Bamboo – Greenwashing

Bamboo is something I and everyone looking for sustainable eco-friendly fabrics and more sees about on the daily. This got me to thinking about bamboo as a plant and in awe of how something so hard and fibrous could be turned into soft fabrics. With bamboo being touted as a sustainable product I decided to look into it further. What I found is the reality of bamboo is a bit of a complex mess.

Is bamboo sustainable? Well, yes if you are looking purely at the plants ability to grow quickly, hardily and in mass quantities. Comparing it to other sources such as forest wood it does seem ideal when we are trying so hard to cut back on the loss of our forests world wide, but the environmental impact may not be being completely accounted for. It is very possible bamboo is just the newest material in the grand scheme of greenwashing (AKA making something sound more environmentally friendly than it is).

At present there seems to be no studies or observations on how much land is being potentially cleared to make bamboo as a crop, nor is there really any regulations on how it is grown. While it is known to not need pesticides etc. it doesn’t mean it isn’t being grown with them or that the land it’s on isn’t being treated with some other chemicals.

The next huge issue is in the processing. Remember that ridiculously soft and comfortable bamboo clothing or bedsheets you have? Well it turns out that to get to that point requires a major and highly intensive chemical process. About 50% of the hazardous waste that is a byproduct of making bamboo rayon goes straight into the environment and cannot be re-captured. When you see something labeled bamboo it typically means this process.

From the perspective of a seller bamboo is less costly to produce then say cotton, but from an environmentally conscious consumer perspective hemp and organic cotton are at the top of the list for being the most eco-friendly options. The moral of this story is do your homework. What may seem like an eco-friendly choice often has a nasty side to consider. Due to the chemical process of bamboo production you are barely a step up from plastic when it comes to environmental impact.

Perhaps in the future a better production method will be able to make bamboo a truly good option, but right now we aren’t there yet. We have to get manufactures and technology on board and our choices as consumers are how we do that.

The Plague of Micro-plastics

Mirco-plastics…the word brings up feelings of helplessness to all who know that it means teeny tiny pieces of plastic that are nearly unstoppable. They are in nearly all water systems and now in the very earth and air around us. I read an article last year from the Global Citizen that stated when eating a single meal you are likely ingesting 100 pieces of micro-plastic and over the course of a year the average person consumes 70,000 pieces. It all makes you want to live in a bubble, but unfortunately even at the farthest reaches and deepest depths micro-plastics can be found.

I know at times it feels like it is a defeat before the battle has begun, but while we may not be able to stop them from being part of our reality we can help prevent them from spreading further in larger amounts by starting with items like our clothing and how we wash them.

I’ve recently invested in a Guppy Friend Washing Bag. This bag is essentially an innovative filter bag designed to delicately collect all the tiny mico-fibers that are released during a wash cycle from your laundry. In some cases those micro-fibers may not be a huge danger, but have you looked at what your clothes are made of lately? Nearly everything is made of synthetic-materials which equates to plastic. These plastic fibers shed during the wash and are dumped into our waterways with no way to get them out.

Guppy Friend

The guppy bag has a handy liner that collects the fibers that shed allowing you to scoop them up rather like removing lint from your dryer. From there you can dispose of them instead of releasing them into the waterways. The bonus of this is because of how your clothes are being washed it actually reduces breakage of the fibers allowing for a longer life of your clothes.

Ultimately trying to purchase natural fibers reduces the amount of waste, but it is not always an option and even natural and organic fibers can have a wealth of issues that also aren’t the best, but that is a conversation for another time. For now, to do your part, I recommend ordering one of these online. You get to do your part to stop more plastic entering into the water of the planet(that we all drink from) and get to preserve your beloved clothes. It’s a win-win for all.