Bamboo Fabric - The Naked Truth
Yes, it’s true. Bamboo fabric uses a chemical process to turn its cellulosic fibers into fabric. And yes, it’s also true that the process is similar to rayon production and is, in fact, considered a sub-category of rayon. The production of rayon has been in existence since the mid 1800’s and since then has undergone many iterations. More recently, new processes have been developed which enable plant-based fibers (such as bamboo) to be utilized in the production of fabric.
Some companies, such as ours, produce bamboo fiber via what’s called an advanced “closed loop”¯ solvent spinning process, which has minimal impact on the environment and an economical use of energy and water. The solvent is continually recycled during the production process. So, production plant emissions into the air from smokestacks and from waste water are significantly lower in comparison to many other man-made fiber operations. The solvent to digest the bamboo pulp can be toxic, but utilizing the closed loop process, this solvent is carefully reused and not thrown into local water systems. It’s also important to note that products made from bamboo can be recycled, incinerated or digested in sewage. The fiber will usually degrade completely in just eight days in waste treatment plants.
So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, the truth is that 99% of all products we consume”¦even the eco friendly ones”¦have some negative environmental impact. Given this, it often comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils when it comes to purchasing products. We all know how great bamboo is to grow, but do we all know how bad cotton is to grow? Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides; seven out of ten of these are among the most toxic chemicals on earth. It takes 1/3 of a pound of chemical fertilizers to produce just one pound of cotton (essentially one t-shirt). This exerts an enormous toll on the earth’s air, water and soil and impacts the health of people working in this industry and in cotton growing regions. Even organic cotton has drawbacks. But that would take a whole new blog entry.
In comparison, bamboo requires NO fertilizer, pesticides or chemicals to grow, being that it is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. In addition, it has no harmful residues left on it from the non-sustainable, chemically damaging cultivation that cotton requires. In terms of carbon dioxide, bamboo consumes 45% more carbon then a similar stand of trees. It is for these reasons many consider bamboo to be an environmentally viable alternative to cotton. So does bamboo fabric have some drawbacks? Of course! But just consider what product does not? The answer to that may just be donning your birthday suit and going “au natural”¯ — and that’s the naked truth.