Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Bamboo aTruly Sustainable Fabric?

My short answer is no. I wish it were, honest to God I wish it was. I love the concept and it is super soft and would be a great inner for diapers. Originally Melissa and I were all ready to create diapers out of bamboo. That was until we did some research.

Dangerous chemicals are used to transform the plant into liquid and then into fibres to be spun into fabric. These chemicals can cause a plethora of health problems and neural disorders for the manufacturing workers. A developing nation like China rarely (if at all) uses systems to help control the production and disposal of those chemicals.
From http://victoria-e.com/2007/10/04/how-green-is-bamboo-fabric/

Additionally, Chinese manufacturers to begin clearing out natural forests in order to plant more fast-growing bamboo. As of today, I could not find a domestic source for bamboo fabric. It is only made in China and in China many cultivators are starting to use fertilizers that wouldn’t meet U.S. organic standards in order to increase the yield of their plantations.

There are two ways of processing bamboo for fiber.

1.Mechanically. This is referred to as the – eco-friendly – mode, the plant is physically crushed and natural enzymes are used to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn.

2. Chemically. This is the more cost-effective, less labor-intensive, and extremely toxic, friendly method, a process of hydrolysis-alkalization and multi-phase bleaching refines bamboo pulp from the plant, which is then processed into fiber.

You could verify that your bamboo clothing has been certified by a professional certification group such as the ├ľKO-TEK STANDARD 100, which ensures that chemicals used in the production do not have any negative effects on human health and the environment. But, chemicals are chemicals, right?

Melissa and I searched and searched and could not find a source of bamboo without the chemical method of production. Another big issue for us is that there isn't any domestic bamboo fabric, which goes against our "buy local" philosophy. There is a really great bamboo farm right here in Tucson, but, they don't manufacture fiber, they build beautiful tables, chairs and other furnishings with their bamboo. They also grow and sell bamboo for shade. You can check them out at http://www.bambooranch.net/.

While the bamboo plant is remarkably sustainable, we have yet to find a way to weave it into a sustainable fabric. I hope that someone somewhere can tackle this issue so we can reap the benefits of bamboo fabric. But until then, LolliDoo® products will not be made from Bamboo.

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