It's hip to claim a product is eco-friendly. Globally, protecting the environment is a hot-button issue. However, not all claims are true. For instance, bamboo fabric is not as sustainable as one might think. It's certainly not on par with organic cotton. Let's investigate the reasons bamboo fabric doesn't always meet the organic standard.
As a plant, bamboo is sustainable. However, some experts believe cotton is a better fabric choice for clothes, sheets, and linens. Which fabric is better for the environment? Commercial production for bamboo and conventional cotton negatively impacts nature. Both processes are chemically intensive, requiring significant human labour and energy. However, organic cotton is a sustainable fabric, perfect for clothing and bedding. It is much better for the ecosystem than bamboo, because organic cotton has a low environmental footprint and is healthier for the body.
Even though it grows tall like a tree, bamboo is a grass which manufacturers use to produce fibres, fabrics, and yarns. Like grass, bamboo grows back quickly when cut, making it a highly renewable source material. According to Marilyn White, a sustainable development engineer, bamboo is biodegradable and renewable. These characteristics make the material a good choice for sustainable products. It is less expensive to produce, and farmers can use fewer pesticides than the conventional cotton alternative. But do they?
Bamboo is a valuable crop for farmers in China, the only country with a commercial bamboo industry. Farmers clear forests to grow bamboo, leading to decreasing biodiversity and increasing pest problems. A pesticide is often necessary for maintaining a healthy crop. Bamboo growers also use fertiliser to increase harvest yields. China is paying a high environmental price for its massive bamboo production, including endangering pandas, the natural inhabitants of bamboo forests. According to some experts, China's production process lacks transparency and regulations. There's no way to verify how a particular crop of bamboo is grown, even if farmers claim the process is organic.
Lately, some bamboo fabric benefits are in question. It's touted as anti-bacterial with UV protection. Ajoy Sarkar and Subhash Appidi, PhD, dismissed these assertions with research which indicates bamboo fabric does not protect against harmful ultra violate rays, and the material is not as antimicrobial as some researchers claim.
Most bamboo-labelled products are really rayon, made from a chemically intensive process which destroys the natural, organic bamboo benefits. Manufacturers process bamboo with machines or chemicals. Machines crush the wood, using enzymes to break down the bamboo walls to extract the natural fibres which are spun into yarn. This process produces a fabric called bamboo linen.
However, producing organic bamboo fabric is a costly and labour-intensive process. It is rarely the fabric choice for thrifty manufacturers. Some fabric producers cook bamboo in a toxic, chemical solvent, such as sodium hydroxide which is harmful to human health. Rayon made from bamboo and chemicals is not sustainable. It is a fast-drying fabric, but cotton is more durable with greater tenacity.
Organic cotton is grown under strict guidelines for handling fertilisation, pest control, and growth to enhance biodiversity and the environment. Growers produce sustainable crops in countries, such as the US, Tanzania, China, Turkey, India, and eight countries in Africa. Organic cotton production is more environmentally friendly than conventional cotton and bamboo.
It's pesticide-free. Farmers use no synthetic pesticides in organic cotton growth and production. Even the farmers who transition from conventional to organic cotton production ensure a field's residual pesticides are gone, a years-long process. Researchers are studying ways to remove pests from cotton crops naturally. Some farmers are experiencing success with composting tea leaves to fight pest infestation. Today, organic farmers are producing yields which are just as impressive as their non-organic counterparts without using harmful pesticides. This natural production process is good for consumers. With no residual chemicals to worry about, parents have peace of mind about how organic cotton purchases such as sheets, towels, and clothing affect the family's health.
Actually, the entire organic cotton growth and production process is green. Farmers plant cotton seeds in chemical-free soil. Rainwater feeds the cotton seeds, stimulating the plant's growth. Farmers use natural fertilisers and pesticides on the crop. Producers put the hand-picked cotton in a ginning machine, separating the seed pods from the cotton fibres to remove linters, stems, leaves, and dirt. Later, manufacturers refine the seeds to make cottonseed oil, and they use the linters to produce paper and plastics.
The spinning process turns cotton fibres into yarn for knitting and weaving. Spinning cleans the cotton, making it soft. Once transformed into fabric, organic-certified factories colour the material using natural dyes. Natural colouring eliminates concerns about toxins and pollutants in the fabric. In fact, certified-organic products meet a criteria, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). GOTS products use 70 percent organic fibres while complying with environmentally and socially acceptable processes during manufacturing.
These are the reasons certified-organic cotton merchandise is better than fabric made from bamboo. Design teams work diligently to produce textiles from organic cotton fabric for consumers. Workers cut, sew, package, and distribute goods to global retailers. Organic cotton's soft feel, low environmental impact, and chemical-free composition are attributes which discerning consumers enjoy.