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Michael, can we link to this in one of the upcoming editions of the Carnival of Green Crafts? Let me know!

Skye Kilaen
Crafting A Green World

Ian Beaumont

Interesting article Michael. As organic/fairtrade clothing retailer "Purity" are often presented with the case of Bamboo as a green fabric. We have to make my judgements from researching articles like this on the web.

I agree there is a lot of mis-information, and it is amazing what the stories the bamboo supplies will tell you at trade shows.

One question in mind my mind remains though - is bamboo fabric "better" or "worse" than non organic cotton? Should "Purity" be turning its back on it.

We are a lot seeing a lot of "Soya" fabric appearing - with some equally outlandish claims. Is this a green "fabric"?

Ian Beaumont


Thanks for setting the record straight Michael! I have grown to despise almost all companies pushing bamboo fiber because 99% are misleading the consumer for profit. Whether this was deliberate or not in the past there is so much contradictory info available now that to continue doing so is criminal (at least in Canada :-).



THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Michael, you are a constant source of thorough, and thoughtful information. May I link to this post from my web site? BIG gratitude - harmony

Adrian Desbarats

Excellent post.

However, I would argue that nothing is perfect. The important thing to keep in focus is that if we all work to find solutions that offer the greatest opportunity to become sustainable then that is a good start. As long as the foundation for succes is in place, we can then work to improve on the "hot spots". I believe bamboo and cellulose in general have the potential to be fully sustainable while our current textile solution, specifically conventional cotton does not.

The conventional textile industry has a very significant impact on human health, social health and the environment. Are bamboo viscose, organic cotton and hemp perfect solutions to all our textile related environmental issues? No. Are they better solutions versus conventional cotton and synthetics such as polyester? An emphatic yes. Do they offer the potential to be sustainable. Another emphatic yes. Should we discount them because there are imperfections in the current manufacturing or harvesting processes? An emphatic No.

Yes, its true that the production of bamboo viscose involves the use of chemicals that if left unmanaged can do harm to humans and the environment. But before we write off bamboo as a sustainable textile option, let's consider some facts:

- Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth with an average growth rate of 12 - 19 inches per day (Jinhe Fu, 2000). Bamboo is tremendously hardy and pest resistant. No fertilizers, pesticides or irrigation is required. Neither is replanting required. The shoots are simply cut to their base and the bamboo regrows from new shoots. As such, bamboo offers a tremendous source of sustainable cellulose for textile production.

- Let's compare this with cotton. Cotton is very sensitive to pest infestation and drought. Every one Kg of cotton lint production requires 10,000 - 17,000 liters of water. Cotton production accounts for 2.4% of total arable land yet accounts for 11% of global pesticide use and 25% of global insecticide use (Kooistra & Termorshaizen, 2006). Approximately 40,000 lives are lost each year due to pesticide / insecticide application (WHO, 2002). Approximately 100 million hectares of land (8% of global arable land) has been lost due to over-exploitation with the main cause being salinisation caused by improper irrigation practices employed in cotton production. And then there is the environmental impact. Each year, it is estimated that approximately 67 million birds are killed by pesticides (Lotus, 2004). And then there is the impact on our river, lake systems and ground water.

I can go on and on but I think we can all agree that conventional cotton production exacts a terrible toll on human and environmental health. Organic cotton is definitely a huge improvement as it removes synthetic pesticides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers from the equation. However, water use is not considered in organic cotton certification so in a sense organic cotton production is not even truly sustainable as it stands right now. Is it better then conventional cotton production? Hell yes.....way better. Is it perfect? No, but its a darn good start.

And the same goes for bamboo. Unlike organic cotton which does employ organic pesticides, organic fertilizers and irrigation, bamboo culture uses nothing. As such, the environmental impact at the harvest level should be much less even then organic cotton.

For bamboo, the issue seems to be the chemical use at the production level. I would agree the chemicals used in the process are not good, however, I would argue that it is alot better and safer then losing 40,000 people per year through pesticide use! Additionally, because this chemical use occurs within central locations (ie. manufacturing plants) this offers much better potential to treat the water prior to leaving the plant and entering the environment. This type of treatment and control is simply not possible with the land application of fertilizers and pesticides on cotton farms.

Is bamboo fiber production perfect? No. But it has all the opportunity to be a very low impact and sustainable solution to meet our growing textile requirements.

I agree that there are deficiencies. As you point out, there needs to be greater transparency from the Chinese government regarding its harvesting policies and controls. And I agree there needs to be some kind of organic certification process for bamboo. However, you cannot fault the retailers. The bamboo textile industry is so new that certification processes simply have not caught up with it yet. Because bamboo rayon is considered man made, it cannot be certified by GOTS or any of the other organic certifiers.

As a retailer of eco-friendly clothing products, we are aware of the issues and are working diligently to improve them. However, I would still argue that bamboo textiles even with its real or percieved dificiencies is still far better then conventional cotton. And the nice thing is that it hs a solid foundation that we can build on to ensure that it does become truly sustainable.

So, I would say, please consider bamboo viscose as a truly eco-friendly option versus conventional cotton or polyester just pay close attention to who you buy it from and what measures they have in place to ensure the bamboo has been sourced as sustainably as possible.

At our company, we are very careful in choosing eco fashion products that meet our very stringent certification requirements. I invite you to take a look at our environmental policy at

We are trying very hard to be part of the solution to the textile industry, not part of the problem.


WOW. I was going to try to sneak something about my magazine in here, a free ad, but this synopsis of the bamboo industry was a little bit too respectable to undermine with cheesy online marketing nonsense. Good job Michael. We ran a photo-spread in our first issue that featured various sustainable clothing designers, bamboo products included. Not that I would have done anything differently, but there are certainly smoke and mirrors in the Green Campaign--as I am sure many of us suspected would seep into the green product industry sooner or later--WELCOME! haha. Great blog. I had to do it. Good luck.


Very nice and thorough article Michael! As much as I am for eco-fashion and green causes, I am starting to shudder to think that the boom of the green industry might lead to more hurt to the planet than help; the example of bamboo in China is a perfect example. The harvesting of the bamboo is becoming a very industrialized business that is demanding more and more amounts of bamboo leading to constant re-use of soil. Is the zeal for green products hurting more than helping?

Fiona Stirling

This is a great article and has cleared up a lot of questions I had about bamboo fabric. I no longer use it in my eco friendly diaper range as I prefer hemp for environmental reasons. I would be interested to know how eco friendly soy is though as I have trialled some and it's great fibre.

Fiona Stirling
Upsy Daisy Nappies

Tony McAlpine

Great unbaised view on bamboo products, although I agree with Adrian above that there is certainly a place for bamboo products within the eco-friendly banner, but a lot needs to be done to improve the highlighted failings. My website in the UK has been stocking bamboo products for about six months now and the feedback in relation to them is fantastic. Would you mind if I linked to your blog as another source of impartial advice?

Account Deleted

I agree.. It is more fashionable to use organic clothing and more safe to our health. But most of organic products are more expensive than the ones we commercially buy. Would it be supposedly cheaper if it is organic because the materials are easy to produce and abundant?


Hi, Bookmark
Organic and sustainable products are often more expensive than conventionally grown and manufactured clothing. There are 4 primary price-drivers:
1. Cost of growing/producing raw materials. Organic cotton is more expensive to grow than conventional chemically-grown cotton. Less of a cost-to-grown for some sustainable (and more naturally sustainable products) such as hemp and bamboo. This cost spread will decrease due to economies of scale as the size of organic crops increases dues to increased demand.
2. Cost to manufacture fibers and fabrics. Roughly the same for organics and sustainables as for conventionals so this isn't a significant factor in the cost spread between organics/sustainables and conventional fabrics.
3. Cost to manufacture clothing. Here we see the largest contributor to organic and sustainable clothing being more expensive. A significant proportion of conventional clothing is made in low wage environments (such as China, India, Jordan, Central America) under sweatshop and unethical conditions. Organic and sustainable clothing is manufactured by Fair Trade companies paying a fair wage.
4. Profit margins and economies of scale. Large corporations like Wal-Marts and the huge chain clothing manufacturers can afford smaller profit margins than the relatively tiny organic and sustainable clothing manufacturers and retailers. The large corporate players also generally control the supply chain from field to store which allows them to greatly reduce costs.
When you shop, remember these factors that contribute to clothing costs and then shop wisely and ethically.
All the best.

Account Deleted

This is really very informative site about the bamboo!


wow - this was really informative! first, i never really even knew that bamboo was such a major industry. thanks for the info, it was really informative. they offere a few bamboo products on this blog:
but how do you know that the bamboo used is eco-friendly? man, thats though. thanks again!


organic cloth is good for health .I think so. Its a good blog. I appreciate it.


Bamboo fabric is very nice. I like it most. Its need to increase production more for us.
Mary Aloe


Dear Michael,
I am really wondered when i have seen this website and also bamboo cloth. This is the first time I learn that cloth is making by bamboo. Thanks for this site.
Mary Aloe

Account Deleted

chemical residues in the fabric can lead to allergic reactions, asthma and cancers. Often enough these are also the cause of skin problem, irritation in eyes, throat and nose. The organic clothes are those that are made using natural fibers, which have been grown organically, i.e. without using any chemicals. All the colors that are used for dyeing are obtained from natural vegetable dyes. ashley - Carrot Banana Peach.

Mark J. Heiman

Thanks very much for your interesting and informative postings. I am the owner of a start-up company with it's mission and values based on strong CSR principles and a large reinvestment of our profits going to sustainable development initiatives. I have been in the textile and apparel industry for many years and I must say that starting a business based on the above values is certainly quite a journey. I have run several trials by purchasing fiber from the Chinese "patent holder" and doing the spinning through end product in SE Asia and Central America. I love the end product, the feel and performance and the claims that have been made.This is where my journey has taken a detour.In July, prior to developing copy for our e-commerce site, I requested the fiber supplier to send me copies of all certifications and test results for each and every claim that they and every other bamboo fiber supplier makes.As mentioned in your article, the ISO certifications are an outline and I have asked for the status and ongoing improvement plans and progress. Organic certifications had expired (information can be found on the OCIA site)and lots of hemming and hawwing on the anti-microbial tests, UVC claims, moisture transport etc., etc. It is our policy that we will only make claims based on factual and scientific evidence from globally accepted 3rd party organizations, i.e. ASTM, AATCC test methods performed by certified testing bodies. As you know, there are many claims that have been made for bamboo and many that are not supported in the manner described above. There are also a multitude of Chinese companies that claim the patent rights to the bamboo viscose process. I explained the importance of having the supporting documentation not only for us, but also for the sustainability of their business.When the FTC made their rulings last month, I sent this information to China, more or less saying "I told you so", and asking what they will do to honestly and responsibly represent their product. We are now in the process of pushing very hard to convince them of the importantance of being authentic, transparent, and brutally honest. At the same time, we are doing our own independent testing through a 3rd party as described above and will make our claims based on the actual results and post the test results on our website (and even make it so they can be read and verified!) This is the continuing journey. I have read Adrien's comments and I agree with much he has said. The bottom line is that we must question everything, quantify and qualify everything, and be transparent in all that we do...if we are not personally responsible in our behavior and don't require that same behavior from others, it will be difficult at best to achive what I personally want to achieve, that of Repairing the World. Keep up the good work Michael!

Greg Provance

Adrian, I love the response you wrote to this article.
I wonder if you would mind sharing any textile manufacturers that you know are following these types of guidelines...

Matt Cornwell

We have some great clothiWe use a combination of bamboo and organic cotton to give the shirts a look and feel that you want. Come visit us for more at we use a


I bought a box of bamboo anti-bacteria underwear and they do feel 'better' than normal ones. Find and shop at best online t-shirt store lleitmotif in Asia for womens cute cheap clothes offers.

Rebecca Hurst

Great post! I am glad everyone is trying to be more green. But people who claim to be green that are not, is another story. I haven't actually seen any bamboo shirts myself, but I have seen some pretty weird things made out of bamboo. I wonder if they would have eyelash extension supplies in bamboo.

Chard de L'isle

A lot of misinformed oversimplification and vague claims going on. In a release in May 2011 Deakin University confirmed effective antibacterial quality of bamboo fabric and had isolated the UV filtering component. Being antibacterial may not be unique but the claim is about bamboo's bioagent. The attempt in this blog to discredit the claim is self-evidently incorrect.
Plantations: All plantations are mono-cultures and bamboo is preferable to hemp or cotton in its environmental impact and superior carbon sequestration.

Claims on the dangers of the chemical process are based on factory conditions with poor ventilation using carbon disulphide in Italy during the 1930's -1940's. I have not heard of more recent "links to serious health problems" in modern processing plants. NaOH is toxic in large doses, but in the closed loop system employed does not represent a danger. Any released into nature is broken down quickly and is harmless, and you probably get a higher dose of NaOH on those pretzels you eat.
Of course we must scrutinize claims, but keep some balance please!
Are cotton producers fueling the anti-bamboo commentary?

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