The fashion industry is in desperate need of more sustainable textiles. Bamboo clothing is slowly making a name for itself, but how sustainable is it? Just because it comes from a plant doesn’t automatically make it eco-friendly. Where does it come from and how is it made? 

Why Bamboo? 

To start, bamboo is an invasive species. It grows incredibly quickly – in fact, it is the fastest-growing plant in the world. A bamboo stalk can grow up to a meter a day! This fast growth makes bamboo farming very efficient. 

The bamboo plant also helps restore eroded oil and doesn’t require any fertilizers or pesticides. That’s not to say that bamboo farmers don’t use chemical aids, after all, it’s not illegal and will give their plants extra protection from pests. The plant doesn’t even need to be replanted after a harvest. Because bamboo has such big roots, farmers cut off the stalk and simply let the plant regrow. 

The biggest bamboo farming industry is located in China. In 2016, the bamboo industry was estimated at $60 billion! But the growing industry doesn’t just mean growing pockets. The plant slows deforestation and absorbs a lot of carbon – both of which help with climate change! Even the United Nations has acknowledged the strong environmental potential of bamboo, so we are just starting to see all the great ways bamboo can be beneficial. 

Bamboo for Clothing  

The bamboo textile-making process is relatively simple. The stalks are cut or smashed, then filtered to create fibers. Afterward, those fibers are combined with processing chemicals (we will get into those more soon), then spun in yarn, which will eventually be woven into bamboo fabric.  

There are four kinds of bamboo fabric: 

  • Bamboo Rayon/Viscose: most popular and cheapest
  • Blended with Cotton
  • Bamboo Lyocell: reasonably sustainable 
  • Bamboo Linen Fiber: most sustainable

It’s important to note that viscose and rayon are not typically sustainable options. While they are technically made from bamboo, they do a lot more harm than good to the environment. 

Bamboo clothing is very absorbent, which is important if you want to stay dry. Think of it this way, if it’s sprinkling outside and your clothing doesn’t absorb any water, where will those droplets end up? Directly on your skin! Absorbent fabric provides a protective layer between sensitive skin and the wet outdoors! 

It is also very breathable and incredibly soft and silky. High quality bamboo fabric looks smooth and luxurious, so we would love to see high-end fashion houses start to integrate it into their collections. 

Cons

Bamboo fiber making is very labor-intensive. A lot of chemicals are used to cook down the bamboo when it’s being processed. Sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide are both used in the fiber-making process and have been shown to harm human and aquatic life. Companies will try to downplay the amount of these chemicals they use in their production process, but unfortunately, that does not help their workers or any wildlife that come into contact with the toxins. 

Just to be clear, growing bamboo is not the issue. It’s turning it into fiber that can cause environmental harm. What we need is more transparency when it comes to how factories make their product. An eco-friendly production process also needs to be standardized. It would be a shame for such an awesome plant’s potential to be tossed to the side because we can’t figure out an eco-friendly way to use it! 

To Wrap Things Up

The potential for bamboo is very exciting! Have a look around and see if you can find any bamboo clothing. If you can, double-check to see what kind of processing they do to it. You want garments made from fiber that is as unprocessed as possible, and hopefully, that will mean less of a chance they used dangerous chemicals. 

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for bamboo fiber! 

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