As I have been on a bit of a “green” tangent lately, investigating the availability and viability of “eco-friendly” theatrical fabrics, digital printing inks, etc., it has also lead me to consider the durability and longevity of theatrical drapery fabrics, and how they impact the earth.

Yes, I do understand the impact that the manufacture of synthetic fabrics has on the environment.  But I also recognize that, in most cases, a custom stage curtain manufactured from a synthetic velour  will be much more durable and therefore should last much longer than a curtain manufactured from cotton velour. 

Now, that is obviously a negative if we are talking about a short-term-use curtain that is destined for a landfill.  But what about the school, the church, the theatre that is purchasing a grand drape for longterm use?  Is it really better to buy a cotton drape?  Yes, the cotton drape may be a better choice, environmentally speaking, when initially manufactured.  But is it really better over the long term? 

Cotton velour drapes need to be topically treated for flame retardancy, on average once every five years, releasing more chemicals into the environment each time.  Cotton velour is also less durable and therefore the organization would need to replace the drapes sooner than synthetic velour drapes.  An synthetic velour drape, in comparison, has no topical flame retardancy treatment, and therefore no retreatment is required.  The drape should also last longer, as polyester fibers are more durable than cotton. 

So is it better for a theatre to purchase, for example, 4 sets of cotton velour grand drapes over the course of, say, 50 years?  Or would it be better if they bought 2 sets of synthetic velour grand drapes over that same time frame?  Something to think about.