As part of a wave for being more sustainable, bamboo fabric has become a choice for many in recent years. But is bamboo fabric really sustainable? And if yes, what makes bamboo an eco-friendly choice?
Learn about how is bamboo sustainable and what you need to know so you can make decisions as an educated shopper. Explore different types of bamboo fabrics, different production methods, and what features to look for in sustainable sheets, pillowcases, duvets, and more.
How Is Bamboo Fabric Made?
There are two different methods manufacturers use to create bamboo fabric: Mechanical Processes and Chemical Processes.
Mechanical processes are far more environmentally sustainable. Manufacturers use a labor-intensive mechanical process to produce bamboo linen, or bast fiber, that's very similar to hemp linen. Because bamboo is naturally soft, the resulting linen fabric can be softer than alternative linens. The fabric is also long-lasting, strong, and can stand up to repeated washings, making it an excellent choice for hotels.
The second method of producing bamboo fabric is a chemical-intensive process. The plant material is dissolved in sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide solutions, extruded into thin fibers, and then woven to produce thin, soft fabric. The resulting fabric is thin, light, and silky-soft to the touch.
Consumers looking for an sustainable bamboo product can shop for sheets that are made with fair trade certifications or environmentally-conscious brands that dispose of chemicals properly. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, bamboo linen is the best option for bamboo fabrics, especially if it's been dew-retted without the use of irrigation or chemicals. It's also important to look for products with naturally dyed fibers to minimize the chemical impact of the product.
The Eco-Friendly Aspects of Bamboo Plants
Before the manufacturing stages actually begin, the bamboo must be farmed. This is where bamboo fabric earns its reputation as being sustainable and environmentally friendly. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that can grow up to 21 feet per week. It can be harvested again and again without damaging the plant or slowing its growth.
Even better, farmers can grow bamboo without intensive irrigation, without pesticides or fertilizers, and without worrying that the soil will erode. Harvesters can simply cut and collect the bamboo grass without disturbing the soil, and the root systems can continue to grow and deepen. While bamboo is growing, it even creates a good buffer against carbon. As the use of bamboo fabrics continues to grow, so will bamboo farms and fields. They can help absorb significant levels of carbon — as well as release high levels of oxygen.
Is Bamboo Better Than a Tree?
Bamboo crops offer significant environmental advantages over tree fields of similar sizes. They include:
- Less environmental disruption: Once a bamboo field has been established, farmers can repeatedly harvest the grass without killing the plant or modifying the surrounding environment. This protects the underlying soil.
- Minimal chemicals and water consumption: Bamboo can quickly grow without demanding heavy irrigation and water resources. There are over 1,400 species, including the commonly used Moso bamboo plant, and they acclimate well to the environments in eastern Asia. Because of this, they require few artificial chemicals (like fertilizers and pesticides) to cultivate healthy growth.
- Gas exchange: The planet relies on trees, algae, and other plant life for the healthy absorption of carbon and release of oxygen. Bamboo fields out-perform trees on a scale of 5:1 for carbon absorption. They also release 35 times the amount of oxygen as trees, acre for acre.
- Land reuse: When farmers clear cut or burn down forests to clear land, this has a clear negative impact on the environment, even when it's done to create space for bamboo fields. However, planting bamboo on previously cleared fields can quickly make the land more productive. Farmers can also use the same farm plots to produce continual cycles of bamboo.
Along with offering environmental advantages that trees don't match, bamboo crops are also more sustainable than many other fabric material crops. Cotton, for instance, is far more demanding in terms of water, fertilizer, and pesticide use.
Is Bamboo Bedding Good for the Environment?
A good night's sleep is vital to your health. A comfortable bed with cool, soft sheets can go a long way in helping you get hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. But knowing just how environmentally friendly your bedsheets are can also help you get a good night's rest.
Just like with any product or crop, it's important to look beyond the material itself. Bamboo bedding, properly produced, dyed, and packaged, can be a sustainable product that offers minimal negative effects on the environment. At the same time, chemically produced viscose products with artificial dyes and no labor oversight can negate all of the environmental and ethical advantages bamboo plants have to offer. When you're shopping for bamboo bedding, we recommend considering the following factors to find the right product for your sustainability values:
- Is it linen? Bamboo linen doesn't require chemical processing with lye and carbon disulfide. Chemically processed bamboo fabrics create dangerous byproducts that are often released into surrounding environments without appropriate treatments, so opting for mechanically processed bamboo linen is a must for eco-friendly shoppers.
- Is it built for durability? Eco-friendliness doesn't stop once production is over. Look for linens that resist tearing and wear so they can last through hundreds of washes. Also, look for products that are stain-resistant or are easy to clean. Sheets that don't have to be replaced as often have a greater eco-friendly benefit than products that break down or get damaged faster.
- Can you find a direct-to-consumer company? If you already know that you love the feel of bamboo linen sheets, skipping the store altogether can further reduce the environmental impact of your purchase. Direct-to-consumer shops streamline packaging and transportation so there's less waste and a smaller footprint.
How Sustainable Is Bamboo?
Bamboo species are one of the most sustainable options for plants that can be transformed into fabric products. The plants grow quickly in a wide variety of conditions, and farmers can grow abundant crops in even small plots of land. However, bamboo can be chemically processed through production methods that aren't as sustainable as eco-friendly shoppers prefer. Advocating for environmentally-friendly bamboo fabric production is still an ongoing fight, and buying sustainable bamboo linen is an important step in making sure bamboo is grown and used responsibly.
At Hotel Sheets Direct, we offer environmentally-friendly bamboo linen sheets that are luxuriously soft and cool to the touch. Our linen fabrics are made from bamboo, and built to last. Browse through our bamboo bedding products to find the perfect fit for a great night's sleep.