How eco-friendly are bamboo products?
Bamboo plants are not only beautiful and evergreen but also known to be an eco-friendly option to preserve our environment. Besides being 100% biodegradable, antifungal, antibacterial, the bamboo plant:
- does not require the use of chemicals and fertilizers to cultivate it;
- captures more carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere compared to a similarly sized hardwood tree;
- does not require much water to grow;
- can grow as much as three feet per day in certain cases. Whilst most bamboo plants reach maturity in three to four years, a hardwood tree can take 30 to 50 years to reach a harvestable age.
Since the focus on sustainable materials has been growing over the last years, various bamboo products have started to be present on the market with high demand from all over the world.
Using bamboo is not only overall environmentally friendly, it is also one of the strongest materials on the planet. Bamboo has a strong, natural fiber that has proven to be more resistant than similar materials like wood. Although it is strong and sturdy, it is very flexible and doesn’t break easily when flexed. Because of it, we are using this amazing plant to make our bamboo toothbrushes and bamboo cotton buds for ears.
While growing bamboo plant is mostly eco-friendly, turning it into fabric can be a bit different. In some cases, your bamboo product will turn not to be sustainable and eco-friendly anymore.Greenwashing Alert - Is bamboo fabric considered a sustainable textile? Definitely not. Bamboo products are eco-friendly as long as they haven't been chemically processed, which most bamboo clothing fabrics have been.
In industrial textile production, cellulose-heavy bamboo pulp is dissolved in a chemical solution. It’s then pushed through a spinneret to produce a yarn which is chemically solidified. It requires a lot of water and chemical for production. Once the yarn has been produced, it’s often treated with dyes, bleaches or formaldehyde. The end product is a rayon fabric that is far from natural or organic.
To understand better the impact of the bamboo fabric, have a look at the classification Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibres below:
The Class A group is aimed at being the fabric with the least negative effect on the environment and Class E having the most negative effect on the environment. The parameters taken into account are the greenhouse gas emissions, eco-toxicity, human toxicity, energy input, water input and land use. Bamboo viscose is classified as ‘Class E’.
Conclusion: Bamboo fabric is NOT considered environmentally friendly. I am sure you feel as sorry as I did when I found this out.
So, for those consumers who are looking for bamboo products, there are plenty of sustainable options. However, it is better to avoid bamboo fabrics. Try to use more of the hard bamboo products and less soft ones.