Going green is one of the ways that we can do to help save our planet from total destruction in the years to come. Though we might not be able to stop its destruction fully, we might be able to prolong its life by making ways to conserve water and energy. But did you know that conserving these resources is not the only way to go green? These days, eco-friendly individuals are rooting for eco-friendly clothing like bamboo clothes. Bamboos are no doubt a renewable and sustainable resource that requires very little to zero pesticide to grown. It does not also require too much water and sunlight to stand tall. While its growth process is very green, the way it is transformed from a plant to a fabric is quite baffling, especially that there’s not a single manufacturer that divulges the detailed process yet. And the sad thing is a lot of experts claim that the processes done to turn bamboos into fabric are unhealthy and not so very green. Can you actually imagine how this green grass turns into a wearable fabric?
The sustainability and greenness of the bamboo comes from the fact that it can grow at least a foot per day without the need of any pesticides and lots of water to survive. Unlike cotton, it needs very little to zero pesticide to grow thickly. If it needs fertilizers, organic fertilizers are always welcome, making it very eco-friendly indeed. Apart from that, bamboo plants don’t die easily. When you cut its culms, it shoots new culms again, thereby, continuing its life cycle. By the way, its culm is the wooden part that, when cut and trimmed, is made into bamboo poles. Apart from its benefits on the fabric industry, bamboo can also be used to replace conventional wood when building a structure. Woods grow after about 10 years while bamboos almost always reach its tallest size potential after a year. This explains why bamboos need to be trimmed in a year or two. Plus, trimming bamboo can motivate its growth, too, making it even more renewable than ever. Bamboos also keep the surrounding air clean and fresh as it absorbs tons of carbon dioxide and produce tons of oxygen while growing, leaving humans with clean breeze all the time. Because of its natural characteristics, a lot of people make use of it in various ways, including its processing into fabric. Surely, growing bamboo has always been an eco-friendly practice, but making fabric out of bamboo is still questionable and its safety and eco-friendliness are still debatable.
One of the many non-eco-friendly practices that people do to keep up with the growing demands of bamboo is by illegally cutting other trees in the forests or in barren lands to make way for bamboo plantations. Illegal logging can cause erosion, which is something that bamboos might not be able to put off since they are grasses and not as sturdy as trees. Cutting these trees can cause imbalance to the environment and mono-cropping or planting bamboos solely in one place can lose biodiversity. Diverse plants should be grown in vast lands in order to keep pests and plant diseases at bay, which may not happen anymore if these lands are only planted with bamboos.
Another thing that raises concerns these days is the process of making textile out of bamboo plants. Researches show that most clothing companies that use bamboo fabric obtain the raw material from a sole processing plant in China in which its products are all patented. Clothing companies get to have the processed fabric already without any ideas on how these fabrics are actually processed. Reports show that manufacturers use certain chemicals to turn bamboo plants into viscose material and these certain chemicals include sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide**, which are mainly used to soak, crush, grind, and press bamboo fiber to turn them into cellulose fiber. Once it has turned into a cellulose fiber, it is then readied for weaving and be made into yarn for fabric.
Both chemicals, on one hand, are the growing concern of the people who take turns in claiming about the damaging effects of turning bamboo into fabric. These are known to contribute a range of health issues including headache, psychoses, and loss of appetite, impaired vision, sexual dysfunction, weight loss, gastrointestinal woes, and many others. Workers who have been in the textile and rubber manufacturing industry, particularly those working in the rayon niche often experience the said health issues because it is in these work fields where the concentration of carbon disulfide** is high. Furthermore, carbon disulfide** is not only harmful to the human health, but is also harmful to the environment. Improper disposal of strong chemicals like this can cause death to tons of marine species and land species.
(**Carbon disulfide is a colorless volatile liquid with the formula CS2. The compound is used frequently as a building block in organic chemistry as well as an industrial and chemical non-polar solvent. It has an "ether-like" odor, but commercial samples are typically contaminated with foul-smelling impurities, such as carbonyl sulfide)
Despite all the negativities that surround the manufacture of bamboos into textile, experts still applaud its existence, citing that its damages are far less harmful compared to production of cotton. From the production up to the processes that turn cotton into textiles, chemicals are always introduced since cotton needs much water, nitrogen-rich fertilizers, and pesticides to grow well. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers are one of the most common causes of the deaths of aquatic species living in bodies of water that are situated nearby cotton plantations. The chemicals used to develop cotton into clothing are known to be carcinogens and contributors of lung ailments. On the one hand, synthetic fibers like polyester-synthetics can also bring about health issues as its processes can release carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides into the air. These are contributors to global warming and a long list of lung-related diseases. Because of these, eco-friendly individuals would still claim that bamboo-made clothing is still eco-friendly compared to its other counterparts.
Let also add that it won’t hurt to patronize designers that use bamboo because their products are extremely as stylish as those made from designers who are not into bamboo. You can find knits, flair pants and skirts, pencil skirts, cardigans, peplums, tunic tops, and many others.
Finally, if you are still concerned with the production of bamboo clothing, there are still other eco-friendly fibers out there. Hemp fabrics, organic cotton, tencel fabric, and soy fabric. All of these are produced in ways that are less damaging compared to bamboo clothing, but the downsides are the production of these substances and the prices, too, so think about it.
Thank you Rob for a great article and the possibility to share it with my readers.
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