Is Bamboo Fabric Sustainable?

What a great question! There are so many aspects involved in creating sustainable fashion. It is so important to understand the whole garment production process before we label any fabric as sustainable or environmentally friendly. Undress acknowledges that there are positives and negatives to the production of bamboo fabrics.

In terms of the positives, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet (some species growing three feet in a day). This makes Bamboo one of the most easily renewed natural resources the world has to offer. The plant is able to grow in a variety of climates and can thrive in regions where drought causes other crops to fail. When harvested the bamboo roots remain in place, preventing erosion of soil and retaining vital nutrients and moisture for the next crop. The plant’s extensive root system allows the harvested plant to grow a new shoot and requires no additional planting or cultivation. Another positive in regards to bamboo farming is that the plant requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Unlike cotton, which is one of the most intensely sprayed crops in the world and rapidly depletes the soil’s nutrients. 

While there are no chemicals added to the environment through the farming of bamboo, there are chemical manufacturing processes in the fiber creations stage. Many of these chemical processing methods are not environmentally friendly. However, there are some methods that are more eco-friendly than others. Chemical processing of bamboo fibers involves “cooking” the fiber to create a kind of regenerated cellulose fiber. It is important to note that all parts of the bamboo plant are used in the process of turning it into fabric. At present, the most environmentally friendly chemical production is the Lyocell process. Lyocell is defined as a cellulose fabric made by an organic solvent spinning process. The chemicals used in this processing method are non-toxic and much safer for humans. In this process 99.5% of the chemicals used are actually captured in a close-loop container. These chemicals can then be recycled with minimal amounts being released into the environment, avoiding air and water pollution. There is also an non-chemical production method for processing bamboo fibres! The mechanical process whilst labour intensive is very eco-friendly and similar to the manufacturing of flax or hemp cloth. Essentially the bamboo plant is crushed into a pulp and the bamboo’s natural enzymes are used to form a mushy substance of which fibers can be combed out and then spun into yarn.  

As we pursue a sustainable a sustainable future we must encourage those that are working to creative positive solutions to complex problems. Right now the sustainable fashion industry are innovating and developing better fiber production methods. Here at Undress we recognises that while the current methods of bamboo production is not perfect, they are certainly a step in the right direction. 

Beth MorrisonComment