I am on the “buy bamboo bandwagon”. I have been for awhile. I was thinking about it today, I have an idea why bamboo is considered a sustainable, environmentally-friendly substance, but just an idea. I decided on this lovely day to become informed and discover the truth behind bamboo.
Let’s start out with some interesting bamboo facts, one, bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth. It has been clocked surging skyward as fast as 121 cm (47.6 inches) in a 24-hour period. It can also reach maximal growth rate which exceed one meter (40 inches) per hour for short periods of time. After harvesting, bamboo does not require replanting, it has an extensive root system that continually sends up new shoots, naturally replenishing itself, making it one of the most renewable resources known. It has also been around since the prehistoric era, which I just think is cool.
Next, there are 91 genera and about 1,000 species of bamboo, found in a number of diverse climates and you don’t need to spray them down with gallons of pesticides or fertilize them for them to thrive as they do so naturally. These variables make this plant more like a super weed, than a member of the true grass family, Poaceae and this is also what makes bamboo a renewable resource.
Fabrics made from bamboo have an extraordinary water absorbency quality. This characteristic makes bamboo fabric three times more absorbent than cotton. Bamboo fibers also keep moisture away from the skin, speeding up the evaporation process, keeping the wearer naturally drier and more comfortable. The fabrics made from bamboo are known to be extremely soft, breathable, hard to wrinkle and possess antibacterial properties! I also heard something about bamboo blocking out a large percentage of the Sun’s UV activity, but I could not find any solid facts on that, so wear your sun block, not your bamboo shirt, because skin cancer is a horrible thing to have!
There is one major man made issue which makes bamboo clothing either an eco product or not. It is the process it goes through before becoming the final product. There are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a fabric: mechanically or chemically.
To quote Organic Clothing’s blog, “The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. This is essentially the same eco-friendly manufacturing process used to produce linen fabric from flax or hemp. Bamboo fabric made from this process is sometimes called bamboo linen. Very little bamboo linen is manufactured for clothing because it is more labor intensive and costly.
Chemically manufactured bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber similar to rayon or modal. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon because of the many similarities in the way it is chemically manufactured and similarities in its feel and hand.
Most bamboo fabric that is the current eco-fashion rage is chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide in a process also known as hydrolysis alkalization combined with multi-phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide have been linked to serious health problems. Breathing low levels of carbon disulfide can cause tiredness, headache and nerve damage. Carbon disulfide has been shown to cause neural disorders in workers at rayon manufacturers. Low levels of exposure to sodium hydroxide can cause irritation of the skin and eyes. Sodium hydroxide is a strong alkaline base also known as caustic soda or lye. In its dry crystalline form, caustic soda is one of the major ingredients of Drano. This is basically the same process used to make rayon from wood or cotton waste byproducts. Because of the potential health risks and damage to the environment surrounding the manufacturing facilities, textile manufacturing processes for bamboo or other regenerated fibers using hydrolysis alkalization with multi-phase bleaching are not considered sustainable or environmentally supportable.”
What I learned today is bamboo alone is a renewable, sustainable, and abundant resource that grows organically in its natural habitat, but before you go and brag or even buy your bamboo clothes you need to ask the company what is their manufacturing process to make said bamboo fabric. Look for the Oeko-Tek certification. Oeko-Tek certification identifies textiles that are free of processing chemicals, although it does not ensure the environmental soundness of the entire manufacturing process. The same thing goes for your bamboo floors, bamboo cutting boards, your bamboo everything.
You’ve been schooled.
Reason 97 from, 101 Reasons Why I Am Vegetarian:
To produce foie gras, male ducks are force-fed a stomach-gorging cup of corn pellets three times a day with a 15-inch feeder tube. This torturous process goes on for 28 days until the ducks’ livers, from which the pâté is made, miasmatically bloat to 10 times normal size. Mortalities are high due to the disease, intense stress, and burst stomachs. For days prior to slaughter, each bird will pant for air. So cruel are these practices that foie gras production is now outlawed in at least a dozen countries.