What Is Modal?

Modal is a natural and super-sustainable fabric made from wood pulp.

Mark Abrials avatar
Written by Mark Abrials
Updated over a week ago

If you’ve glanced at the fabric tag on an allbirds’ shoe, a pair of athleta joggers, or a Avocado sleepwear set, you may have noticed Modal listed as a material. It’s not synthetic.

Made from beech tree pulp, Modal is a soft material originally developed in Japan. Lenzing-certified modal is the textile industry standard that verifies ethical and sustainable material sourcing and manufacturing. The cellulose-based textile is more durable than rayon and has a silkier quality than cotton. It’s also a more environmentally friendly alternative — beech trees require little water to thrive and the production process consumes 10 to 20 percent less water than cotton.

In addition to being a silky soft, moisture-wicking, wrinkle-, and odor-resistant material, Modal’s closed-loop production process is among the most sustainable. Not only is this fiber source from renewable and natural materials — the cellulose fibers are derived from ethically harvested wood pulp — it uses five times less land than cotton production. (Read: it has a smaller carbon footprint.) The process conserves more water, too. Rainfall is the primary water supply for the trees and forests that supply the wood pulp, so there’s no need for fertilizers or artificial irrigation. In fact, Modal production uses 85 percent less water than organic cotton.

Little is wasted during manufacturing as well. The harvested wood pulp is broken down into useable cellulose fibers using a non-toxic solvent. The water expended during this process is recycled and 99 percent of the solvent is reused, leaving behind a certified biodegradable, compostable, biobased material that returns all its materials back to the Earth. Pretty cool, right?

The only drawback is Modal tends to be a bit more expensive than organic cotton and other environmentally friendly fabrics. But, for consumers and companies — like Avocado — that are looking to lessen their carbon footprint and operate more sustainably, paying more in the name of saving our planet is well worth it. Plus, something tells us when you slip on a pair of our buttery-soft Modal joggers, you’ll be hooked.

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