Many fear that by supporting the bamboo clothing industry they are stealing food from the mouths of baby pandas. That fear stems from the fact that China’s bamboo forests are disappearing, and by extension, so are the giant panda’s who depend on those forests for their homes and food supplies. However, the notion that the clothing industry has anything to do with that is both unsupported and false.
The type of bamboo typically used for textile production is Moso bamboo. This bamboo is not the same kind of bamboo that pandas eat and does not damage tropical forests because it is primarily grown on family-owned farms in China and Taiwan.
What many do not realize is that bamboo is actually one of the most eco-friendly clothing materials there is.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing woody plants on earth, capable of growing three to four feet per day. Because of its rapid growth, bamboo is highly renewable, and it can thrive in almost any environment. This not only makes it available, but also more efficient to produce than cotton. One acre of bamboo can provide five to eight tons of bamboo fiber, whereas one acre of cotton only yields half a ton of cotton. Because of its naturally large yield and environmental versatility, bamboo is one of the most sustainable fabrics used today.
Growing bamboo also positively impacts the environment because it requires less energy and water to grow than other textile plants. Bamboo is capable of surviving both flood and drought conditions, proving it a very low-maintenance plant. Bamboo can also be grown without pesticides or other chemicals because of its own anti-bacterial properties. This naturally occurring anti-bacterial agent, kun, prevents bacteria from cultivating on bamboo, thus bamboo clothing is less likely to contain odors than other fabrics.
Additionally, bamboo is 100% biodegradable, is capable of regenerating after harvesting without needing to be replanted, and is able to reclaim land which has been destroyed by overgrazing because of its root structure and quick growth. Bamboo also cleans the air by helping to consume carbon dioxide: bamboo forests return 30% more oxygen to the atmosphere than trees.
Many types of clothing can be made from bamboo fabric, including socks, pants, dresses, shirts, and even sheets. Bamboo clothing has many benefits, such as its hypoallergenic nature due to its naturally smooth fibers. Additionally, bamboo clothing has excellent wicking properties which make it ideal for regulating temperature as well as micro-holes which absorb moisture and quickly and efficiently evaporate sweat. Bamboo is the ideal breathable fabric, four times more absorbent than cotton.
Bamboo textiles are ideal for outdoor and active wear because of their breathability, absorption, antimicrobial properties, thermal regulation, and UV protection. Bamboo contains UV resistant properties which enable it to protect against harmful UV rays.
Organic bamboo, a sustainable fabric, is a good clothing choice for eco-minded people because it can be processed with little harm to the environment. First the bamboo is crushed into a pulp, then this pulp is spun for weaving into clothing. This manufacturing process is the most environmentally-friendly, but it is also the most expensive. Another cheaper but more harmful manufacturing method used to produce bamboo textiles is a chemical process in which the fibers are drawn from the bamboo by cooking the bamboo in a chemical solution. This process is called “hydrolysis alkalization with multi-phase bleaching.” When purchasing bamboo products, it is important to buy products which have been produced in the most environmentally-friendly way.