Environmental impact – flax vs. cotton


You pay increasing attention to what you eat, favouring local producers, and you make efforts to reduce waste. In short, you have an environmentally responsible behaviour. But where do you stand on the textile front? For your household linen or clothes, what fabric do you use? Are you more into cotton or linen? Although linen is comfortable, mainly in the summer, it has other benefits, including for the planet. Do you know what its environmental impact is as compared with cotton?

Focus on flax vs. cotton production

80% of the world flax supply is grown in Europe. The largest producer is none other than France, mainly Normandie and Hauts de France regions. Growing flax uses very little water and requires 5 times less fertiliser than cotton. Unlike cotton, no pesticides or solvents are necessary. Flax thrives in a temperate, humid climate, with the combined action of sun and rainwater, and draws its resources from the soil.

If flax is said to be eco-friendly, that is because nothing is wasted, the whole plant is used – fibre, seeds, straw, wood and dust. It produces no waste. Apart from the textile industry, it is also used in food industry. Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fats and can be used for meals or to make oil. Flax is an interesting line of research for ecological home insulation or to manufacture lighter cars. Who would have thought? Let us now take a closer look at the environmental impact of flax vs. cotton.

Environmental impact of flax vs. cotton | The battle

Cotton is currently is used a lot more than flax in textile industry but the latter is getting increasingly popular thanks to its comfort and quality but also its environmental impact. Indeed, flax is recyclable and biodegradable.

Cotton uses a large amount of water (7,000 to 29,000 litres of water are required for each kilogram of cotton produced) while flax only needs rainwater. Cotton also uses a lot of insecticides and pesticides to kill pests. Moreover, chlorine is used to bleach cotton, polluting the planet and soil.

On the other hand, the flax plant holds carbon dioxide in the ground thanks to its roots, acting as a carbon sink (it retains 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare on average). Its various production stages require little water and energy.

The only drawback is that large industrial manufacturers route it through China, where it is processed after being produced in Europe, and sometimes add chemicals during each processing stage, increasing its ecological footprint. As with food, you can act sensibly, choosing local linen.

In the battle between flax and cotton, flax wins hands down! Its natural, green image is confirmed. At a time when public awareness is raised about global warming and how we should care for our planet, flax is a good way to help our precious Earth. Think about it next time you go shopping, and read labels carefully!