Ecological Benefits of Using Bamboo as a Raw Material
Renewable – The bamboo used for apparel production is the fastest growing plant known to man, growing up to 4 feet (122 cm) per day, and rapidly reaching heights over 40 feet. Because of this rapid growth rate and the amount of vertical biomass created, bamboo is able to deliver far more usable raw material per acre than any other alternative, which makes it today’s most renewable resource. Bamboo is also self-regenerating, so it can be harvested and, in most cases, will simply re-grow without replanting.
Sustainable – Bamboo cultivation requires zero pesticides or chemical fertilizers to achieve its amazing growth rate and renewability. So it is inherently organic. Conversly, it takes 1/3 of a pound of chemicals to produce enough conventional cotton for one t-shirt. Cotton production is responsible for 16% of the world’s insecticide use, more than any other single crop, while covering only 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land. Many of these chemicals run off into our waterways, harming humans and the natural environment. In addition, bamboo requires much less land and water (as a ratio to usable fiber produced per acre), than cotton, organic cotton, and other alternative fibers. In fact, it takes 15,000 liters of water to grow 1 kg of cotton or organic cotton. Some of this water is piped in from critical watersheds, as cotton is typically grown on arid lands. In contrast, bamboo requires only natural rainfall.
Additional Eco Benefits – Bamboo propagation prevents erosion and adds nutrients back to the soil, while conventional, transitional, and even organic cotton cultivation strip the land of nutrients. Bamboo is hand picked using traditional methods that have a much lower impact on the environment than modern machine-based harvesting practices. Additionally, bamboo is not planted on cleared forestlands; it is sustainably selected from naturally occurring bamboo stands, plus bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide and emits more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees.
The Performance Benefits of Fabrics Made Using Bamboo
Wearable – Bamboo-based fabrics are much softer and more comfortable than cotton, hemp, or other alternatives.
Functional – Bamboo-based fabrics help regulate body temperature. Compared to cotton, they are more breathable, provide improved wicking of moisture, and deliver better UV protection. In addition, mechanically produced and nano bamboo blends dry more quickly than comparable fabrics.
Anti-Microbial – Mechanically produced bamboo fabrics and nano bamboo infused fabrics retain bamboo’s natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties. This makes them resistant to mildew and odor retention and much less likely to cause skin irritations. Studies by the China Industrial Testing Center (CITC) and the Japan Textile Inspection Association (JTIA) show that bamboo viscose based fabrics also retain these anti-microbial properties. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) refuses to acknowledge these studies and currently requires that suppliers of bamboo viscose based apparel refrain from claiming that it is anti-microbial. The FTC has provided no scientific evidence to refute these studies.
How Are Bamboo-Based Fabrics Made?
There are several ways to turn bamboo into fiber that can be used to produce fabric, some of which are:
Nano Bamboo infused fabrics are produced by embedding powdered bamboo into a variety of materials. The raw powder is created by heating bamboo until it reaches a charcoal consistency. The charcoal is then ground into a nano-particle, which can be embedded into fibers such as cotton or polyester. These embedded fibers are then spun into yarns or filaments.
Mechanically Produced Bamboo fabrics are made by grinding up bamboo until it can be spun into a yarn. This process is best used to create canvas style fabrics.
Bamboo Viscose fabrics are the most widely available of all bamboo-based fabrics on the market. Bamboo Viscose fabric is made by a process in which cellulose (viscose) is extracted from bamboo and regenerated into a fiber that can be spun into a yarn. The process starts by grinding up the leaves, stems, and soft inner pith of a species of timber bamboo called Moso. The ground up mass is processed using solvents to extract the cellulose. The cellulose is then forced through spinnerets to create the raw bamboo viscose thread, which is extremely soft to the touch. The thread is then spun into yarn, which can be blended with a variety of materials.
So the question is, are Bamboo Viscose Based Fabrics Sustainable?
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the production of bamboo-based fabrics. All of it surrounds the process of making bamboo viscose. The principle concern involves the use of chemicals during the process that is required to extract the cellulose from bamboo. Even though the principle chemical used is sodium hydroxide, is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world, and when used in a responsible manner, has no negative effect on the environment or the health of humans.
Bamboo is NOT rayon! Rayon or “contemporary viscose” is an older, less ecologically oriented technology that regenerates cellulose derived from slow growing trees, which are less renewable than bamboo and often harvested in an unsustainable manner. The process of extracting cellulose from bamboo is more sustainable as it takes place in a modern “closed loop” production process that does not expose the environment to pollutants. The closed loop bamboo viscose extraction process recovers and recycles all chemical solvents for further use and captures and purifies all water and air used in the process before returning them to the environment. (Source: www.apparelsearch.com)