Bamboo Fabric -- How it's Grown and Manufactured
There’s been much discussion lately about Bamboo and the question “How green is it really?” We at TRUBU prefer to stay away from rumor, opinions and industrial misinformation. We want to stick to the facts.
Bamboo, as a plant, is naturally pest-resistant, grows incredibly fast and can actually help rebuild eroded soil. It require no chemicals, additional fertilizers or copious amounts of water to grow. Just lots of sunshine and a little rainfall, and it takes a very short time to go from seed to harvest. Additionally, because the root network is so extensive, it never needs replanting.
Bamboo fabric, on the other hand, is naturally wicking, anti-microbial and can be touted as “organic”. Please rest assured that our Oeko--certified mill produces bamboo fiber via an advanced closed loop solvent spinning process, which has minimal impact on the environment, as well as an economical use of energy and water, and production-plant emissions into the air and water are virtually nonexistent in comparison to many other man-made fiber operations.
Going green can be overwhelming. We get it, but just consider what product does not have an impact on the environment from field to market? The answer to that may just be weaving your own clothes from grass clippings or donning your birthday suit and going “au natural”! Buy Bamboo and Keep Going Green!
Technically classified as a “weed,” the bamboo plant is strong, sustainable, renewable and inexpensive. There are nearly 1000 different species of bamboo, and it can be grown in almost any moderate climate. Bamboo can grow 20 meters in less than 60 days.
However, extremely fast growth is not bamboo's only environmentally friendly virtue. Bamboo also helps repair the devastating effects of deforestation and mining to the soil of surrounding communities. Bamboo does actually remove toxins from soil, prevents erosion and provides jobs and food for many people.
It thrives in a diverse landscape from sea level up to 12,000 feet and releases 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. Bamboo is the strongest plant known to humankind. Its strength-to-weight ratio is better than graphite. Bamboo is also extremely versatile. It has thousands of uses, from paper to clothing, fences to construction, chop sticks to flooring and musical instruments - the list is endless. When manufacturing very solid hardwood flooring from plantation timber, only 20-25% is used. Bamboo flooring, on the other hand, uses over 90% of the bamboo plant.
So, is it true that Bamboo has a “dark secret?” Yes, it's true! Bamboo fabric uses a chemical process to turn its cellulose fibers into fabric. And yes, it's also true that the process is similar to the rayon production process. This production process has been in existence since the mid 1800's and since then has undergone much iteration. More recently, new processes have been developed which enable plantbased fibers (such as bamboo) to be utilized in the production of fabric.
Some companies, such as ours, produce bamboo fiber via an advanced “closed loop” solvent spinning process, which has a minimal impact on the environment and an economical use of energy and water. The solvent is continually recycled during the production process. So, production plant emissions into the air from smokestacks and from wastewater are virtually absent in comparison to many other man-made and natural fiber operations, like cotton. The solvent to digest the bamboo pulp can be toxic, but utilizing the closed loop process, this solvent is carefully recaptured and not dumped into local water systems. There is virtually ZERO solvent residue on finished fabric! There is more solvent residue in your morning cup of decaf coffee. It's also important to note that products made from bamboo can be recycled, incinerated or digested in sewage. The recycled fiber will usually enzymatically degrade completely in just eight days in waste treatment plants.
So, where does that leave us? Unfortunately, the truth is that 99.9% of all products we consume, even “eco friendly” ones, have some minor negative environmental impact. Every product is grown or manufactured and eventually shipped! Given this, when we are purchasing finished products, it often comes down to making an evaluation of choosing the least “enviro-impact” product.
We all know how great bamboo is to grow, but do we all know how bad cotton is to grow? Cotton uses an enormous amount of water per pound of cotton yield. Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides; seven of the most toxic chemicals on earth. It takes 1/3 of a pound of chemical fertilizers to produce just one pound of cotton (essentially one t-shirt). This exerts an enormous toll on the earth's air, water, soil and ecosystems. This impacts the health of people working within this industry and in cotton growing regions. Even organic cotton has many drawbacks. Factor in the environmental impact of the synthetic fertilizers used, the reemergence of the Boll Weevil, its effect on food crops, the excess water used in its cultivation and the carbon dioxide produced, and all of a sudden, this so-called “eco-friendly” crop doesn't look quite so friendly anymore.
In comparison, bamboo requires NO fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or chemicals to grow. Being that it is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, it is a completely self-sustaining crop. It grows naturally in areas where it usually doesn't require any additional water, other than what falls from the sky. Furthermore, it has no harmful residues unlike the non-sustainable, chemically damaging processing that remains on cotton.
In terms of carbon dioxide, bamboo consumes 45% more carbon then a similar stand of trees, which more than reabsorbs any carbon produced from its transportation. This gives bamboo a “less than zero” carbon footprint!
It is for these reasons many consider bamboo to be the best environmental choice over cotton. So does bamboo fabric have some drawbacks? A few! But factor in to all of this, the natural “wicking” properties and the “bacterial-proliferation resistance” of the finished fabric and Bamboo starts to look like the new “Green Wonder Fabric” for the new millennium. In closing, just consider what product does not have an impact on the environment from field to market? The answer to that may just be weaving your own clothes from grass clippings or donning your birthday suit and going “au natural”! Buy Bamboo and Keep Going Green!
Texas: Organic Cotton Reintroduces the Boll Weevil:
All of the recent Bamboo bashing is coming from the Cotton Growers association in response to this current situation. The Cotton Growers are seeing their sales numbers plummet as fabric manufacturers are working with new, "greener" fibers, like Bamboo!
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