Bamboo fabric: Sustainability saviour, or marketing bamboozle

We're always on the lookout for new sustainable products to add to our collection and we always do what we can to validate a product's eco credentials.

We recently looked at a number of bamboo clothing brands and did a little digging into the manufacturing process in order to answer the question, is bamboo a sustainable resource.  Predictably, the answer is “it depends”.   We did find a lot of evidence pointing to chemically intensive manufacturing that uses a lot of really nasty stuff like sodium hydroxide, carbon disulfide and sulphuric acid. Then once the chemicals have done their job, they need to be removed from the fabric, so a massive amount of water resources are also used. 

A lot of products claiming to be bamboo are actually rayon, made from the dissolved cellulose of plants like bamboo but so intensively treated that there is nothing of the original plant remaining.  On the plus side, rayon is generally biodegradable so it won’t last long in a landfill site.  There is evidence that the technology is improving and some brands are getting better at manufacturing without harmful substances - look out for OEKO-TEX certification so you know which brands to pick.

Of course, every fabric comes at some cost to the environment and sustainability credentials are never black and white. But in our humble view, the jury is still out in the case for sustainable bamboo clothing and we will wait for further improvements before we stock it. Until then we'll be sticking with organic cotton.

No matter where you shop, we would encourage you to always consider the origins and materials of the items you buy and the endurance of the end product. Reject fast fashion and buy quality goods that will last you for years.

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