Bamboo is known to be the fastest growing plant in the world and is naturally organic. Majority of the bamboo grown in different locations of the world is eco-friendly as it requires no pesticides or fertilizers and needs little water. Currently, bamboo fabric is considered to be the trendiest sustainable fabric in the fashion world. However, it is a debatable topic about how eco-friendly is bamboo fabric?
Bamboo plants are capable of growing up to four feet a day. Moreover, bamboo plant releases 35% more oxygen in the air compared to other trees of the same size. With its fast growth, bamboo matures within seven years. It does not need to be replanted as it has a vast root network that continuously sprouts new shoots. It helps to improve soil condition and prevent soil erosion.
There are as many as 1000 types of bamboo grown in different types of climatic conditions all over the world. Owing to all these facts, growing bamboo is considered sustainable for the environment. Due to the softness, smooth flowing, gentle drape, etc., bamboo fabric has received the status of being eco-fashionable in the fashion world.
Even the pricing of bamboo is economical at least when compared with silk and cashmere. Today, the sales of bamboo garments have been boosted with increasing environmental awareness among the people. It is considered to be the new eco-chic as well as functional fabric. Theres a reason for bamboo fabrics for becoming so popular. They are softer than cotton and its texture is more like silk.
In addition, bamboo clothes naturally absorb moisture from the skin and so they are apt fabrics for summer wear. It takes half the time to dry compared to cotton clothes. Therefore, bamboo bedding, towels and rugs have also picked up sales. The general belief that bamboo is eco-friendly and so is bamboo fabric is questionable.
Critics say that the process of converting bamboo into fabric takes a heavy toll on the environment and this is where it loses its eco-friendliness. Bamboo fabrics are produced in two methods: mechanical process and chemical process. The mechanical process is the same eco-friendly process used to make linen fabric from flax or hemp.
In mechanical process the plant is crushed and natural enzymes are used to break the bamboo walls to get natural fibers. These fibers are mechanically scoured out and spun into yarn. Bamboo linen is produced using this process. Moreover, garments from bamboo linen are produced on a very small scale as this process is expensive and more labor intensive.
Most of the bamboo fabric considered as eco-fashion clothing today is chemically processed. In chemical process, bamboo leaves and woody shoots are dissolved using strong chemical solvents like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide. This process is also known as hydrolysis alkalization which is combined with multi phase bleaching. Both the chemicals are known to create serious health issues.