Bamboo furnishings that grace a person’s living room are aesthetically beautiful to the eyes, but “organic bamboo clothing” or clothing that claims to be made from bamboo is another story.
They’re different or at least processed differently.
While bamboo exudes beauty and strength and is even said to symbolize “morality,” it’s not so moral after all when bamboo fabric processing is scrutinized further.
This supposedly “eco-friendly” textile is a far cry from being so. Organic bamboo clothing? Forget about it. While bamboo is “rapidly renewable and requires few pesticides to grow,” reports Natural Awakenings, for bamboo fabric, some deem it a “textile fraud.”
According to Eco-Chick, Juliette Donatelli who holds an M.S. in Ecology and a B.A. in Globalization and Environmental Science, at least 13 different toxic solvents are used in turning bamboo, which is rough and stalky, into fabric that is soft as silk. Think cashmere but made of grass. (Bamboo is part of the grass family poaceae by the way.)
Chemically intensive process aside, purchasing bamboo clothing is a difficult process due to misleading label claims. Rarely will you see a label that will read “Made with bamboo” anymore says Donatelli. Instead, what you see might be a mixed blend of rayon, spandex, and cotton somewhere on the label.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “[t]he truth is, most “bamboo” textile products, if not all, really are rayon, which typically is made using environmentally toxic chemicals in a process that emits hazardous pollutants into the air. While different plants, including bamboo, can be used as a source material to create rayon, there’s no trace of the original plant in the finished rayon product.”
The FTC further adds:
“[U]nless a product is made directly with bamboo fiber — often called ““mechanically processed bamboo”” — it can’t be called bamboo.”
The FTC urges sellers of bamboo products to disclose the material used in their products as consumers need to know.
While bamboo itself is great for the environment and produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide, marketing it as sustainable when it’s technically not no matter how hard companies try to hide this fact has led some to call this greenwashing.
In one report, William Lana, chairman of the Textile Standards Committee of the Soil Association said:
“The marketing of ‘bamboo’ textiles is another example of ‘greenwash.’”
He further said:
“Bamboo viscose may be better for the environment than polyester, but even if bamboo is organically grown, we don’t allow bamboo textiles on the organic register because of the way it is processed.”
Even if you look for the Oeko-Tek certification that ensures that the bamboo product you buy is chemically-free, what it certifies is this:
“[T]here are no chemicals present in the product, at that point in the processing, that would be harmful to human health, including that of babies. It does not certify that no chemicals were used in the processing nor does it make any evaluation of what processes were used or any evaluation of the facilities that participated.”
And that is according to one site that sells bamboo products. (Does the last sentence sound a bit evasive and vague to you or is it just me?)
Laura Mathews of Eco Promotional Products, Inc, a company that sells environmentally responsible merchandise to businesses and consumers decided to ditch selling bamboo products altogether.
“It’s the responsibility of everyone to vet these and other similar terms to ensure that the eco-friendly product you’re putting your purchasing power behind is actually eco-friendly,” according to Natural Awakenings.
While wearing breathable clothing made of bamboo seems like a perfect combination of eco and chic, you might just have to lay low on the bamboo fabric and bamboo clothing radar for now.
In the meantime, here are some other natural fabrics to sport: organic cotton (but do check on this one), hemp, organic wool, and silk. Until then.
Special Note: I purchased bamboo bedding years ago and did research and lots of muscle-testing before purchasing. When I received my product, it wasn’t the one I had muscle-tested for. Long story short, I decided to keep it.
The worst happened after I used the sheets. I started having anaphylactic type reactions that I never had before, but was too sick to see the correlation. I couldn’t sleep on my bed and had to sleep on top of the toilet.
I consulted with Dr. Stephen Daniel. A 6-minute QT session revealed that the bedding had pesticide and herbicide residues that were causing the reactions. After washing the bedding in vegetable wash, I was able to sleep that night comfortably.
Before I knew about the intense chemical processing involved in bamboo fabric, I thought: How could my bedding have chemical residues on it when it was eco-friendly? Now I know. Trust your gut instinct. I would have returned the product like my gut instinct had told me. Again, long story.