Don’t Get Bamboo-zled – Under the Nile
Don’t Get Bamboo-zled

Don’t Get Bamboo-zled

Whenever a “new” type of product becomes trendy, the world of social media and marketing goes abuzz with praise. “It’s a miracle!” people say. “I can’t believe we’ve never thought of it before. It’s literally the most perfect thing ever discovered!” We see it in the health and fitness industry all the time. Whether it’s quinoa, kale, or acai, we often see certain foods touted as cure-alls because of their health benefits. It happens in the fashion industry as well. Being one of the first companies here in the U.S. to sell organic baby clothing (before it became the fashion), we’ve seen it all. People throw around the words “green” and “organic” so much without backing it up and there’s a term for it—greenwashing.

So when we first heard that bamboo fabric was making its way into the conversation around the best eco friendly textiles, we of course approached the subject with a healthy amount of skepticism. We’ve heard a lot of great things about bamboo, but wanted to do our homework first before jumping to any conclusions—here’s the run-down of what we found.

Pros

  • One of the fastest growing plants on earth, bamboo is a self-regenerating and super renewable resource. It doesn’t need a lot of water to grow, or any pesticides or fertilizers.

  • In fact, it has been known to purify air (releasing about 35 percent more oxygen in the air than trees the same size), prevent soil erosion, and overall improve the quality of the environment.

  • Bamboo makes a really soft fabric—similar to silk or cashmere. It also has qualities that are anti-bacterial and naturally wicks moisture away from the skin when wearing it.

  • The fabric is also wrinkle-resistant and dries with little to no shrinkage.

Cons

  • The biggest issue with bamboo has to do with the production process, not with the plant itself.

  • According to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the leading authority on organic certification: “For almost all bamboo fibre used in industrial textile production not the natural bamboo is used but it is melted and regenerated in a viscose / rayon process and can therefore not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was originally certified organic on the field.”

  • There are two main ways to transform the plant into liquid, and from there into fibers to be spun into fabric: chemical and mechanical. Because the latter is pricier and more labor intensive, the chemical process is the one that’s most widely used.

  • While some third-party certifications exist to promote more eco-friendly bamboo textile manufacturing processes, there is no official worldwide organic certification standard for bamboo garments (currently China is pretty much the only place to grow and manufacture it on a large scale), there’s no way to manage the negative effects of that process in a transparent way.

  • Dangerous chemicals are used that can cause many health problems including neural disorders for the people working in the factory. These chemicals also find their way into the earth and drinking water.

  • One problem with the bamboo plant is that despite its awesome qualities, it is pretty invasive and can overtake and destroy ecosystems if planted in non-native areas.

At Under the Nile, the entire life cycle of the garment is important—we are concerned with what happens to people and planet from before the seed is planted to the first time baby wears it and beyond. That’s why all of our products are certified to GOTS and we solely work with farmers that grow cotton that is not only certified organic but biodynamic—that is, grown in a holistic and self-sustaining environment that sustains and nourishes all living things that are a part of it (stay tuned for more on biodynamic agriculture in another blog post!)

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, more data is needed to really understand the full effects of manufacturing bamboo garments on our ecosystem and how it can be improved. For now though, it doesn’t look too good. We will be sticking to our proven 100% organic cotton. What do you think…is bamboo going to be making its way into your closet any time soon? Leave us a comment below!

Additional Resources

Interested in more information? Below are a few links to some additional articles.

Bamboo, We Hardly Know Ye

How Green is Bamboo Fabric?

Fab Fabrics: The Pros and Cons of Bamboo

Bambooya FAQ

Alisha Blake

Comments

Alisha Blake

thank you for your post. I teach about sustainable products to interior design students and I know that this is not common knowledge at all. Everyone assumes bamboo fabric is environmentally friendly. Bamboo for furniture and flooring is a good option but as fabric the processing is highly polluting particularly to waterways. Keep up the awesome work with organic cotton. That is a product that deserves its accolades!

Alisha Blake

I just purchased a beautiful stroller blanket that I thought was bamboo. I had heard bamboo had no chemicals.. When it arrived it was irresistibly soft, but I did notice a small chemical smell. The label said its 20% cotton. (non organic). I assumed the smell was the non- organic cotton. I love the blanketI so much ( im having my first child & wanted a beautiful blanket) I was thinking about washing it to see if the smell came out.

Alisha Blake

Wow! Thanks for educating us on the harmful aspects of the bamboo te tile industry.

Alisha Blake

I LOVE bamboo fabrics- I’m sorry to learn of the possible cons of its processing phase. It is the only comfortable fabric I have found for my dysautonomia (I can’t regulate my own body temperature- I imagine newborns would also benefit from this fabric as well as cancer patients who get night sweats, etc.). It is never hot, never cold, never sweaty and washes hundreds of times looking brand new. Organic cotton will always have a place, as will wool, in my home. For sheets, nightgowns and baby clothes, I do prefer bamboo rayon. For heavy outer layers and blankets, mattresses, etc. and to keep warm, organic cotton and wool are better.

Alisha Blake

Thank you for not using bamboo.

Leave a comment

Continue shopping
Your Order

You have no items in your cart