Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eco Friendly Shopping The True Color Of Bamboo Fabric

Being eco friendly is the trend and when we do our eco friendly shopping, bamboo fabric seems like a good place to start, or is it?  Is shopping for bamboo fabric truly eco friendly? 

We must look beyond the eco friendly trend to tell the true color of bamboo fabric.

Why bamboo?   Well, perhaps, we are aware of cotton’s nasty growing process, not to mention the yuk that is put into the production process.  If you’re not aware about cotton, you can check out the Fiber Series to learn more. 

And, we surely are aware of the concerns about hemp even if they are ill conceived. 

Bamboo’s growing process, on the other hand, is about as sustainable as you can get.

Bamboo, being one of the fastest growing grasses there is.  It needs no help in that department.  While it’s growing at a couple of feet a day, it absorbs 5 times the greenhouse gasses as a stand of timber and releases 35% more oxygen into the air.

Of course, bamboo needs to pesticides or fertilizers or water, for that matter.  In fact, bamboo’s root system holds water in and acts like a shield against soil erosion.  This works really great on the banks of rivers by holding back the soil and preventing soil from silting up and polluting the water.

Bamboo has some wonderful qualities as a fabric, too, that is, once it becomes a fabric.  Getting it to that state of existence is a whole other story, but we go forward.

A purchase is made, we’re excited about our new buy, and our conscious is clear.  We’ve just saved a whale or something like that.

What we have missed is the typical ways of manufacturing bamboo fabric.  These chemical manufacturing processes cause considerable ecological damage. Turning the stock of bamboo into a fabric is where water is polluted, air is fouled and our health is compromised.

It’s here that our desire to be part of the eco friendly trend is strong.  Whether or not we have a conviction about the necessity for a better life on a surviving planet, we flock to being a greenie and look for the eco friendly tag. 

This is why we need to look closer. 

Most commonly, a chemical method is used to manufacture bamboo fabric. It’s done by taking the cellulose fiber of bamboo and turning it into a rayon-like fabric.  Because of its similarities to how rayon is manufactured from wood, bamboo manufactured this way is called bamboo rayon.

The hydrolysis alkalization process involves cooking the bamboo in strong chemical solvents (sodium hydroxide NaOH, aka caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide.  Then bleaching the bamboo is often included to get a whiter fabric and thus adds more chemicals to the process. 

Similarly, low levels of sodium hydroxide can cause irritation to the skin and to the eyes.   The NaOH is a strong alkaline base.  You’ll find this ingredient in Drano. 

I’m going to go out on the limb here, but I’m going to say that wrapping up in residues of  Drano isn’t something we stand in line for, is it?

Recently, the FTC go in on the act and said that if a fabric looks like rayon, acts like rayon and is processed like rayon, then it is rayon.  Calling it bamboo is misleading says the FTC, and it has been issuing warnings to about 78 retailers to stop labeling products as being bamboo.

Don’t get discouraged and take an even closer look. 

Because the qualities of bamboo fabric are so appealing, some manufacturers have taken up the gauntlet to find another way to turn this tall, woody stock into a silk-like fabric that is easier to care for and easier on the pocketbook, too.

This video will show you what to look for and what questions to ask.

Now, give yourself a hand for greening your lifestyle.  This time when you shop, the bells and whistles you will be looking for will be about health, clean air and clean water.  Now, that’s something to wrapped up in.

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