Bamboo Fabric: Ready For Your Wardrobe?

Bamboo Fabric: Ready For Your Wardrobe?

Sustainability and bamboo toothbrushes are commonly relatable. However, the Bamboo story in India did not start with the toothbrush, India has a long tradition of using eco-friendly and good-for-the-environment products and Bamboo has featured prominently in building eco-friendly furniture and even in construction in North East India.

Now, the benefits of Bamboo are becoming even more apparent as an eco-friendly alternative in many areas. One of the most surprising and interesting areas is the use of bamboo in fabric and clothing driving sustainable apparel. 

What makes bamboo so eco-friendly?

  • Bamboo is a fast-growing plant (3 feet per day) that replants itself! New plants grow from the shoots of the old plants. While harvesting Bamboo, only a portion is cut, leaving the roots to resprout naturally.
  • Bamboo also consumes less water in its growth (often natural rainwater is sufficient).
  • Bamboo is hardy and needs negligible amounts of chemicals (pesticides/fertilizers.
  • It produces 35% more oxygen and absorbs five times more carbon than other types of trees.

Is everything mentioned above beneficial? What's the catch?

No catch, if it's used in its raw form where major processing is only mechanical, that is when just proper cutting, finishing with a little bit of external polishing done. Examples include bamboo toothbrushes, speakers, and furniture.

Is Bamboo clothing also processed simply?

Raw material for clothing from any plant requires more processing. Although mechanical processing is possible but is a very long process and quite labour-intensive. Thus chemical processing is used in the majority of plant-based fibres including bamboo.

Often, Bamboo clothes are made from blended materials, such as bamboo + cotton, or bamboo and silk. This is done to improve the texture and wearability of the cloth.

There is currently a lot of research underway to promote eco-friendly processes like 'closed-loop' or 'lyocell' methods that either avoid harmful chemicals or recycle them to reduce their impact.

Are Bamboo clothes still environmentally friendly?

The reality is that even after chemical processing and blending with other fibres, the use of Bamboo helps the environment. It reduces the raw natural resources like water and pesticides used in producing more ecologically intensive fabrics like cotton substantially. It takes almost 20,000 liters of water to produce just 1 kg of cotton. Bamboo requires just a fraction of that amount to produce the same quantity of fabric.

So, if you are buying a bamboo-cotton blend, you are still making a big difference by reducing the water and pesticide usage that is needed to grow cotton.

Checking on the Sustainability Claims?

Although bamboo or bamboo blend clothes are not GOTs certified, there are some established and genuine certifications that you can check-

  • Check for 'Fair Trade' certification, showing fair treatment of workers.
  • See if there's an 'FSC' certification, which means the bamboo was grown organically in well-managed forests.
  • Check GOTS certification if it is a bamboo-cotton blend to ensure the cotton was grown organically.

What is the final word then?

Bamboo is a great raw material that requires less water and can regrow and enhance the balance between carbon and oxygen. Although the bamboo fabric may be treated with chemicals, it's still a better mix of natural and man-made materials with eco-friendly qualities. The raw material is among the top sustainable resources, especially if we don't overdo it to prevent monoculture risks.

The biggest advantage here is at the raw material stage which has a significant share in emissions, and resources. We can collectively contribute to reducing the emissions of the fashion industry value chain by switching to eco-positive alternatives like bamboo products.

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