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The Truth About Bamboo

Have you ever bought a piece of clothing because on the tag it had the words “100% percent bamboo fiber”? These are often advertised as eco-friendly products from a sustainable resource.

While bamboo (a member of the grass family that can grow up to or more than a yard per day), may be renewable, the process used to make bamboo textiles is not.

The most common way is ‘cooking’ leaves and shoots in a harsh chemical process that involves soaking them in carbon disulfide, otherwise known as caustic soda, or lye. This process is toxic not only to the earth, but drastically effects the communities and workers near or at the industry site. Exposure to the process used to make bamboo rayon has been linked to serious health problems, as well as immediate tiredness, headache and nerve damage.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged four companies with making false green claims, as well as deceptive labelling. The ‘Natural Bamboo Fiber’ was not fiber, but rayon, which can be created with the cellulose from almost any tree. And the process used to create it was definitely not eco-friendly.

It is possible to tell, however, if that lovely scarf you bought is environmentally friendly.

Rayon under the brand name “Tencel” are produced in a closed loop process where the chemicals used to create the rayon are recycled and reused, and the trees are a lot more sustainable than cotton. There is also natural bamboo linen, produced in the same process as hemp linen. So if you’re tag says ‘bamboo linen’, or ‘Tencel’, it’s most likely what it says it is.

As for those ‘100% bamboo fiber’ tags, we’ve been bamboozled (pun very much intended.)



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