Good or bad bamboo?
For years bamboo has been marketed as a sustainable fabric, but these claims have recently come into question. To get to the bottom of just how sustainable a choice bamboo really is we’ve taken a closer look at the different production methods and their impact on the environment.
Contrary to what you might think bamboo is a type of grass. In fact it is possibly the fastest growing grass in the world, needing no pesticides or irrigation and taking just 4-5 years to fully mature. Harvesting bamboo is relatively easy and, after cutting, it re-sprouts thus eliminating the need for replanting. Overall the plant’s growth creates little strain on the environment and can actually help rebuild eroded soil.
However, although naturally a very sustainable crop it has become increasingly lucrative to grow, leading to mono-croping that reduces bio diversity and can lead to the need for pesticide use. Some farmers have also been known to destroy forests to create farm land to grow bamboo, damaging animal habitats such as the lemurs, mountain gorillas and pandas that depend almost entirely on bamboo for food and shelter and other food sources.
Despite this the material still compares favourably to cotton, the manufacture of which creates a much greater environmental impact due to the crops farmers reliance on water and pesticides. The sustainability of bamboo fabric is defined predominantly in the manufacturing process of which there are many different ways to convert raw bamboo fibre into a material, some sustainable and some not. Here we explain the different options and the impact on the environment.