Bamboo: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

bamboo forest up close

Bamboo, bamboo, bamboo! We have gotten a lot of questions about bamboo in our short journey in the clothing industry, so it was about time that we would tell you a bit more about this super plant. Like the other super plant hemp, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It too requires minimum amounts of water and land to grow, which makes it a great resource for all sorts of applications.

Bamboo this, bamboo that
From housing to clothing, bamboo can be used for a lot of things. I personally think that bamboo houses, for example, look awesome, and I might want to live in one in the future. A bamboo house with a bamboo garden, so that when something breaks from the house, I can just take some fresh bamboo from the garden #smart. Okay but enough about my dreams, this was supposed to be about bamboo. Now, where was I … oh yes, bamboo applications. Since bamboo canes are so tough, it is also perfect to make furniture, instruments, and bioplastic. These products have been known to be very strong and withstand time very well.

awesome bamboo house

But all those benefits … it almost sounds too good to be true. Well, all of the above things are true, and I think that bamboo is awesome for those applications, but when it comes to textile it’s a bit different.

Too good to be true
As we can see above, bamboo is a very tough plant. So wait … how do you get soft and comfy fabric from tough bamboo canes? Tough cane + …….. = soft and comfy fabric. The missing link here is chemicals. I wasn’t paying enough attention at chemistry to pronounce all the names right of the chemicals used, but they are harmful to people, and that sucks. In short: the bamboo canes get dissolved in chemicals like CS2 et voila: you have soft fabric! In essence, this is the same process that’s used for regular rayon fabric, but you switch up regular wood or any other form of cellulose fiber for bamboo. While the resource is better in this case, the process is still polluting. The FTC has even gone as far as forcing companies to put ‘bamboo rayon’ on their clothing products instead of just ‘bamboo’ because it would otherwise mislead customers.

There are ways of doing this process in a closed loop system, like what happens with TENCEL™ fabric. Currently, however, we have not been able to find companies that produce bamboo in a closed loop system, so that’s why we, like Patagonia, are steering clear from bamboo clothing.

Bamboo fabric is like those chocolate chip cookies that turn out to be raisin cookies.

And now what?
So why are all these brands claiming it is so sustainable then? Well to be fair, I don’t know why they do that, but I do know that it might be because they don’t even know themselves what’s going on behind the scenes.

If you happen to know a factory that does produce bamboo in a sustainable fashion (see what I did there ;) ), please let us know, because we think as a raw resource bamboo is right up there with hemp and we would love to work with it.

Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you next week!

1 comment

  • Theo

    Interesting article…and i like the writing style! Keep em coming…

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