Many have questioned whether bamboo fabric is sustainable. And we can say that today, it is. Here’s why
By Chere Di Boscio
Whenever we talk about eco friendly fabrics here at Eluxe, the same ones usually come up. Mainly linen, hemp and organic cotton, because they’re grown with few or no pesticides, and biodegrade. Viscose, cupro, and TENCEL take more tech, energy and chemicals to make, but these fabrics can be created ecologically and cleanly.
However, bamboo is one that’s often disputed.
Although the bamboo plant grows super-fast, and is therefore highly renewable, transforming its fibres into fabric usually requires the use of loads of harsh chemicals to break the fibres down.
However, there is one fabric company that’s changing all that: ettitude’s CleanBamboo.
A Dirty History
To be fair, bamboo textiles don’t have the cleanest history. For example, in 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) went after a company that claimed products were made of 100 percent “bamboo fibre.” The truth was, it was pure rayon. According to the FTC, rayon is made from chemically treated and dissolved cellulose derived from plants like bamboo. But the material is not generally considered to be sustainable. And even worse: it may be driving deforestation in Indonesia, Canada, and Brazil.
However, the FTC also claimed that bamboo fabric is simply greenwashing. They even stated: “There is virtually no actual bamboo fibre out there, so be highly skeptical if suppliers tell you their textile products are ‘bamboo.’”
But that was way back in 2015. And things have changed since then. Today, bamboo fabric is sustainable. And that’s thanks to ettitude.
An Update On Bamboo Fibres
CleanBamboo is a lyocell made from bamboo, and uses absolutely zero toxic chemicals in the process. That’s unlike all other bamboo fabrics on the market made using viscose or rayon technology. So, the FTC was right, in a way.
According to their own website, the technology behind ettitude’s CleanBamboo lyocell fabrics involves using: “A food-grade organic solvent in a closed-loop system that recycles the solvent and water up to 200 times. This approach dramatically reduces resource consumption compared to traditional bamboo viscose production and other conventional materials.”
In case you have any doubts, a third party Lifecycle Assessment quantified that CleanBamboo saves up to 86% of CO2 emissions vs silk, wool, and cashmere. And up to 38% CO2 vs. cotton, bamboo viscose and tree lyocell.
Ettitude Co-Founder Kat Dey explains, “All our fabrics are naturally hypoallergenic and dermatologist-recommended for sensitive skin. We have the highest level of OEKO-TEX certification — a class safe for babies.”
The CleanBamboo lyocell process is very different from other lyocell production methods. Kat explains, “We take organic bamboo, crush it into a pulp and then dissolve it in a proprietary organic, non-toxic solvent. We wash it, and then we finish and dry it. And that’s how we get our bamboo lyocell fibre.”
But the company is eco-conscious in other ways, too. Kat goes on to say: “We recycle the solvent and the water 200 times, saving 98% of it. Our bamboo feedstock is FSC-certified and EcoCert-certified organic. There are zero harmful chemicals involved.”
It’s also worth noting that bamboo grows 532 times faster than trees, and because it is a ‘grass,’ it is trimmed and not depleted. CleanBamboo is a ‘tree-free’ product that doesn’t contribute to deforestation in any capacity. It boasts a global patent, securing its exclusivity and further solidifying its position as a sustainable alternative in the textile industry.
Vodovoz states that thanks to microscopic holes in the fibre, bamboo fabrics are very breathable and are excellent moisture wicking. This makes them ideal for activewear and summer garments. Additionally they have powerful insulating qualities that help keep heat in on colder days, making bamboo a performance material for any weather. It can be used for anything from coats and cardigans to summer dresses and tees.
But bamboo fabric is so sustainable, soft and clean, it can even be used medically.
This specific use was developed by a Japanese doctor, called Dr Kimata. His clinical studies showed that while lyocell and rayon are both soft and cool to the touch, compared to bamboo, lyocell feels drier, a bit paper-like. In studies of patients with serious skin conditions, this bamboo material helped to protect their skin from irritants much more so than even organic cotton or other all-natural materials.
Dr Kimata’s use of medical bamboo non-woven gauze (pictured below) uses bamboo fibre that is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified, and brings good news to the sustainable clothing industry.
More Durable Clothing
In addition to the above-mentioned health benefits, third party testing demonstrated the superior performance of CleanBamboo vs. bamboo viscose, TENCEL (tree lyocell), and cotton. This was measured in terms of:
- surface appearance over time
- temperature regulation.
This means garments and home products, such as sheets and blankets, made with clean bamboo fibres can feel more comfortable and last longer. And for medical use, there’s really no type of gauze that’s better. Bamboo fabric is definitely one of the most sustainable textiles around!
The Future of Bamboo Clothing
The first application of ettitude’s fabric technology was in the bedding space over 5 years ago. Ettitude’s direct-to-consumer brand focused on bedsheets and other luxury home goods was named Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Company twice in a row due to its rapid growth. “We have sold 500,000 plus units,” Kat adds, “Our sheets are superior in comfort and durability and are scientifically proven to help customers sleep better. This translates into happy customers with over 20,000 five-star reviews, especially those with skin sensitivities.”
But the great news is that now you don’t have to hit the hay to enjoy the benefits of super soft and sustainable bamboo fabric against your skin. The material will soon be available in the form of clothing from some major retailers.
“Now that we’ve gained scale with our fabric production, we are taking the company and our impact to the next level by partnering with large apparel brands,” said Kat. “Our fabrics mimic the feel and look of animal fibres like silk, wool, and even cashmere. Now high-end apparel brands are interested in using ettitude’s patented fabrics.”
Image credit below: readthelabel.se
Ecologically friendly bamboo fabric is more than just a sustainable fabric option. I’d say it’s a huge step forward in the textile industry. If they can figure out how to make bamboo fibres into clean, breathable fabrics, who is to say the same can’t be done with all kinds of other plants?
The future of sustainable fashion is looking bright!