Bamboo Fabric? Sustainable or Green Wash?
The green logo of “bamboo” is creeping into our shops, and with this trend, I wanted to ask, is Bamboo clothing truly sustainable and should we be jumping on the band wagon and be buying bamboo clothing? Should you invest your hard earned cash into the often more expensive bamboo option or is it simply another green wash.
Looking into the current research into bamboo fabric, there are many proven practical reasons that bamboo is a great woven fabric for clothing. It has strong absorptivity, it is antistatic, deodorising and UV protective (Li et al 2013). Basically, it’s absolutely great for Summer wear. In tests between Bamboo-Polyester fabric and Cotton- Polyester fabric, the bamboo was found to be a more breathable, comfortable fabric (Tausif et al 2015).
But what about the growing practices and bamboos environmental credentials? Cotton is renowned for being extremely water intensive and sometimes requiring large amounts of pesticide with production. Bamboo on the other hand is extremely fast growing and requires very little water. (Parthiban et al 2009) Current research appears to show that production techniques, are in fact relatively environmentally friendly.
However, in my opinion the true stem of whether this fabric is sustainable, is whether the fabric is durable. It would be interesting for further studies, to test the longevity of bamboo compared to slower growing fabrics, such as cotton. Bamboo fabric must be durable to wear, as the environmental credentials lower if garments are constantly having to be rebought if they degrade quickly. No-one wants to keep having buy expensive new items of clothing either...
I did my own low tech personal experiment with bamboo and I bought some bamboo socks last year. Being a waitress, I need a good pair of breathable, comfortable and most importantly durable socks. Almost a year later- success!! They are incredibly comfortable, hard wearing, and I know which of the black socks are bamboo as they are the softest.
So considering the current research (see the Bibliography) I will certainly be investing in bamboo for workout clothing primarily- as its super comfortable and breathable. But whole closet of bamboo? Not yet I don't think- we’ll wait and see whether it continues to be proven as the environmental friendly option through durability….
Note: Not only is the fabric itself great, but by wearing natural fibres you're reducing the amount of plastic fibres that are polluting our oceans!
Li, Q. S., Xu, M. S., Zhou, G. J., & Wang, L. Q. (2010). Preparation and characterization of white bamboo charcoal PET fiber. Chinese Chemical Letters, 21(8), 995–998. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cclet.2010.01.022
Mahish, S. S., Patra, A. K., & Thakur, R. (2012). Functional properties of bamboo/polyester blended knitted apparel fabrics. Indian Journal of Fibre and Textile Research, 37(3), 231–237.
Parthiban, M., Karthikeyan, S., & Divya, R. (2009). Green apparels: A new revolution in the textile sector. Asian Textile Journal, 18(6), 28–30.
Tausif, M., Ahmad, F., Hussain, U., Basit, A., & Hussain, T. (2015). A comparative study of mechanical and comfort properties of bamboo viscose as an eco-friendly alternative to conventional cotton fibre in polyester blended knitted fabrics. Journal of Cleaner Production, 89, 110–115. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.11.011
Tyagi, G. K., Bhattacharya, S., & Kherdekar, G. (2011). Comfort behaviour of woven bamboo-cotton ring and MJS yarn fabrics. Indian Journal of Fibre and Textile Research, 36(1), 47–52.
Yoo, J.-J., Divita, L., & Kim, H.-Y. (2013). Environmental awareness on bamboo product purchase intentions: do consumption values impact green consumption? International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 6(March 2015), 27–34. http://doi.org/10.1080/17543266.2012.758318