Clothing and the materials of the future will become more and more scrutinised in the coming years as we seek new ways to make fashion more sustainable. The shift has definitely already begun and many designers are making the leap to source new, alternative materials that not only reduce their impact on the planet but also maintain design and comfort for users. Up steps bamboo, keen to be considered beyond it’s role as Panda food.
When it comes to bamboo clothing: women and men alike can look to wear this sustainable cotton replacement. It is surprising that to date bamboo clothing is still not as popular as it could be given the enormous environmental benefits it could provide us and it’s amazing use in inventions of old such as the helicopter and light bulb!
Whist you might not see bamboo on the catwalks of Paris and Milan just yet, in this post I will present the case for this amazing grass (it’s not a tree!) and the reasons it can replace other materials in use of fabric for clothing and other everyday items.
Brilliant Bamboo: Environmental Benefits
When compared with cotton, the leading rival for clothing fabric, bamboo stacks up much better in terms of it’s environmental footprint.
There are many reasons we should consider using bamboo over cotton for producing our clothing:
Faster growing – a bamboo shoot will continue to grow from the same plant giving a much higher yield. An acre of self-replenishing bamboo will give 10 times more fabric more than cotton, which needs to be replanted annually. In times where landmass is critical for the production of food and other resources for the growing population, this is an important point to consider. Some species of bamboo are know to grow several feet in one day!
Less water – One third less water to be precise. No irrigation systems make it an easier and more manageable crop than cotton. Water is also becoming scarce and so anyway we can save water should be encouraged.
No pesticides or fertiliser – bamboo grows without any fertilisers, whilst cotton requires a third of it’s weight in fertiliser. With a natural resistance to insects and other pests there is no need for adding pesticides either!
No soil damage – whilst we can allow bamboo to grow naturally without adding chemicals this means the soil where it is growing will not be damaged avoiding harmful run off into local rivers and eco-systems. A harvested bamboo root will retain nutrients for it’s next crop.
Greenhouse gas absorbent – bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide from the air at a much faster rate than most traditional trees whilst also releasing oxygen at a faster rate for us to breathe!
Cuddly like a Panda:
So maybe you wouldn’t actually want to cuddle a panda, unless it was wearing bamboo garments. Perhaps unexpectedly, bamboo fabric is softer than cotton, and has been compared with Egyptian Cotton and cashmere at a fraction of the cost.
Anti-bacterial and anti-odour!
It is known science that when sweating what we call Body Odour is a reaction of the perspiration with bacteria on the skin. Some fabrics cause this bacteria to multiply, whilst others prevent the spread of bacteria. Whilst cotton, wool and certain artificial plastic fabrics do see the concentration of bacteria increase, the presence of bamboo kun, an anti-microbial naturally found in bamboo, does prevent the spread of bacteria. This reduces smell!
Bamboo is also super absorbent making it ideal for sports clothes and towels among other things.
Keeping Warm and Dry
As described above bamboo is know for its absorbent properties, but the structure of the fibres means it traps air in between the layers and forms a layer of warm air around the skin. This will keep the person wearing the bamboo warm during cold times of the year. For this reason bamboo sheets are also a favorite for babies and adults alike.
Stronger than Steel
You probably wouldn’t normally associate a grass with having steel like properties but alas it does have a greater tensile strength. This means it has a greater resistance to being pulled apart than the material used for skyscrapers.
Bamboo has been used for scaffolding in the Far East for centuries, just see the video below (warning: not for the faint hearted!). Bamboo is set to revolutionise the construction industry with new concrete and steel composites and replacements.
In terms of fabric, bamboo clothing has been compared to denim in terms of durability and strength so any clothing you buy will be likely last you a long time. Bamboo fabric also has a UV resistance so there will little wear and degradation over time.
Give it a try!
Bamboo seems to be a dream material. It has great properties which make it suitable for such varied applications including paper, construction, fabric, furniture and many others at reasonable price. With the current shift towards more sustainable practice in all areas of our lives we can expect to see more bamboo products taking to the shelves.
Bamboo is native to the Far East, Australia, North and South America and even some parts of Sub Saharan Africa. It is so versatile that it can grow in different climate conditions and altitudes though it prefers the tropics. Given it’s fast growth rate and eco-friendly nature it can even be a great crop for countries around the world heading into the future.
So why not give bamboo clothing a try and see the comfort and softness for yourself.