First of all, bamboo is a grass not a tree.
Bamboo is one of the most popular sustainable fibres to use to make sustainable fashion, but there are different facts and notions out there for this super plant. Yes, it is an organic fiber but is it the saving grace it is advertised to be?
Some of the awesomeness of bamboo comes that it is the fastest growing plant on the planet, and can be harvested within a few years while easily regrowing, kinda like a weed. Bamboo is naturally organic, it doesn’t need pesticides or fertilizer to enhance growing. It also releases 35% more oxygen than trees. So basically if you are not a green thumb, like me, I hope you have a lot of bamboo in your backyard, it’s indestructible!
As a fabric bamboo is hypoallergenic, antibacterial, it’s biodegradable and anti- static. It is moisture absorbing and soft, opinion pending but it can be softer than cashmere. Bamboo is perfect for extreme weather, it will cool you down and breathe in the heat, and lock in body warmth in the cold. Which makes it perfect for just about any climate. The only drawback for bamboo as a fabric is it’s limitations, there hasn’t been any easy technique available to print on the fabric. It can dyed but printing prints onto the fabric is extremely difficult... for now.
But bamboo is not the miracle fabric that solves all of our sustainable fashion woes, to break down any cellulose fibre toxic chemicals are used. Typically the split bamboo fibres are bathed in sodium hydroxide to soften and develop into a mush that can be spun into fibers. The process is cheaper and time effective, but not the most environmentally friendly. Besides the fiber process, a lot of manufacturers bleach the yarn from its natural beige to white to make bamboo easier to dye.
There are solutions to these eco hurdles. Using the mechanical process to break bamboo down using biological enzymes, or the Tencel close looped process to chemically break down the bamboo are both more environmentally friendly options, however, it is all reflected in the cost.
There are some amazing brands that use bamboo fabrics to their advantage. Cult Gaia is one, their bamboo bags have been all over insta, including mine, this past year. Indecisive the label, The Great Beyond, BambooBody, Ettitude sheets and Nique for the boys.
There can be some difference in opinion on how sustainable bamboo is as a lot is made using harmful chemicals and typically not in a closed looped fashion. However, with its durability as a plant and as a fabric, bamboo is a great start to being one of the most sustainable natural fibres. And it is lucky! ;)