Posted by Trevor Smith on October 19th, 2009
Just when we thought that bamboo was the perfect eco-fabric: sustainable, green and a wonderfully soft, we hear some disturbing contrary opinions. It is often the case that things seem too good to be true or things look good on the surface but can be misleading.
We haven’t given up on bamboo – but it does require a careful look because as is often said, “the devil is in the details”.
Did you know that there are more than 1000 species of bamboo? It happens to be one of the most renewable resources on earth and one of the fastest growing - it grows at a remarkable rate of four feet a day. Practically all the bamboo comes from China. It is a renewable and sustainable resource that requires low amounts of water, and does not require artificial pesticides or fertilizers … It is also fully biodegradable. A great feature is that bamboo is abundant in many rural areas where economic development is limited, so it can provide significant social benefit.
The bamboo fibres, correctly described as “rayon from bamboo” produce clothing which is soft and durable especially when combined with organic cotton. The hollow fibres of bamboo give it remarkable breathing properties and so it is able to absorb moisture for greater comfort.
From forest to closet it is all about supply chain…one needs to be concerned not only with the links in the chain but also the process at each step.
Farming - Bamboo is grown in plantations and in general is free from concerns but we might want to ensure the farming processes used are organic.
Processing - Harsh chemicals, such as caustic soda, may be used to break down the bamboo fibres. It is important to know how carefully the process is controlled and whether the harmful compounds are allowed to escape into the environment. Caustic soda is approved for use in textiles under the Global Organic Textile Standard. The key issue is whether the chemicals are recycled or disposed of appropriately.
Fabrication - Although the bamboo fibres are acceptable and “green”, the blending fabric may not be (such is cotton or synthetics that are not organic).
The Mark - Check for a certification mark that signifies material sourcing, process details and testing completeness.
Along the way companies make choices in how to do things. As a consumer you have a choice too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Editors note (Trevor Smith):
Green Cricket bamboo products from our supplier Guats are made from “Tenbro” fibres. Tenbro fibre is certified to the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 which guarantees thorough testing throughout the supply chain, from raw material through intermediate processes to end product fabrication. The testing is for substances and chemicals, regulated by law and known to be harmful to health.
All process parameters are carefully controlled and 100% of the caustic soda is recycled.