Ethical considerations for designers- sustainability

As the sustainability issue is getting more and more important in our society, designers cannot use any material they want without caring about the environmental impact they would lead to. Therefore, people start to consider changing the material which is harmful to the earth to the alternative and recycled material, for example, changing Polyester to Polylactic acid (PLA).

Polyester fabrics and fibers become popular in fashion market as it is extremely strong and durable, and also it is really easy and convenient to take care. People can clean their polyester clothing by using washing machine and also dry them easily. However, “Polyester is a term often defined as ‘long-chain polymers chemically composed of at least 85% by weight of an ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid.’ (Geno, 2013) ”. To produce polyester, the manufacturing process is complicated. The main material to produce polyester is fossil fuels. A T-shirt which are made from 100% polyester will release the substances causing air pollution by only 1/4 weight on it. The substances which release from polyester are nitrogen, sulfur oxide, hydrocarbon, various particles, carbon monoxide and also heavy metal etc. All of these pollutants harm human respiratory function and increase the possibility to get lung and heart diseases; it also restrains immune system and other health problems. To make polyester needs to use a lot of water and resources. According to Kate (2014), the difference between PLA and polyester is that PLA can be thermoplastic, it is derived from annually renewable crops and is compostable.


PLA stands for Polylactic Acid. According to IMSI design, “PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic that has been derived from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugar canes. This makes PLA environmentally friendly and very safe to work with( IMSI,2014).” The advantage of the PLA is that it will not cause that much on environmental impact comparing to polyester, the sustainable benefits of PLA include energy saving, less emissions and more renewable resources. People should consider starting to use more PLA material to produce the product rather than using polyester, because polyester will influence human’s health and air pollution and it is not easy to recycle. Instead, if we start to use more PLA material to produce products we can make the environment better. Since there are actually the alternative options for designers, now they can design the products not only benefit the human society but also reduce the damage on the environment.





Fletcher, K. (2014). Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys.2nd. New York: Routledge.

Geno Jezek(2013) What Is Polyester. [Online] Geno Jezek. Available from: [Acessed21/11/14]

IMSI/Design(2014)PLA.[Online] IMSI/Design. Available from: [Accessed 21/11/14]

Natural Resources Defense Council (2012) Fiber Selection: Understanding the impact of different fibers is the first step in designing environmentally responsible apparel.[Online] Natural Resources Defense Council Available from: [Accessed 21/11/14]

Larry,W (2014) Pros and Cons of the Corn-based Plastic PLA:PLA is carbon neutral and burns clean, but has a host of unsolved problems. The times, 9th Jun.P23

Natural Resources Defense Council(2014) Heavy impact. [Online image]Available from: [Accessed 22/11/14]

About News(2013) Pros and Cons of the Corn-based Plastic PLA.[Online image] Available from: [Accessed22/11/14]


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