Misconceptions About Bamboo

I recently read yet another article on an Eco Conscious web site touting the virtues of fabric made from bamboo.  This article went so far as to be entitled “Why Bamboo Bedding is a credible alternative to Organic Cotton Bedding”.  I was dismayed at the inaccuracy of the article and downright offended by the headline.  Here’s the truth.

Bamboo is an extremely hard material.  It’s used for flooring, furniture and all sorts of products that benefit from its solid and enduring properties.  Imagine what it takes to make something that hard into a soft sumptuous fabric.  What it takes is extensive processing and some extremely nasty chemicals that extract the cellulose from the plant.  The cellulose is mixed with some more nasty chemicals that make the it stick together and reconstitute it into a strand that they call a fiber.  The “fiber” made from bamboo is actually nothing more than rayon, exactly the same as rayon made from wood; and the processing of both is extremely damaging to the environment.

The US government has recently mandated that fabric made from bamboo be labeled as rayon because of the deceptive advertisement of it as an ecologically sound material.  In the past bamboo fabric was advertised as being anti-microbial or anti-fungal.  These claims were made because bamboo itself does indeed resist microbial and fungal degradation.  However, once the processing has been done, the fabric made from bamboo no longer possesses those redeeming qualities.  The Truth In Advertising laws came into effect over a year ago and those claims had to be removed from labeling and advertising of bamboo products.  Sadly, the myths are hard to dispell.  Maybe we need to sick the Myth Busters on it.

In comparison with organic cotton, well – there is no comparison.  Organic cotton is grown without chemicals and needs no processing to make it’s fiber usable.  It is simply combed and spun without the need of chemicals of any kind.  Furthermore, cotton is grown all over the world, including right here at home.  Bamboo is grown mainly in Asia and must be shipped to customers on other continents, making it’s carbon footprint quite large.

The difference between the environmental impact of these two materials is vast.  Bamboo is FAR from being a “credible alternative to Organic Cotton”.  I, personally, am looking forward to the day when I can walk into any eco-conscious retail store and not see products made from bamboo fabric.

Let’s get the word out!