Bamboo fabric is regarded as a natural fabric, but really? Is bamboo fabric a sustainable fabric? Here is the answer you should know.
In the field of sustainability, bamboo fabric is gaining popularity. And it makes sense because it is a crop that grows quickly and doesn’t require chemical pesticides or fertilizers. It can also grow up to three feet per day and regenerates on its own, making it a regenerative plant.
Bamboo is the go-to material for sustainable shopping if it is grown in an ethical, environmentally friendly manner. But when it comes to textiles, is bamboo a sustainable fabric? Depending on how it is made, the bamboo fabric may or may not be sustainable.
Read to learn more about the sustainability of bamboo fabric.
Is Bamboo a Sustainable Fabric?
If grown properly, bamboo itself can be a very sustainable crop. While the majority of bamboo fabrics currently available are a type of rayon that require a labor-intensive manufacturing process and hazardous chemicals, recent years have seen an improvement in how these chemicals are managed, which is a step in the right direction.
Bamboo fabrics are undoubtedly a step up from polyester and regular cotton, so as long as the brand is open about where it comes from, it can be considered a more environmentally friendly choice.
While lyocell bamboo is likely a more sustainable alternative, it’s harder to find. Search for environmentally friendly materials like organic hemp for certain types of clothing. Other things being equal, such as the fabric dyeing process, organic cotton or Tencel will be a better option in other situations from an environmental standpoint.
We should know that the majority of products labeled as “bamboo” are actually rayon, involve intensive chemical emissions, and are likely without the same beneficial properties as the unprocessed bamboo plant.
However, bamboo fabric has potential because it is produced at a lower cost than cotton(See Bamboo Sheets Vs Egyptian Cotton), without the extensive use of pesticides used in the non-organic cotton industry, and with fewer chemical inputs than polyester. Purchasing from ethical and open-minded companies can also assist in reducing some of this risk.
How is Bamboo Fiber Made?
From the bamboo plant’s pulp, bamboo products are produced. The cellulose and fiber are separated after the stalks are crushed. Afterward, the cellulose is transformed into thread and used to weave fabric. Viscose or rayon bamboo fiber can be used to create bamboo fabric.
Bamboo viscose fiber is made from regenerated cellulose fiber, while rayon bamboo fiber is made from bamboo pulp that has undergone chemical treatment. A lot of chemicals are needed to convert bamboo pulp into thread.
The environmentally friendly process of mercerization, which uses natural enzymes, can also be used to produce bamboo cloth. Although there is some disagreement over whether or not this approach is more environmentally friendly than using chemicals, it produces less pollution overall.
What is Bamboo Fabric’s Environmental Impact?
Bamboo was hailed as a miracle material for a number of years, primarily in the middle of the 2000s. It has some basis in reality. Because of bamboo’s incredible rate of growth, cutting it causes the plant no more harm than mowing a lawn.
Scientific American reported that “bamboo can be cultivated with little to no fertilizer, pesticides, heavy harvesting machinery or irrigation, and bamboo root systems can protect steep banks from erosion.”
When bamboo is harvested, the soil is not disturbed by machinery because bamboo has such deep root systems and is simply cut. Compared to a similar-sized stand of trees, bamboo produces 35 times more oxygen and absorbs five times more carbon.
Problems With Cultivation
Sadly, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Since 2000, Moso bamboo cultivation has grown rapidly in China, prompting many farmers to clearcut naturally forested land to make room for new bamboo farms.
As a result, significant amounts of carbon are released and biodiversity is destroyed. And while bamboo doesn’t require large inputs of fertilizer or pesticides to grow, there’s nothing preventing farmers from adding them in order to boost growth, yield, and profits, which can lead to a host of environmental problems.
A Toxic Production Process
The issue with producing the fabric is the next, and this is where bamboo’s reputation as an environmentally friendly material quickly falters. Extremely toxic carbon disulfide is used in the chemical reaction. A number of health issues have been linked to chronic exposure to carbon disulfide, which damages the nervous and reproductive systems.
Conclusion: is Bamboo a Sustainable Fabric?
Viscose or rayon technology can be used to create bamboo clothing, but this process uses a lot of energy. Lyocell-based bamboo fabric is more environmentally friendly because it recycles chemicals and water.
The best method for producing bamboo linen (called mercerization) substitutes mild enzymes for harsh chemicals. Textile bamboo can be the answer to fast fashion if you choose sustainable bamboo.
How Do You Care for Bamboo Fabric?
It is not difficult to maintain the bamboo fabric. Bamboo fabric can be dry-cleaned or machine-washed. As bamboo fabric has a propensity to shrink when exposed to hot water, it is preferable to use cold water. Pick a gentle detergent instead of bleach or fabric softener.
Is Bamboo Fabric Eco-friendly?
Because bamboo is such a fast-growing crop, it is generally considered to be sustainable and eco-friendly. However, widespread bamboo cultivation methods are linked to a number of environmental problems, and the method used to turn bamboo fibers into fabric requires a lot of chemicals.
Is Cotton Or Bamboo More Sustainable?
While there will always be people with preferences for cotton, bamboo is overall more sustainable for the earth and better for your health as well. It is better suited for people with sensitive skin, such as children or the elderly, due to its hypoallergenic properties and reduced need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Which Fabric is More Sustainable?
Generally, natural fabrics like organic cotton and linen (made from plants) and Tencel (made from sustainable wood pulp) are more sustainable than man-made fabrics like Nylon and polyester, which are made of petroleum and take hundreds of years to biodegrade.