Bamboo is vegan but is it sustainable?
So bamboo is becoming a hot topic especially among the greener of us. It’s portrayed as being Eco friendly, sustainable and more and more companies from hardware, home ware to fashion are all starting to use it and to talk about the huge benefits of why we should all buy bamboo products.
Now as with any product you need to weigh up what is important to you what are the things that you will not consider buying, if you are on this website then I am assuming that cruelty free is a non negotiable and that like me you are starting to consider how you could buy things that are sustainable and or Eco – friendly as well where possible.
As lots of products that are out there are vegan but may not be sustainable or Eco friendly so it just depends on each individual’s choices. However I do feel it is important that we all know a little more about where products come from and how they are made.
So in this instance we need to consider the environmental impact of bamboo. Looking at the entire process, thinking about what happens from harvesting the bamboo to the creation of your product, whether that is a mattress, sock, clothing, bamboo plant or any other bamboo product.
Now with any product there is going to be some impact on the environment – as nothing has zero impact. So what we need to consider is the sustainability of the product, for example in this case how easy it is to replace and regrow and the cost.
Why is bamboo a great choice for clothing?
More and more clothing companies are turning to bamboo as an alternative to cotton to create their fashion pieces. As Cotton uses a great deal of pesticides and chemicals from the very start of it’s journey, where as bamboo does not.
Why is bamboo such a useful material?
- A great building material
- A great alternative to cotton
- A great alternative to other wood materials
- It grows quickly so therefore its better for the environment – growing 80% faster than some hardwoods
- Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases over 30% more oxygen then the equivalent amount of trees.
- Bamboo is stronger than steel
- It is resilient and durable but at the same time can be soft.
- Blocks ultraviolet rays
- Naturally deodorizing
- Helps to restore soil
Bamboo can be used for decorations, building materials,fabric, clothing and cooking utensils.
How is bamboo fabric made?
There are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a fabric: mechanically or chemically. The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn
Where is bamboo fabric manufactured?
Bamboo comes from China – They have acres of bamboo forests and it has been cultivated here for thousands of years.
Why is Bamboo Eco-friendly and Sustainable?
Yes, there are some costs which mainly involve its transportation, which some may argue make this plant not totally eco friendly however in comparison to most other materials it is much more sustainable at the start of it’s journey.
Our top reasons why bamboo is Eco-friendly and sustainable:
- It grows quickly and once harvested continues to grow which leads to less soil erosion.
- It supports small scale farming
- As it grows it absorbs Co2 and produces more oxygen for us 🙂
However, we now need to consider how companies who purchase this sustainable product in its natural state turn it into our favourite pair of socks or mattress…
Is bamboo a good fabric?
Bamboo clothing has a luxuriously soft fabric that is naturally hypoallergenic, moisture- absorbent and quick drying.
Is bamboo really eco friendly?
Bamboo products are eco-friendly as long as they haven’t been chemically processed, which most bamboo clothing fabrics have been.
How does bamboo become a fabric?
If we think about what we know about bamboo, you know the stuff pandas eat… well it doesn’t seem particularly soft and comfortable however, all these clothing companies are creating these gorgeous soft, comfortable products apparently from bamboo, How are they doing this?
There are two different ways to create bamboo into fabric one is chemical and one is mechanical.
Now before I go further, I know like you all know that chemical is not going to be good, and it’s not, it’s harmful to those who are producing it, it can be released into the environment through waterways and landfills, so a product that has been produced with the use of chemicals is not eco friendly however up until this point it was and therefore some may argue that this is still better than an alternative material, which wasn’t eco-friendly from the start.
However if the bamboo fabric has been made mechanically then this is definitely more eco friendly than the chemical way. This means that bamboo products that have been made this way are a lot more expensive.
The process is longer and more natural, letting the bamboo naturally break down. Once it has broken down they are then able to produce a yarn like material which is quite like linen.
And of course the silver lining is that where does bamboo come from – yes China. So this makes it a lot less sustainable. However China is developing new environmental plans which could see bamboo becoming a more sustainable product for us all over time.
Our recommended sustainable & Eco- Friendly materials which are also vegan:
- Organic Cotton – this is different from ordinary cotton, so do check before you buy.
- Lyocell and Modal – these are created from the pulp of wood, they have been created using a ‘closed loop’ process meaning that no harmful chemicals are leaked out into waterways but they are used repeatedly.
- Linen (Flax) specifically European and Japanese linens are the most sustainable.
- Hemp – plant based fiber.
- Soy silk or Peace silk – these are good silk alternatives but it does use some chemicals in the process of creating soy silk.
- Pineapple leather or other sustainable leathers – try to stay away from PVC it may label itself as vegan but it has been created using chemicals and therefore is not sustainable.
- Cork – this is a new material that is becoming more and more fashionable.
- Recycled nylon or polyester is a great alternative for swimwear where they are necessary for the quality and use of the product, however if you are looking for something that is truely sustainable then this would not be a material I would go for.
What to look for when buying a bamboo product:
- Rayon – a soft bamboo fabric created from bamboo but through the use of chemicals and therefore not considered eco-friendly or as sustainable.
- Viscose – a soft bamboo fabric created from bamboo but through the use of chemicals and therefore not considered eco-friendly or as sustainable.
- Lyocell – a bamboo fabric created with chemicals but through a closed loop process and therefore considered to be more sustainable and eco friendly.
- Bamboo Linen – a bamboo fabric created in a mechanical way and therefore considered to be more sustainable and eco friendly.
Is Lyocell Bamboo, and is it sustainable?
So lyocell is a fabric that has been created from bamboo and is a much better alternative if you are looking for a sustainable fabric. As the process of making it is less damaging to the environment than when rayon or viscose is made.
It is made using a closed loop process which means that the original chemicals that were used continue to be used, rather than creating more chemical waste. When you are looking for this material it is also known as Tencel, but this material is quite hard to find and can be expensive.
Tencel is often made from eucalyptus trees but some companies have started to do this with bamboo. So keep a look out for this brand.
Why is Tencel so expensive?
Tencel is so expensive because of the process that the bamboo has to go through to become the lyocell fabric, it costs more to produce and therefore is more expensive for us the consumer to buy when it has been produced into a glorious Eco-friendly and sustainable product for us.
What is better bamboo or Egyptian cotton?
So depending on what you think better means, bamboo is naturally more breathable but both are extremely soft and comfortable but Egyptian cotton is also a breathable fabric and helps absorb water from the body just like bamboo. Both use chemicals to get the softest and luxurious feeling products.
Is bamboo cheaper than plastic?
Bamboo is a much better alternative to plastic products as it is biodegradable and compo-stable. It is only slightly more expensive than plastic products. As plastic can be cheaply produced but plastic is harmful during the process of being made and after.
So as I stated from the very beginning of this blog post, it all comes down to what you are looking for in your lifestyle. All of the materials mentioned are all vegan, however the processes that some of the materials go through to become a bamboo product can make the product less sustainable and eco friendly than when it originally started.
Bamboo does definitely seem to be at a surface level a highly sustainable and great material for vegans to consider buying especially over plastic, cotton and PVC. However on closer inspection there are potentially better and by better I mean more sustainable & Eco friendly fabrics out there, hemp, organic cotton are a few that I will definitely be considering more.