Wednesday, May 12, 2010

bamboo or bambooooozled? you hear all about how "green" it is; it's categorized as a grass, literally it's green, and it's the environmentally friendly kinda "green" as well.

In terms of "green", bamboo is extremely sustainable because it can grow between 1-2 feet a day.  It does not need to be replanted after harvesting because it has an extensive network of roots, and spouts new shoots continually.  Bamboo perpetually converts greenhouses gases as it grows, filters the air while making oxygen, and doesn't need pesticides or fertilizers to grow at amazing rates.  This is one rugged, useful, rigid, sustainable grass! 

Bamboo is used for many things;  for flooring, cutting boards and other kitchen items, and fabric to name a few.  I recently purchased a Scotch-Brite cleaning cloth made from 60% rayon from bamboo,  and 40% cotton.  The cloth is very soft and works well.  I've also seen clothing made from bamboo fabric that is marketed as green and sustainable, and that got me thinking....bamboo almost seems too good to be I did a bit more research specifically on fabric made from bamboo and sadly  it is not as sustainable as it may seem due to the processing.  The processing to make bamboo into fabric can be accomplished in two ways, either mechanically or chemically. 

"The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn." Fabric made with the mechanical process may be called bamboo linen, but it is a very labor intensive and costly process.  

"Chemically manufactured bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber similar to rayon or modal. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon because of the many similarities in the way it is chemically manufactured and similarities in its feel and hand.  Most bamboo fabric that is the current eco-fashion rage is chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents."  The solvents can be harmful to the workers, causing neurological and breathing problems, and because of the potential health risks and damage to the environment adjacent to manufacturing facilities, bamboo fabric manufactured in this way should not be considered sustainable or environmentally supportable.


After researching the process of bamboo fabric manufacturing I felt a bit bamboozled because I took it for granted that bamboo rayon/fabric was that I know the processing is not green due to the chemicals, I still think that bamboo has great potential as a sustainable resource for several types of products, and in the end is more sustainable than many other options even in light of the processing.  

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