Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Eco-Friendly is Bamboo Fabric, Really?

Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world, capable of growing up to four feet a day. Most of it is grown organically (though very little is certified organic), and in most locations requires no irrigation or fertilizers. There are some concerns about its use, namely depleting natural bamboo habitats (for pandas) and clearing forests for bamboo plantations. But for the most part, the growing of bamboo can be considered sustainable. Fabric made from bamboo, however, is more controversial.


Bamboo stalks contain bast fibers that can be processed into a relatively stiff and rough fabric like flax (linen) or hemp. Most bamboo fabric in the market, however, has a smooth, silky hand that feels similar to rayon—because that’s essentially what it is.

Most bamboo fabric has a smooth hand that feels like rayon—because that’s essentially what it is.

Rayon is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which means that a natural raw material is converted through a chemical process into a fiber that falls into a category between naturals and synthetics. The source of cellulose can be wood, paper, cotton fiber, or in this case bamboo.


Patagonia’s material developers have been investigating bamboo since 2003, but since almost all available bamboo fabric is made using the viscose process, we don’t use bamboo fabric in our product line. We’re aware of some linen-type bamboo fabric that is processed as bast
fiber, but currently we’re not using it because we have hemp fabrics that perform well in this type of application.
The appeal of bamboo fabric is usually the drape and the hand that is a product of the viscose-type chemical processing. We’ve searched for an alternative fabric with these attributes, but with less harm to the environment.

Tencel is also a regenerated cellulose fiber, but processed with a nontoxic spinning solvent in a closed-loop system.
Read more here via http://www.ecouterre.com/20176/how-eco-friendly-is-bamboo-fabric-really/

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