Green Products

Ecology Matters by Duke Vasey

It's been awhile since the last time I discussed bioengineered and genetically modified materials (GM). Since that time, the Higg Index ( has been promoted as a way to compare the environmental impact of materials used in apparel and footwear.

Here’s a sample:
36.1—Polypropylene: A byproduct of oil refining and natural-gas processing, this material—often used in long underwear—uses little land, water or energy and produces little waste; low use of carcinogens, endocrine disruptors or other toxic chemicals.

30.7—Silk fabric: Chemically clean and leaving little waste, it scores high for sustainability, though its production does emit a high level of greenhouse gases.

27.5—Leather (corn-fed): There is very little waste in its production compared with other materials, so it has a higher overall score than many materials, even though it ranks lower on land use; cows require large amounts of feed (which in turn requires pesticides and fertilizer) and pasture land. Animal-welfare issues aren't considered in the score.

26.8—Cotton: Takes a hit for heavy use of land and water, as well as bleaches and other chemicals used in processing, which puts it in a middling ranking for sustainability, despite its green reputation.

19.3—Wool: Because it requires ample land to produce and toxic, energy-intensive chemical processing (to turn the scratchy fibers soft enough for modern sensibilities), wool scores low for sustainability.

18.9—Bamboo rayon-viscose fabric: Often billed as green by manufacturers, this material scores miserably because of the heavy processing, high waste, and fabric energy use required to turn bamboo into a fabric.

Tire damage from crop stubble is one of the biggest complaints you get from equipment operators but there is a GM solution you may not have considered:

High yielding, genetically modified crops have transformed the economics of U.S. farming. But they also pack an unexpected punch: Their tougher stalks are puncturing tires and stranding farm equipment in the field. Titan International Inc., one of the largest farm tire suppliers, is testing a newly developed tire with four layers of Kevlar, the synthetic fabric best known for its use in military helmets and bulletproof vests.

Auto tire makers including Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Essex Manufacturing Inc. have put Kevlar belts into durable tires for passenger cars and off-road vehicles. But farm equipment makers such as Deere & Co., Fiat Industrial SpA's CNH Global and Agco Corp. don't yet offer the tires on their tractors.

As farmers cut back on tilling their fields to preserve the top soil, we may be looking at expanding uses for GM materials.

It’s time we started looking at ways to use every scrap of material as often as possible.

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