Bamboo is something of a relative newcomer to the world of fabrics. It’s only recently - in the last twenty years or so - that the notion of creating clothing from bamboo has taken off, with eco-conscious consumers from across the western world seeking it out for its apparent green credentials.
The Problem With Bamboo
There’s just one slight problem: bamboo isn’t actually all that friendly to the environment.
While bamboo itself is something of a wonder material with plenty of things going in its favour, it’s not the whole story. Yes, bamboo is sustainable to grow, and yes, it doesn’t lead to massive deforestation, but getting fibres out of bamboo is an energy-intensive process, which isn’t something that everyone considers when buying bamboo products.
While bamboo is better for the environment than synthetics, it does come with some serious downsides. For starters, bamboo starts as a tough, wood-like plant. It takes a lot of water and energy to separate the fibres and then collect them for spinning. What’s more, manufacturers have to use chemicals to soften the wood, some of which can cause direct harm to ecosystems.
Organic Cotton Might Be Better For The Environment
Organic cotton, therefore, may have the edge on bamboo. Bamboo is certainly a step up from conventional, synthetic materials, but several factors are acting in cotton’s favour.
The first is the fact that it comes off the cotton plant in a highly usable form. Picking and spinning cotton doesn’t require giant, energy-consuming presses.
The second is that it doesn’t involve the use of dangerous solvents, again preventing harmful chemicals from leaching into the environment.
Critics of cotton often point out that it requires a lot of water to grow - which it does. But the solution to this criticism is simple: just grow it in places that receive the highest rainfall.
Many places across the world fit the bill, mostly in tropical locales, like India, the Caribbean, and parts of central Africa. By taking advantage of natural weather patterns, the drain on freshwater resources is much, much lower.
Organic cotton is also free from herbicides and pesticides, which plague the conventional cotton industry, reducing pollution and damage to local ecosystems.
Organic Cotton Could Help Farmers Too
Most cotton grown around the world comes from developing countries. The people living in these countries, therefore, have to deal with the environmental fallout from conventional cotton agriculture. Organic cotton reduces damage in these countries and helps to prevent people from suffering from the consequences of pollution.
Organic cotton has another benefit for farmers too: better pay. Western consumers are often willing to pay a premium for products labelled “organic cotton,” passing on the extra money to the producers of the goods.
Finally, bamboo doesn't bounce back as well as other threads, making it look droopy and unflattering after a few washes. Thus most bamboo clothing products have to be combined with other fibres, like cotton, anyway to make them viable garments.
All in all, therefore, we’d recommend organic cotton for the eco-conscious among you.
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