Bamboo is considered one of the most sustainable raw materials of natural fibres. It is durable and soft to wear and is claimed to have several benefits like antibacterial properties and UV protection. There is still something to keep in mind while buying bamboo clothing.
Bamboo is relatively sustainable grass to farm. It regenerates fast using only very little water and does not require fertilizers or pesticides to grow. Bamboo's root system and the fact that it is not uprooted during harvesting is actually helping to preserve soil and prevent soil erosion. Bamboo also biodegrades much more quickly than oil-based synthetics.
Densely growing bamboo grows up to 35 meters (115 ft) tall, and some species can grow even 60 cm (2 ft) per day. Growing bamboo forest is actively preventing greenhouse gasses using 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare in a year while one hectare of the young forest only uses about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Bamboo needs much less land to produce than commonly used cotton. The average yield of bamboo is up to 60 tonnes per hectare while cotton yields only 2 tonnes per hectare. Bamboo is growing mostly in Asia but can survive in several climates from humid moist to extreme cold. Globally, bamboo covers approximately 49 million acres of the world’s surface. The bamboo used in the textile trade comes almost exclusively from China. Regular harvesting of bamboo benefits the health of the plant; studies have shown that cutting of canes leads to vigorous regrowth. Deforestation is the only threat of bamboo forests. It can be slow down with replantation and guiding communities to use only farmed plantations for commercial use.
Bamboo transforms easily into yarn without great water usage and retains many of the properties it has as a plant in its textile form.
Bamboo is highly water absorbent making the textile able to pull the moisture away from the skin. Bamboo's breathable nature makes it perfect for any temperature; It traps warm air in its cross-sectional fibres, while its wicking properties keep moisture away for greater comfort when sweating.
Bamboo is naturally smooth and reminds silk or soft cotton-like textile. While it can be farmed and transformed into a textile without any pesticides or chemicals, it can also be entirely chemical-free and naturally hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin.
Bamboo plant has many antibacterial qualities making it able to grow without pesticides, but once the plant is turned into a textile, the fibre won't have these same abilities when the plant is dead. Only antibacterial ability in the bamboo fabric can be a zink used in the manufacturing process and bamboo's sweat-wicking abilities. Studies have shown that the same happens to bamboo's natural UV-protection. Once the fibre is processed, it loses its UV-protection abilities.
Despite that, bamboo is an excellent material for textile being chemical-free, soft and hypoallergenic. The biodegradable textile is also easy to recycle when the apparel is worn out.
However, the production of bamboo fabric is a long process, and to save time and money bamboo often passes through a heavy chemical process. The chemically processed bamboo is called Rayon or Rayon made of bamboo. This is a rule set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US to make the difference between chemically processed bamboo yarns and yarns made directly with bamboo fibre. Bamboo viscose is made directly with bamboo fibre, but can also be treated with heavy chemicals.
To preserve the natural characteristics of bamboo, some producers have started to use the lyocell technology (brand name TENCEL®) to transform bamboo into a soft textile. The lyocell is known of manufacturing the eucalyptus yarn and has lately been developed to preserve bamboo characteristics also in the bamboo textile production.
As a raw material, bamboo is still one of the best natural resources for plant-based fabric. The production process of bamboo yarns includes too often chemical processing predisposing employees, environment and the end-user for toxic chemicals. To do a favour to yourself and nature, always favour sustainable, or ECO labelled bamboo viscose and lyocell.