis and has therefore in principle a positive effect on the CO2 balance.[xviii]



There we go again. A green planet, accordance with the Kyoto Protocol (and likely numerous other agreements), carbon capture, an actual lifecycle for feeding back into its own future generations of growth and product via natural fibres, and even a reduction in the net CO2 in the medium- to long-term. What’s not to like – and there’s plenty more where that came from.

It can be a complex representation of the information. However, the fundamental principles need little thought. Synthetic fibres do not decompose. Natural fibres decompose. What follows? The former become various direct and indirect pollutants and is, therefore, unsustainable and increases the ongoing climactic warming; the latter amounts to a self-sustaining cycle and is, therefore, sustainable and reduces the ongoing climactic warming.


[i] New World Encyclopedia. (2014, December 23). Natural Fiber.[ii] natural fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica.[iii] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Natural Fibres.[iv] Government of Canada: Canadian Conservation Institute. (2015, November 23). Natural Fibres – Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) Notes 13/11.[v] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Why Natural Fibres?.[vi] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Natural Fibres.[vii] man-made fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica.[viii] Wild Fibres. (2016, February 15). Animal Fibres.[ix] Wild Fibres. (2016, February 15). Plant Fibres.[x] Almanac. (2016). How to Compost: Hot and Cold Methods.[xi] Vegetable Gardener. (2009, February 10). Composting Hot or Cold.[xii] Kitchen Gardeners International. (n.d.). Which is better: hot or cold composting?.[xiii] New World Encyclopedia. (2016). Natural Fiber.[xiv] United Nations Environment Programme. (2013). Microplastics.[xv] Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. (2016). Microplastics and microbeads.[xvi] WorldWatch Institute. (2015, January 28). Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags.[xvii] [National Geographic]. (2015, October27). Are Microplastics in Our Water Becoming a Macroproblem?.[xviii] Van Dam, J.E.G.. (n.d.). Environmental benefits of natural fibre production and use.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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