Bamboo Part Two!
Last week we discussed bamboo as a building material. But there's lots to say about bamboo - here's our discussion of bamboo fiber used for clothing, sheets, etc. Tell us whether you're sleeping well under your bamboo bedclothes!
Now we turn to the surprisingly softer, snugglier side of bamboo and bamboo fiber used to make fabrics.
The Good Stuff
Fabrics made from bamboo fiber have many obvious benefits: They are extremely soft, durable, resistant to body odor, resist shrinkage, are very breathable, hypoallergenic, biodegradable and as we talked about before, are made from one of the fastest growing resources on the planet. Bamboo fiber can be made into t-shirts, baby clothes, socks, sweaters, sheets, blankets, towels, and the list goes on. So other than the harvesting issues discussed last week, what’s the problem??
The Problem Is In The Process
While bamboo itself is relatively easy to process for floors and furniture, it seems that the steps necessary to create this super-soft fabric tend to be less than environmentally friendly. There are apparently 2 common ways to produce bamboo fiber used to make fabric: One uses energy sucking machinery to crush the bamboo into a mush and then the fibers are extracted, spun into yarn and then woven into fabric. Not too terrible except for the amount of energy used by the machinery and the fact that most manufacturers find this process so labor intensive and costly that they usually opt for the more popular alternative, which uses harsh chemicals such as sodium hydroxide to “cook” the fiber before it goes through a multiple step bleaching process. The chemicals used here can cause eye irritation and headaches and factory workers have been known to exhibit neurological problems from continual exposure.
Okay, so none of this sounds good. But is it worse than cotton, which traditionally also uses harsh chemicals and the farming of which is extremely hard on the environment?
Here’s the exciting and beautiful part in all of this, and it goes beyond bamboo:
As you, The Consumer, discover the Green Truth about a product, and voice a desire for that product because of its environmental benefits but object to the way it is produced, you push manufacturers to create cleaner, more efficient alternatives that in the long run, make you happy to buy the product and make more money for the company that’s doing it better.
So is bamboo fabric being produced anywhere using organic, non-toxic, energy efficient processes? Yes! Eco-clothing website,
www.greencotton.wordpress.com, found a few companies out there leading the charge. Among them are:
They sell baby clothes and a wide range of women’s clothing, from robes, yoga/loungewear, cute, casual wear, even eco-scrubs. They also have many of these items in their trademarked fabric called ecoKashmere ®, which feels like cashmere but is made from organic bamboo, processed without bleach.
Not only a web-store, they also have a brick and mortar storefront in Boston. Their catalog of clothing features a long list of non-crunchy, very attractive, fashion forward designers, all utilizing organic materials that include bamboo and organic cotton.
Bamboo fiber makes eco-sense, so long as it’s processed with the health of the planet and the health of the consumer in mind. So vote with your dollars and make your voices heard! And when you do, imagine how much fun it’s going to be to look back in 20 years and know you made a difference and played a part in changing the way clothes are made!