Bamboo - is it eco-friendly?
I would like to preface this area with…most companies that
sell viscose from bamboo apparel will simply tell you the wonderful benefits of bamboo,
(which it does have many). That being said, the manufacturing process is not
perfect and we have no intention of skirting the subject or giving you some
“politician like” answer that does not really tell you what it is you want to
If you are reading this, it is probably because you want to
know - is bamboo really eco-friendly like everybody is saying? In our humble opinion, with regard to
the use of bamboo as a resource for the manufacturing of large quantities of
fabrics, our answer is yes. Why? Because it is one of the most abundant
resources on our planet.
The next question is the manufacturing of bamboo into a
fabric. We were going to separate “manufacturing” but we feel it is important
that it be under the header of “Bamboo, is it eco-friendly?” The simple truth is, at the time of
this writing there are two main methods of manufacturing bamboo.
The first one is commonly referred to as the “mechanical
method”, which consists of crushing the “woody” parts of the bamboo plant and
then using natural enzymes to break down the bamboo into a mushy substance that
is then combed out and spun into yarn. This is most certainly an ideal
situation for the processing of bamboo, however this method produces a very scratchy, linen like material. The problem is that at the time of this
writing, this method is quite costly and not the preferred method of the
manufacturing facilities in China. The truth is, virtually all of the bamboo
fiber and/or finished bamboo garments, bamboo bedding, and bamboo fabrics do
come from China. Though, there are a few suppliers (such as one of our
suppliers), who import the fiber from China, create the bamboo fabric and then
produce the items here in the United States.
If you do happen to run into a company that claims that
their bamboo products are made using the mechanical method, you might want to
ask for some documentation that supports their claim, and the material will be noticeably scratchy as opposed to the soft bamboo material produced using the chemical method.
The second method is commonly referred to as the “chemical”
method. In this process sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, is used
to break down the “woody” bamboo. In reality, virtually all of the bamboo
bedding, bamboo shirts, duvet covers, bath towels and various other bamboo fabric products on the market in
the U.S. are made using the latter.
The crushed bamboo is soaked in sodium hydroxide to produce cellulose. A common misconception is that sodium hydroxide is a harmful chemical. If used in a responsible manner sodium hydroxide has absolutely no effect on the environment and health of workers. It is routinely used in the processing of organic cotton into fibre and is approved by the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) and the Soil Association Sodium hydroxide does not remain as a residue on bamboo clothing, as it easily washes away and can be neutralized to harmless and non-toxic sodium sulphate salt. A chemical used in this step that can cause nervous system damage with chronic exposure is carbon disulfide.
It may surprise you to know that sodium hydroxide has many uses. Aside from being used in the textile industry, it is also used in soap production, paper making and food preparation such as washing or chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, chocolate and cocoa processing, caramel coloring production, poultry scalding, soft drink processing and thickening of ice cream. Olives are often soaked in sodium hydroxide to soften them and pretzels are glazed with a sodium hydroxide solution before baking to make them crisp.
In the end, is bamboo clothing or bamboo
perfect, 100% eco-friendly product? The short answer is, No, it’s not, but we
feel it is the best choice out there. We know that there are areas that need
improvement and we intend on staying on top of this. As new method’s become
available, we will work to bring you the bamboo bedding, bamboo clothes or
bamboo baby items that have been the most eco-friendly in their production
Lastly, I can tell you from personal experience and testing
that even if you took “eco-friendly” out of the equation, our bamboo clothing
and bamboo bedding just have amazing qualities that you simply will not find in
other clothing and bedding products. I know you will agree once you’ve tried
them for yourself.
Review of Eco Friendly Aspects of Producing Fabric from Bamboo:
- Bamboo is grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides due to its antibacterial properties
- Bamboo is the most abundantly sustainable and renewable resource in the world
- Bamboo can be harvested every 3-4 years
- Bamboo requires no irrigation to grow - it thrives by natural rainfall
- Bamboo's root system is so hardy, it helps prevent soil erosion
- Bamboo processed with the chemical method can be processed with a 98% closed loop system which recovers and recycles the sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide
- Due to viscose from bamboo's natural ability to wick away moisture and eliminate odors, it is not necessary to wash items as frequently as other fabrics
- Viscose from bamboo is biodegradable providing it is composted and not put into landfills
Important Facts About Our Suppliers:
- The bamboo is USDA certified organic
- The bamboo farms are OCIA certified organic
- The fiber is FSC chain of custody certification: FSC chain of custody (CoC) tracks FSC certified material through the production process - from the forest to the consumer, including all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution. Only FSC CoC certified operations are allowed to label products with the FSC trademarks. The FSC label thus provides the link between responsible production and consumption and thereby enables the consumer to make socially and environmentally responsible purchasing decisions.
- The fiber has Oeko Tex 100 Class A certification
- The bamboo fiber is processed in a closed loop system where 98% of the sodium hydroxide and 74% of the carbon disulphide are recovered and recycled.
- No chemicals are applied to the fabrics unless they either meet the GOTS standards or are Oeko Tex certified. There are no residual chemicals in the fiber.
- All dyes are low impact Azo-free dyes.
- Our suppliers are members of and approved by Green America
- Our supplier for our baby items produces the fabric in the U.S. and all spinning, knitting, wet processing, cutting, sewing, printing, embroidery and distribution are all performed within a 150 miles radius.
- Our bedding and clothing supplier produces the fabric in China and the weaving, dyeing, finishing, cutting, sewing and packaging are all performed within a 100 miles radius. The yarn factory itself is not within this radius.
Please visit our Bamboo Products page to learn more about our wonderful suppliers and their eco-friendly processes by which they go above and beyond.
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