Saturday, November 14, 2009

Are Bamboo Products Environmentally Friendly?

Bamboo has attracted some controversy in the past year about whether bamboo products, and in particular bamboo fabrics, are truly environmentally friendly.

There is no question that Bamboo is one of the most interesting and sustainable resources we have available to us. It is the fastest growing plant on earth reaching 50 feet tall within 5 years versus a hardwood tree that can take 30 years to achieve the same height. It produces more biomass and 30% more oxygen than a hardwood forest of a comparable size. As a result, it very effectively sequesters carbon (up to 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare) which helps reduce global warming. It can be selectively harvested so that it renews without replanting.  You may be surprised to learn that it is actually a grass, not a tree.

The truly fascinating thing about Bamboo is how versatile the plant and fibre can be for manufacturing.  You can find bamboo used for decor (furniture, baskets, dishes, decorations, etc) and clothing, but you can also find it used for flooring and other building materials.  I have bamboo flooring in my office and I love it.  It's truly beautiful.

The controversey does not centre around the use of the wood, but rather in the use of the fibre for clothing and bedding.  Bamboo fabric is luxuriously soft and far less expensive than silk and cashmere.  That, combined with it's "eco-friendly" reputation, has led it to become very popular in the fashion industry.  The issue with bamboo clothing is that the manufacturing cycle to process the fibre requires the use of heavy chemicals, some of which are toxic. Very, very little of today's bamboo fabrics could qualify as organic. I still believe the future is bright for this product.  New technologies are being developed that will eventually remove the harsh chemicals from the manufacturing process. At the moment, they are very expensive and it will take time to get to an affordable solution.  In the meantime, the source of the fibre continues to be a very sustainable source.  We truly struggled with whether we should carry bamboo fabrics at  EcoStylish.  After doing research on the vendors available we found one that we can believe in and who meets our strict criteria. We love that we can validate that they use sustainable practices. They travel to China twice a year to inspect the factory and talk with employees to ensure their code of conduct with regards to fair treatment and environmental policies are being followed.  The factory operates with a 97% closed loop cycle (which is fantastic for this industry) to recover the chemicals and reuse them.  The fibre leaves the process with no chemical residue and all clothing and bedding from this manufacturer are Oeko-Tex certified which is an industry standard that screens to ensure there are no harmful chemicals or residues in the fabric.
They also use AZO free dyes and microorganisms are used in the water to help purify it after the dying process.  The water emerges ph balanced, pure, clean and ready to be reused.  This manufacturer also gives back through charity, recycles, uses electric trucks, and purchases carbon offsets.  We are confident that they are a socially responsible company and we feel very good that they've gone above and beyond to ensure that their clothing and bedding have the smallest possible impact on our planet.  

Please let us know what you think by leaving a post or by talking to us on twitter.

Photo (c)Tomo.Yun (

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Posting spam or other comments that are unrelated to this article will cause your comment to be flagged for deletion and possibly cause your IP address to be permanently banned from this server.